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‘Throw the dog away’ suggests sick site

DOG OWNERS and animal welfare organisations have reacted with anger and disbelief to recent ‘sick’ comments about disposing of an unwanted dog made by a football website, read by nearly half a million people each month.

The UK Football website Football365 caused outrage in the animal welfare world with its so called ‘Fun Features’ article, published last Friday, (June 06 2003). The article, written by David North and entitled No Football? Then Why Don't You..., suggests that bored football fans should buy themselves a dog for the summer and ‘once the season starts again, you can always hand it back to the RSPCA or simply throw it in a river’.

The article offers a list of 10 possible activities that fans could undertake while they wait for the football season to restart, such as getting drunk and pushing toffs into the river at Henley Regatta or the equally lurid art of bog-snorkelling:

‘Why not dig out your snorkel and flippers from the kinky PVC section of your wardrobe and head for Llanwrtyd Wells in Wales? Every summer they practice the noble art of bog-snorkelling’.

However, it is Activity number 8 that caused the most offence with the suggestion:
‘Buy a dog. The lack of quality footballing entertainment during those barren summer months can seem like purgatory. However, seeking solace in a furry friend will more than make up for it. Genteel walks in the park, stick-throwing and clearing up sick will never have been so much fun.

‘And once the season starts again, you can always hand it back to the RSPCA or simply throw it in a river. Seriously, everyone knows that a dog isn’t just for Christmas, but should at least last until the start of next season’.

Football365 is published by London-based Rivals Digital Media. The company claims an ABC certified readership of 457,482 unique users per month generating 6,239,053 page impressions,. Radio Five Live recently called the site ‘The Manchester United of football websites’. The majority of the site's audience is between the ages of 15 and 34.

The shocking article was posted onto the UK Pets website on Monday of this week by site editor Steve O'Malley. Within two hours of the posting on UK Pets, the news had been cross-posted around the Internet and was being read across the world by outraged dog lovers.

Sick joke

Rivals Digital media were inundated with angry e-mails, faxes and telephone calls from outraged pet owners, without even being aware, initially, as to the nature of the problem.

Helen Briggs of the RSPCA told OUR DOGS: ‘Our view on this is that it is a sick joke and we don't like it. It is irresponsible of the authors to post this on their website. Pet ownership takes time, money, commitment and patience - it will completely change your life. Before you get a pet, think carefully about why you want an animal. Pet ownership is great fun but a huge responsibility.

‘Dogs make very good friends, are intelligent, faithful and fun. But they take up a lot of time and energy, are quite expensive to look after and need plenty of space. A dog is not a good choice for people who are out all day. Remember - a pet needs your time and interest for the rest of its life.’

Steve O’Malley of UK Pets agreed with the RSPCA’s comments, adding: ‘The whole article is designed to be as offensive as possible. Of course it’s written in a so-called ‘light-hearted’ way, but there are some areas that simply aren’t funny. When there is so much animal abuse and cruelty reported year-on-year by organisations such as the RSPCA – and actual cases of dogs being disposed of in such cruel ways as by being thrown into a river – this sort of article is in very poor taste.’

A spokesperson for the National Canine Defence League said: ‘The NCDL is appalled that this website suggests that people should get a dog simply to relieve boredom and then cruelly discard it when it is not needed anymore. The charity believes that a dog is for life and that the decision to share your life with a dog is one that should be taken seriously.’

Elizabeth Ryan, Marketing Manager, Rivals Digital Media expressed her surprise when OUR DOGS contacted her last Tuesday morning. ‘Yes, I can see the problem with this and how it could cause offence. I’ll get straight on to the website to have it removed.’

The article was removed by midday Tuesday, thanks to the intervention of OUR DOGS.