photo: Louise Tope - Dewerstone
Joy and Tim with ‘Wrink’
JEMIMA HARRISON has hardly been out of the headlines since the transmission of her PDE programme which caused such a furore. However, it now appears that she has created her own headline after a top winning dog was the subject of wildly inaccurate accusations.
In emails to a top breeder Ms Harrison admits that her own research and accuracy has been found wanting.
Attending the Associate Parliamentary Group for Animal Welfare (APGAW) in December 2010, Ms Harrison not only prepared a damning and inaccurate two page document for circulation at the meeting but also has admitted transmitting it electronically.
The meeting, which was devoted entirely to the breeding of dogs and dangerous dogs, featured attendees from the Kennel Club, the National Dog Wardens' Association, the RSPCA, the BVA, the Dangerous Dogs Act Study Group and Jemima Harrison of Passionate Productions.
Speaking at the meeting, the minutes of which are in the public domain on the APGAW website, she said, ‘I made the Pedigree Dogs Exposed documentary and now I run a blog on pet owners who are experiencing problems. People don’t know how to buy a dog and where to go. We live in an age where we expect things we buy to be of merchantable quality. I have had recent examples of poor Shar Pei breeding, where the current top show dog has both parents having suffered from heredity disease, and yet the dog continues to be bred from. Not much is done if a disease or problem is identified, so I want to say don’t underestimate the scale of this problem and I think the problem is that ultimately we do not have an organisation overseeing the whole thing, which ensures dogs are of merchantable quality before being sold to the consumer.’
On the leaflet she prepared about the Shar Pei, one of the 15 high profile breeds recently designated for special treatment by the Kennel Club, Harrison had cut and pasted unprotected images from the Kennel Club's Crufts website and that of the Shar Pei Club of Great Britain.
However, the inclusion of the Crufts 2010 Best of Breed Ch/Am Ch Asias Red Marsh Whip It Good, proved to be a big mistake.
Just four days after the meeting in the House of Commons, one of the co-owners of the American imported dog, Tim Ball, received a copy of the document, addressed to both him and Joy Bradley (another co-owner), anonymously in the post. Initially believing this to be a malicious act, they very quickly realised this was, in fact, a very friendly act which was intended to give them the opportunity to defend their Shar Pei.
It was however, the first they were to know about this document and the spurious accusations contained in it about Wrink.
It would be impossible to describe the utter distress, pain and ultimately anger that these allegations caused Tim and Joy as individuals, and equally as devotees of the breed. Both have been actively involved in the breed since the early 80s. Tim is currently a Vice President and Honorary life member of the Shar Pei Club of Great Britain and Joy is the club secretary. They devote much time and effort to promoting the breed, with health foremost in their endeavours. It was abhorrent to them to be accused of proliferating a disease that they are, in fact, at the forefront of raising funds for research into the very condition they are accused of ignoring.
Resolute in the knowledge that their ward was not as he was being portrayed, they set about getting the evidence to prove just how spurious these accusations were and, with little effort, were able to disprove every false statement made about the dog and his lineage. It seems incredulous that the author of this leaflet could not have achieved the same result with very little research required to do so.
At no time, prior to the publication of the document, were any of Wrink’s owners contacted to comment on the information collated by Ms Harrison from her ‘reliable source’, something surely so fundamental that any researcher/presenter would hold it paramount before rushing into any sort of print. Information was, almost immediately, forthcoming from within the Kennel Club that the author had already recanted the
spurious allegation that Wrink had produced puppies with Familial Shar Pei Fever. Very soon after that, Wrink’s co-breeder and co-owner, Lisa Myers, had received a full
apology from Ms Harrison,
admitting the totally erroneous remarks about his parents both
having died of amyloidosis. In
actual fact, Wrink’s father (and grandfather) had both been shown at the recent Chinese Shar Pei Club of America’s National Specialty in Lawrence, Kansas, both as veterans and both in beautiful bloom. Wrink’s dam is deceased, but had died in a tragic accident some years previously at the home of Lisa, sadly while she was elsewhere.
