When I settled down to watch Keith Lemon's Lemonaid on Saturday evening, I had no idea that the show would provoke a furore in the dog world, but as soon as it became clear that the program intended to give a puppy as prize to the child that succeeded in a competition, my stomach twisted. Three children who were each pestering their parents for a dog had been selected to compete against each other to win a puppy, and when a little girl won the competition a tiny six week old Pug puppy was duly produced and given to her to cuddle.
At a time when the dog world - certainly in the UK - is awash with problems, the last thing we need is two high profile celebrities like Keith Lemon (real name Leigh Francis) and Peter Andre being involved in giving a puppy as a prize. WHile I hope that the family who received the dog had thought through their decision, wanted the puppy and will give it a happy, loving, long term home this is not the way to go about getting a dog.
The show presented dogs as inanimate objects to be acquired on a whim, much as one might buy a lottery ticket or scratch card. Those of us who really care about dogs know that it is a huge commitment - albeit a joyous one - to take on a dog, and that if you need to have thought through what breed will suit you, and then assess whether a particular individual dog of that breed will be well matched to you. Breeders and rescuers put a lot of effort into making sure owners and dogs are well matched, and it is revolting to have that important process reduced to who can win a knockabout competition on television.
Those who choose to buy a puppy should be finding a breeder they like and trust, seeing appropriate health paperwork, seeing the mother with the litter, and buying from a breeder who has put enough love and thought into producing those pups that he or she will provide lifetime support and if necessary take the pup back if it needs rehoming at any point.
The show appeared on ITV on Saturday April 28th at 6.15p.m. and if you want to see it you can catch it on ITV Player.
If like me you are horrified at what happened on the Keith Lemon show, there are a number of ways you can make your opinion count. You can complain to Ofcom - you will need the details of when and which channel the show was on. You can also complain direct to ITV and there is also 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.
Keith Lemon's Lemonaid show was seen by millions as it went out on primetime Saturday evening television - do we really want the dangerous message that dogs are a throwaway item left unchecked? Are rescues not already full enough of unwanted and discarded dogs? Will other shows follow their lead and start offering dogs as prizes? Quite possibly unless we take a stand.
Our dogs enrich and enhance our lives in so many ways, and they deserve much more respect than ITV has shown them.