Regulator backs use of starving dog on animal cruelty ad

Darren Dallas who was convicted of animal cruelty
Darren Dallas who was convicted of animal cruelty
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An animal cruelty advert showing a dog which starved to death has been cleared for use despite complaints it was unsuitable for children.

The advert was part of a leaflet printed by the Scottish SPCA and showed the skeletal remains of a two-year-old Staffordshire bull terrier called Jack, which was found dead in Edinburgh.

Four members of the public complained to the Advertising Standards Agency (ASA), saying the advert was irresponsible because it could be seen by children.

However, the ASA ruled the leaflet, published in February, was justified to highlight the “distressing” subject of animal abuse.

The Scottish SPCA welcomed the decision, saying the issue should not be glossed over.

A caption beneath the picture of the dog said: “Jack 2009 – 2011” and text next to it said: “It doesn’t have to be this way...”

The leaflet, which was posted without an envelope, then invited £1-a-week membership of the organisation.

Jack was found dead in a garden in Whitson Road, Edinburgh, in 2011, having been starved to less than half his normal weight.

Owner Darren Dallas, of Stenhouse, was given a life ban on keeping animals and three years probation after a Scottish SPCA investigation.

He had dumped the dead dog, which choked after finally being given food, into his neighbour’s garden over a fence.

The former heroin addict later told the News the dog was his solitary companion after he had moved away from Leith in a bid to escape his past.

He said: “I got Jack to keep me company. When I got Jack I could tell he wasn’t right, but I fed him and got his weight up.

“After a while he started getting ill and losing weight again. I tried making him eat wee bits of dog food, and in the morning he was dead.”

The complaints were submitted to the ASA via its online complaints form, with the first coming in on February 28.

The ASA adjudication said: “We noted that such a distressing subject was likely to cause discomfort when presented in any medium.

“Nevertheless, we took the view that any discomfort inherent in the subject of animal cruelty ought to be balanced by the worthwhile purpose of raising awareness of their cause.”

It continued: “We noted the circular had been delivered without an envelope and featured an image of a highly emaciated dog.

“However, whilst we considered the inclusion of the image was likely to cause distress to some, including children, we considered that any distress caused was justifiable and was therefore not irresponsible.”

Scottish SPCA chief superintendent Mike Flynn said: “We believe the public should be aware of the harsh realities of our work and the extent of cruelty to animals. Sadly, each year animals continue to suffer abuse and neglect, and if we glossed over this issue the public would not know why we desperately need their support.”