Well the Lemongate scandal rumbles on and gathers pace - the national media is beginning to pick up on it now. The Daily Mail is today running the story ITV under fire for allowing 'Keith Lemon' comedian Leigh Francis to give away puppy as a prize on primetime show.
For anyone who hasn't heard about it, Keith Lemon (a character played by comedian Leigh Francis) had three children on his Lemonaid show competing to win a puppy. The wining child was presented with a six week old Pug puppy to cuddle - although the puppy did remain with the breeder for a further week - but the message to the viewing millions on a Saturday teatime was that it's fine to win a puppy in a competition. There is so much wrong with that message that it beggars belief the competition was allowed to happen - indeed the Kennel Club advised the show not to give a puppy as a prize, but apparently ITV and Keith Lemon know better.
ITV is now claiming that there was a lot of behind the scenes checking of the families who were competing, and that all the families genuinely wanted a dog. However, the message of responsible dog ownership, of finding a scrupulous breeder or rescue organisation, and of finding a dog that suits you and your lifestyle was made a mockery of, and nothing was mentioned about the behind the scenes checks. The giving of dogs as prizes is something that dog lovers are very unhappy about. There are various ways to register your outrage at this - complain to Ofcom and complain direct to ITV. There is a petition you can sign to amend the law to stop the giving of live animals as prizes. There is also a KeithLemonsPuppyPrizeProtest facebook page that will help unite opposition to the incident, and keep you informed. If you're on Twitter you could also tweet this - #keithlemon #puppy scandal make sure you sign the petition http://bit.ly/JWjtMN #animals should never be #prizes pls RT #animalwelfare - let's see if we can get this trending and make it clear we won't tolerate dogs being given as prizes in competitions.
I have taken all the above steps, and so far I have only heard back from ITV.
My initial email to ITV read:
I wish to complain about Keith Lemon giving a puppy as a prize in a competition on his ITV show Lemonaid on Saturday 28th April 2012.
At a time when those of who work in the dog world are striving to promote the right way to get a dog – see the mother with the litter, quiz the breeder, choose the breed and individual dog that suits your lifestyle best etc – the show gave a very dangerous and irresponsible message. Dogs are not inanimate objects to be offered as prizes, and I believe the puppy was only 6 weeks old when taken into the studio, so clearly welfare concerns were not a high priority.
By giving a puppy as a prize the show promoted dogs as inanimate, throw away objects that it is perfectly acceptable to get on a whim. It promoted irresponsible ownership and did so on primetime television with several thousand people watching – particularly impressionable children. It was unethical and immoral and I object very strongly to it.
I received back a pretty standard response, which is similar if not identical to one received by hundreds of others who have complained. It reads:
Dear Ms Hill
Thank you for your email regarding Keith Lemon’s LemonAid.
The item you saw was based around a child’s dream coming true to have a puppy and all the contestants involved expressed the desire to own a puppy regardless of the show.
All three families that took part were serious about wanting a dog to join their family as they said on screen. Behind the scenes an independent, qualified vet visited their home in advance of the show to conduct a thorough check before the re-homing process, to ensure that each family understood the commitment and responsibility involved. Each vet wrote a written report to confirm that the environment the puppy would live in was an appropriate and safe one.
We hope that reassures you.
Thanks for taking the time to get in touch with us
ITV Viewer Services
Well it may not surprise you to learn that I wasn't happy with that response. They may have checked the families, but no mention of that was made on the show, and they still trivialised the process of taking on a dog, and set a dreadful example to the watching millions. I have replied:
Thank you for your response, but I am not at all reassured.
Why did the show go ahead with the puppy as a prize despite the Kennel Club advising them not to?
Why was no mention of the behind the scenes arrangements made during the show?
The way the show presented the subject was that the children wanted a puppy, they competed, one of them won. This trivialised the decision to get a dog, and at a time when we who work in the dog world are striving to stamp out puppy farms and educate the public on the right way to get a dog. Good breeders – and those who rehome rescue dogs – spend a lot of time matching dogs to new owners, not just to a breed that will suit them, but to an individual dog (they do vary just like humans) that will be a good companion for them. We are trying to promote the message that buyers should seriously think about whether they can meet a dog’s needs, that they should see the litter with the mother, that they should spend time finding a breeder who they like and trust, they should accept that breeder’s help in which puppy will suit them best, and that they should always see a puppy in its home environment and never arrange to meet a breeder elsewhere. All of this was not only ignored by the way the show presented the competition to win a dog, dogs were promoted as inanimate objects to be acquired because you want one, not because you can offer one a good home.
The Pug puppies were only six weeks old when they were at the studios – why was their welfare compromised in this way?
The show & ITV should publicly apologise for the feature and make some amends for the damage done by mentioning that winning a dog in a competition is not a suitable way to get a dog, by promoting rescue in a positive way and by donating to a dog charity – Dogs Trust do excellent work.
Thank you for your time, but I remain absolutely disgusted by the giving of a puppy as a prize. I would very much appreciate a response to my concerns.
I will let you know what I hear back from them.
Dogs are not inanimate objects - they deserve much more respect than ITV or Keith Lemon or Lemonaid is showing them.