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18/1/02
Charities combine to 'educate'

The major animal charities have combined to form a new group - the Pet Advertising Advisory Council. The news of the launch next week in London was announced by Kennel Club Chairman Mr Peter James last week in a lengthy and passionate speech in which he touched on various serious issues which affect the world of dogs at the moment.

The council has been developed from the ideas put into effect by Exchange & Mart several years ago to address the concerns of small scale hobby breeders.

For many years Exchange & Mart has been the weekly magazine to which prospective puppy buyers turned when they were looking for a breeder and the advertisements often ran to four or five pages.

Those who were looking for show quality stock found their way to the weekly canine press and, in the last twenty years, the monthly magazines such as our sister magazine Dogs Monthly have carried 'responsible' breeder advertising.

At the same time the major pet insurers developed extensive databases of breeders with puppies for sale and have provided a telephone enquiry service - as has the Kennel Club. During the last two or three years, the Internet has really taken off and many small breeders now have their own web sites.

These are obviously useful although most of the large 'all purpose' sites take too long to search so are little used by advertisers or breeders. For the owner looking for a pet, Exchange & Mart has retained its pre-emptive position as most pet shops no longer sell puppies and adverse publicity has put many large puppy trading kennels out of business.

Ten years ago many puppy farmers were using its pages and at that time there was no way for the prospective puppy owner to tell whether the puppies were bred and reared under the best conditions. The magazine came in for a great deal of flak and, in response, instituted discussion with a number charities and other organisations to see what could be done to remedy the situation.

Successful

They came up with a number of ideas that included a series of advice panels for dogs and for other companion animals, the setting of criteria for those wanting to advertise in its pages and a Vetcheck scheme for those wanting to advertise regularly or a number of different breeds.

The scheme has been very successful. Not only has it now consolidated its position but it has gradually gained the respect of those groups who see it as their responsibility to monitor puppy sources and support and reinforce responsible dog ownership.

The management of Exchange & Mart now want to take the scheme a stage further. They have noticed that more and more pets are being sold through the classified advertising columns of local newspapers.

The range is enormous and includes cats, and small furries (hamsters, gerbils and the like) fish, reptiles, and birds as well as cross bred and pedigree dogs. Exchange & Mart approached the NCDL and suggested that an extension of their scheme could be valuable in pet ownership education and the result has been the launch Pet Advertising Advisory Group.

The group will consist of the National Canine Defence League, Blue Cross, Cats' Protection, Wood Green Animal Shelters, the Kennel Club, The Dogs' Home Battersea, the Rabbit Welfare Fund, Pro-Dogs among others and has support from the RSPCA, the British Small Animal Veterinary Association, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds and the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health.

OUR DOGS understands that they have been meeting for many months and have designed a series of 'Reader Advice' panels that can be used by local newspapers on all aspects of buying and caring for a pet.

It is hoped that one of the panels will be used every week but the group is realistic enough to accept that they will be used as and when there is space available. For this reason they have several different sizes and formats of the advice that will be circulated (on CD Roms) to every local newspaper in the United Kingdom.

Each panel has the logo of PAAG. The shortest simply states 'Pet Ownership is Long Term - Never Buy on Impulse' while the longest takes up a quarter page and gives detailed advice on buying a range of pets.

The advice has been carefully designed to be positive. The objective is not to dissuade people from having a pet but to ensure that as and when they do, they will have the best chance of getting one that will suit them from a source that, as far as is possible, will provide one that is fit and healthy.

Inept

A very important initiative, not only is it a further example of the way in which charities and other non profit making organisations are increasingly working together (see our Dog Diary and Opinion notes over the past few years) but also it means that, in the long run, legislation - much of which is cumbersome and inept - is less likely to be demanded.

There is no substitute for self control and self policing by those groups that have the confidence of the public and the results are likely to be far better targeted. They also have the great advantage of being much more flexible than government regulation.

The PAAG scheme will be launched at the end of January at Portcullis House, the offices of members of parliament just opposite the Palace of Westminster.

It is hoped that the idea will receive wide support and Our Dogs, and its sister publications, Dogs Monthly and Our Cats, are playing their part in trying to persuade the country's local newspaper publishers to back the scheme.