At this point, even though Ms Harrison was now in possession of the full and correct facts, she still failed to contact either of the
English owners, a fact which totally disgusted both of them. All the
allegations had been shown to be unfounded but no contact from her was forthcoming, and this fact alone prompted the first contact between Tim and Ms Harrison.
Replying just a few hours later, Ms Harrison sent an email back to Tim Ball saying that an apology was clearly owed and another one for not pre-empting his email and getting in touch with him before he contacted her.
Jemima also said that the flyer was based on what she believed to be good information from a reliable source. However, she clearly realised it wasn't and went on to apologise for any distress caused.
She also told Tim that she had strong views about the Shar-pei, as was clear from her blog. She said that she believed that the
conformation needed to change and that the breed was ‘juggling a lot of health problems with, unfortunately, no test available currently for one of the breed's biggest problems.’ She stated she was ‘normally very
careful about naming particular dogs’ - not least because she was aware that world of dogs was is awash with misinformation and, if ‘I get it wrong, it discredits me as a commentator.’
She said that the flyer was never intended for publication. ‘It was
prepared for a small meeting’ she said, ‘I took only five copies of it with me and returned with two, so it had very limited distribution at the meeting.’
She said that she had then sent it electronically to the same three
people and one other, none of whom should have forwarded it to anyone and none of whom were in
Shar-peis. However, she admitted that this was ‘no excuse’ for getting the facts wrong in this instance. ‘I really should have checked it more thoroughly,’ she told Tim.
Ms Harrison said that as soon as soon as she found out the mistake, she had contacted the four people who had copies of the flyer, pointing out the errors, and asked them to not forward it to anyone, so there should not be any further distribution.
She concluded: ‘I am very pleased to hear that Wrink's sire is still alive and going strong; also that he has been health-tested for hips/patella and thyroid (and I can see from the OFA database that his results were good). Do you also test him for urine/kidney function - I see this is recommended by Dr Jeff Vidt but am not sure if it is standard
procedure/considered necessary by breeders.’
She agreed that she herself would be ‘furious too’ in the same situation and completely understood why the owners were upset. She finished by saying: ‘I really am so sorry for
getting the facts wrong in this instance and I very much hope you will feel able to accept this apology.’
It is difficult to understand how anyone can say, ‘it was never meant for publication’ when the very same document was taken to a ‘small meeting’ – a full meeting of the APGAW at the House of Commons, and admits to sending it
electronically. As a direct result of Ms Harrison placing this
information into the realm of
electronic communication, all
control of who read it was lost and the furore began.
To cast such aspersions on any individual dog without substantiated evidence seems wanton, but to select a dog purely because of its success in the show ring is
despicable. As his owners told OUR DOGS: ‘Wrink is probably the most health tested Shar Pei in this country and come the day when the test for FSF/Amyloidosis is available, he will be first in line to ultimately prove what we already believe.’
Although Tim and Joy have been subjected to this onslaught of
character assassination and their ethics questioned, they wholeheartedly thank the person who sent them the document and they remain
resolute in working towards the
betterment of the breed they cherish and Wrink will continue to do what he does best – enjoy life!
Speaking to OUR DOGS last week Tim Ball and Joy Bradley pointed out that the Shar Pei they had been fortunate to co-own and campaign in the UK show ring had been one of the breed's most
successful show dogs of all time, as well as being an absolute pleasure to live with.
‘Wrink’ was BIS at Bath
Championship Show last year, has won five Groups and multiple Group placings, has 21 CCs to his credit and was Group 2 at last month's Manchester Dog Show Society Championship show. In addition, he was Top Utility 2010 and last year was ranked eighth overall across all breeds.
How so much unsubstantiated information was gathered is
worrying given that it was placed before many senior members of the APGAW presumably including
Professor Sheila Crispin.
OUR DOGS contacted Ms Harrison on Monday this week, and late on Tuesday afternoon; after further calls from OUR DOGS Ms Harrison declined to comment.
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