As a dog lover who loves to channel hop, I can guarantee there are few things which will make me stop and watch whatever show I land on. But one thing that will always make me stop and watch is a dog.
Last night while browsing I came across ‘Rich Dog, Poor Dog’ on Channel 4. At this stage, I would normally include a link to the show for readers to watch themselves if they missed it.
In this case, I really can’t bring myself to do that except to say: if you haven’t seen it, I wouldn’t recommend watching it. Seriously, if you love dogs and understand the animal welfare crisis in the UK you won’t enjoy it: here’s why.
At first I thought the show was simply looking through the keyhole at the life of dog owners who live only streets apart but find themselves living on very different scales of income: one rich, one poor.
In the beginning, I watched not really sure that was that much of a revelation but found myself watching all the same.
Through our interviews for K9 Magazine, we’ve been told city-dwelling dog owners often find themselves making new friends through their one common interest – dogs. And so I watched thinking this may be where we were headed.
Admittedly the show telegraphed this by filming the two ‘poor dog’ owners and their dogs, a Jack Russell and Staffie, walking to the shops to spend their last £7. Glancing from afar at the houses which they said must be worth £5 million, they speculated those who lived there wouldn’t have their sort of money problems.
Contrastingly, we then saw the ‘rich dog’ family receive a visit from their groomer who the owner speculated was “the best in all of Chelsea and Battersea” for a pampering session in the comfort of the wealthy Shih-Tzu’s own home.
Then the show took a turn.
In the ‘poor’ household after being told one of the dogs would have to have cat food as they’d run out of dog food and had no money left until their benefits would be next paid, the concept of breeding was introduced in a ‘let’s get the laptop out and look at how to breed dogs’ segment.
The topic seemed planted by producers at best, negligent at worst.
The concept of backyard breeding wasn’t introduced as a bad thing. Nor as something that should NEVER be advised or attempted, but as something being actively considered because they had no money and because of how much you can earn if you breed cross-breeds with a fancy name like a “little jack shihtz”.
The UK has an animal welfare crisis.
Not just by sheer volume of dogs who end up in rescues every year neglected and abused (and this number is rising), but by breeders actively breeding dogs who will grow up with health problems and puppy farmers who in some cases are concealing their true motives aided (knowingly or otherwise, if we’re being generous) by The Kennel Club, who run Crufts (also currently being aired across Channel 4’s network).
Dogs aren’t here to be our cash cows. They aren’t here to solve our income issues. They are our companions and do many, many wonderful things every day as our companions. They make us laugh, they give us comfort and in some cases are amazing assistance dogs transforming the lives of their owners.
Watch a dog sitting with his homeless owner and you can see a content dog giving comfort and companionship. Dogs relationship with man has nothing to do with wealth.
Across the country, there are dogs who already suffer at the hands of humans in many different ways. The fact the show aired this as something that people could do is appalling.
So what happened?
Well, the two sets of dog owners met and had nothing except dogs in common. Staffies were bashed a bit by the rich dog owner who had a stereotype in her mind which didn’t match the reality and should have known better, and the ‘poor dog’ Jack Russell (Juno) couldn’t have puppies and she was given up.
This show COULD have said something positive about the discrimination towards certain types of owners and their dogs. It didn’t.
It could have shone a light on how many dog owners put their dogs ahead of themselves. It didn’t do this either.
What it did do it put the idea of backyard breeding out there with no common sense highlighting the untold distress to animals as a result. Nor did it tell the story of how this could put further stress on the animal rescue system which is already bursting at the seems.
The show flashed up a hashtag to encourage people to take to social media to discuss. While following the trail today I discovered I’m not alone. Here’s what others thoughts.