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Campaign to halt media bias against dogs

A VETERAN breed rescuer and opponent of Breed Specific Legislation has launched a campaign to stop bias against dogs in the media.

Joanna Mason, the feisty co-ordinator of Staffordshire Bull Terrier Rescue (East & West Sussex) was horrified when she read the all-out attack on Staffordshire Bull Terriers in a heavily biased article by Cassandra Jardine that appeared in the Daily Telegraph in January.

Jardine wrote: "The new crop of Christmas puppies are now taking their first walkies in my local park – and the bad news is that most of them are Staffies… whichever of these brindled and wriggling objects looms into view, I quake… a Staffie will often play nicely with my Labrador-cross for a while, then, suddenly, snap, fasten its sharp little teeth on my dog’s ear or throat and hold on for grim death."

Jardine went on to misquote Staffordshire Bull Terrier breed experts James Beaufoy and Dave Levy and to suggest that dog fighters were now latching on to Staffords as an alternative to the Pit Bull Terrier.

As reported previously, hundreds of Staffordshire enthusiasts and opponents of breed specific legislation inundated the Telegraph with e-mails, faxes, letters and telephone calls of complaint.

Their campaign was successful, because the editor immediately commissioned a pro-Stafford article to redress the balance, and this appeared just days after Jardine’s original damning article.

However, Mrs Mason sees this as a mere sop to reader opinion after the event and argues that such an article should never have been printed – or even considered – in the first place.

Speaking from her home in Hove, East Sussex, Mrs Mason told OUR DOGS: "I was absolutely appalled when I saw Jardine’s article. It didn’t have any logical structure or point to make – it was just presented as a personal, biased all-out attack on the Staffordshire Bull Terrier breed. In these days of BSL cropping up all over the world, Staffies are being included in lists of ‘dangerous’ breeds to be banned, and nothing could be further from the Staffie’s true nature.

"It is because of ignorant and ill-informed articles such as this that Staff Bull Terriers rescue is becoming inundated with abandoned Staffies, sometimes as young as 9 weeks of age."

Mrs Mason is keen to point out that she is not trying to curtail freedom of speech or ‘neuter’ the press. "All I’m asking for is accurate and fair reporting about all breeds of dog, including Staffords," she said. "Nowadays the media has to be careful what it says is not racist or inflammatory – so why should dogs be vilified in this way? Fairness and accuracy should extend to all, humans and dogs alike."

Mrs Mason intends to place numerous copies of her petition on various stalls at this year’s Crufts, and is urging all dog lovers – not just Staffordshire Bull Terrier owners – to get the petition signed by as many people as possible. When she has sufficient signatures, she intends to present the petition to the Press Complaints Commission via the Kennel Club, which has agreed to act on her behalf.

If you would like a copy of the petition, please contact Joanna Mason at: 229 New Church Road, Hove, East Sussex, BN3 4EE. Tel: 01273-418081