A newspaper campaign which encouraged people to report dangerous dogs has prompted an angry response from canine lovers.
The News Shopper’s Shop A Dog campaign was launched after the newspaper carried a number of stories on people being attacked by dangerous dogs in South East London and Kent.
The campaign asks for increased prison sentences for owners of banned or dangerous dogs and also made demands for Staffordshire Bull Terriers to be forced to wear muzzles in public.
Free mugs are also offered to anyone who sends in a photo of a banned dog.
Since the launch of the campaign the Shopper has run a series of features on dangerous dogs, the latest being one published on Monday about a schoolboy being attacked by a Staffordshire Bull Terrier in Greenwich.
But it has promoted a backlash, predominantly from owners of Staffordshire Bull Terriers, who say the campaign is giving the animals a bad name.
Some members of staff at the title have also been verbally abused, according to editor Richard Firth.
The article announcing the campaign launch prompted 243 online comments from readers and an angry letter from the Battersea Dogs and Cats Home in which it said it was very disappointed with the campaign.
The letter read: “By encouraging Staffordshire Bull Terriers to be seen as dangerous, your campaign is fuelling the abuse and abandonment of a much-maligned breed which does not deserve its negative reputation.”
Comments on the story included: “This is just a witch hunt. There is currently a bill going through parliament to make owners more accountable for their dogs. The news shopper is obviously trying to get some cheap publicity. Do some real journalism.”
In a comment piece, editor of the paper Richard Firth said that since the campaign was launched the newspaper has covered stories of further attacks and has received excellent support form readers, along with constructive criticism from people who do not agree with ‘Shop A Dog.’
However, he said a minority of people had become abusive and aggressive towards staff for drawing attention to the problem.
Said Richard: “A couple of people accused us of hating dogs – they either haven’t read the campaign or they’ve completely failed to understand the motives for it.
“Some even went as far as to contact some of our advertisers to try to persuade them not to advertise with News Shopper while this campaign was going on.
“Fortunately, our clients are more sensible than this handful of thoughtless individuals who would much rather attempt to abuse and intimidate than enter into a reasoned debate.”
He added that the paper would not ‘bow to pressure’ and would continue to draw attention to such issues.