The pressure group Dog Theft Action have been maintaining a high media profile in the weeks following their successful launch at Crufts – and media interest in the growing tide of dog theft shows no signs of abating. However, the quality of the coverage has varied considerably, as two different TV programmes recently demonstrated.
DTA’s founder Jayne Haynes appeared on BBC2’s ‘Daily Politics’ show on Thursday Match 24th explaining the group’s aims and making reference to the need for the Government and the police to take dog theft seriously. A short, but concise film report detailed a couple of cases of stolen dogs, quoted a ‘pet detective’ and made reference to one of the more outrageous ‘ransom claims’ made by dog thieves when they demanded £8,000 from one owner for the safe return of her pets.
Next the action cut to the studio where presenter Andrew Neal quizzed Haynes, but permitted her very little time allowing political guests, Labour MP Tony Banks and Liberal Democrat peer Lord Steele far longer to speak, with both politicians concentrating on their own pet subject, namely compulsory dog registration by using microchips, which, Tony Banks explained, would make it far harder for dog thieves to operate.
Haynes quickly countered this argument, realising that compulsory dog registration would not find favour amongst many dog enthusiasts, nor would purely microchip registration – the DTA believes that tattoos should be given equal emphasis as a means of ID.
"We’re not here to offer solutions," said Haynes on-screen. "There will always be someone in the dog world who disagrees on a particular idea. What we want to do is ask the question and get people to sit down together and talk to find a common agreement."
Mention was made of the Early Day Motion on dog theft, at that point signed by 67 MPs. However, the programme let itself down badly by some totally inappropriate on-screen caption, using supposedly ‘funny’ phrases such as ‘Dog Theft – A Shaggy Dog Story?’ and 'Ruff Justice’, and ‘Poochnappers’. Given that the Daily Politics is supposedly an intelligent, incisive show into the day-to-day world of politics, not to mention the item itself being about the need for dog theft to be taken seriously such terminology was out of place.
The programme is also allegedly transmitted live, but as Haynes herself observed to OUR DOGS afterwards, there is a two-minute delay, in which time she later discovered on watching a recording that several of her remarks had been edited out including her full response to the so-called ‘humorous’ closing comment by Neal who asked Haynes "Does your dog bite?" The broadcast version had Hayes replying, "He might", whereas her full comments were: "He might if you don’t take dog theft seriously."
Despite a request from OUR DOGS, nobody from the Daily Politics production team was available to comment on their treatment of the subject.
However, the DTA were more than compensated for the Daily Politics fiasco by a far better, 10-minute slot on ITV’s ‘This Morning’ programme a few days later on Wednesday, March 30th. Haynes again appeared alongside dog owner Ray Hayes and his GSD ‘Beamer’ who had been stolen and held to ransom.
Presenter Lorraine Kelly – herself a dog owner – proved far more sympathetic and professional than Andrew Neal, asking Haynes plenty of questions about the DTA and their aims, allowing Haynes time to answer the questions and expand on the growing problem of dog theft. The thorny subject of dog registration was dealt with easily as Haynes said this should be a voluntary thing, but urged all dog owners to have their pets either microchipped or tattooed.
Ray Hayes told the story of how Beamer was stolen from his home. A man telephoned Hayes and claimed that the dog had been far too troublesome to control, so he had cut two of its toes off, and would kill it if Hayes did not hand over a considerable sum ofmoney. Hayes toughed it out and refused to pay any money. Beamer was subsequently traced to a local traveller’s site. The thieves had unsuccessfully attempted to remove Beamer’s microchip, resulting in some wounds to the dog’s neck. They had also tried to dye the dog a different colour, but Hayes recognised Beamer immediately – and Beamer recognised him.
The pair were reunited and Hayes was delighted to discover that Beamer’s abductor had only been bluffing and had not cut off his toes. Meanwhile, the wounds to Beamer’s neck were healing and the dye was beginning to fade from his coat. Beamer was otherwise unaffected by his ordeal, although he was, Hayes said, a little nervous of transit vans, which was most likely the mode of transport used by his abductors.
Dog Theft Action are continuing their media onslaught since the announcement of the General Election. On Tuesday of this week Jayne Haynes took part in a phone-in on Radio Five Live, which generated a tremendous amount of interest from callers, some of whom had their own dog theft stories to tell, including inaction by the police to take the matter seriously. Haynes said that the DTA would be writing to all 659 MPs standing for election to tell them that dog theft was a very pertinent political issue. "At the end of every dog lead, there’s a voter," she said. "Politicians would do well to remember that."