OWNERS were outraged at a television advertisement for the
fast food chain McDonalds which showed top England footballer
Rio Ferdinand being attacked by a Staffordshire
The company were so taken aback by the depth of feeling against the advertisement - which was screened on the same day as three children were mauled in an horrific dog attack - that they withdrew the advertisement.
The advert - obviously intended to be tongue-in-cheek and set to capitalise on McDonalds sponsorship of World Cup - showed Ferdinand jogging through a park and then being pursued and attacked by a Stafford. The next shot showed him at a McDonalds restaurant covered in bandages and on crutches.
The timing of the advertisement came at a particularly sensitive time as Staffordshire Bull Terriers are being erroneously classified as fighting breeds in Germany and several other countries where short-sighted Breed Specific Legislation (BSL) has been enacted against various breeds in a futile attempt to prevent dog attacks.
The advert was also screened last Thursday when three children in Wolverhampton were attacked by two powerful crossbreeds.
The Staffordshire Bull Terrier Club marshalled its members to petition McDonalds to have the advertisement removed and have also lodged a complaint with the Advertising Standards Authority stating that the advertisement is offensive and factually incorrect. Similar complaints were lodged by the Kennel Club.
Amanda Pearce, McDonalds UK Press Office Manager, was very apologetic, saying she had no idea of outrage the advertisement had provoked, nor of the situation surrounding BSL. She said that the advertisement was meant to be obvious slapstick comedy.
Ms Pearce confirmed that, after discussion by top McDonalds executives, the advertisement would be withdrawn in the wake of the complaints received by letter, fax, e-mail and by telephone - said to number close to 1,000 since the advertisement was first screened early last week.
The recent dog attack also led us to feel that the timing and content of the advertisement could cause offence, she added. We are mindful of the concerns which have been expressed over the advertisement and therefore we feel it is wholly appropriate to withdraw it forthwith.
Phil Buckley of the Kennel Club said: On seeing the advertisement for the first time, I have to say that I took a sharp intake of breath.
Whilst the Kennel Club appreciates that McDonalds intended the piece to be comical, in light of the poor press that the Stafford in particular and dogs in general receive, the Kennel Club feels that both the choice of breed and timing is poor. We contacted McDonalds Press Office to explain the situation and our concerns and once briefed they were apologetic.
Interestingly, 10 different dogs were taken to the shoot and the Stafford was used because it was the best natured, most comical and most obedient! Our comments were passed onto the Directors.
We applaud McDonalds decision to withdraw the advertisement as quickly as possible, to prevent further anti-dog press.
Bull Terrier breeder Jean Loughborough of Limpsfield, Surrey
who regularly exhibits her dogs at shows around the country,
said that she herself provided a Staffordshire Bull Terrier
for one days filming for an advertisement screened during
the UEFA Cup two years ago.
The advert that our dog Rusty was in showed children playing football in the park and a dog - our Stafford - joins and dribbles the ball along, said Mrs Loughborough, 64, who was paid just £150 for the use of her dog. There was no hint of the dog being depicted as dangerous in that advertisement. It seems to me to be a terrible turn-around to use the same breed two years later for another advert screened during a major tournament, but to this time to depict the dog as dangerous.
The children on the shoot two years ago played very happily with Rusty and they all got on famously. It certainly is not within the character of the pure-bred Stafford to be dangerous.
David Levy, Kennel Club Liaison Officer for Staffordshire Bull Terriers, added: This [advertisement] is a gross misrepresentation of a breed renowned for its affinity with human beings, that has led to its being one of the premier pets within this country. Coming at a time when Breed Specific Legislation against dogs is at an all-time high and there is almost constant media hysteria over fighting breeds, this advertisement is ill-timed and insensitive.
The Staffordshire Bull Terrier is ranked in seventh place in the Kennel Clubs List of Top Ten Breeds, and is recommended as a loyal and friendly family pet. The Kennel Club estimates there to be 250,000 Staffords in the UK.