AddThis SmartLayers

Daily absolved over column comparing dog wardens to Stasi

belfast-dogA regional daily has avoided censure after a local authority complained about a column which compared its dog wardens to the Stasi.

Belfast City Council complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that the Belfast Telegraph breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in a piece by columnist Fionola Meredith.

The article was an opinion piece which compared Belfast dog wardens to the secret police of former East Germany following the seizure of a dog named Hank, pictured left, with Fionola claiming he was seized from his owners’ property because he looked “a bit like a pitbull terrier” even though there had been no complaints about his behaviour.

The authority said the column failed to accurately set out the circumstances that led to the dog’s seizure and created the impression he was a “gentle giant,” adding Hank came to its attention because of a welfare complaint about how the dog was being treated by somebody other than its owners.

In response, the Bel Tel said the article was based on a television interview with Hank’s owner, who said that he was told by a dog warden that there had been no problems or complaints about the dog’s behaviour.

The paper said that it was not inaccurate to report that there was no proof, evidence, or complaints that the dog had behaved aggressively, as the only allegation of aggression had come from the wardens.

IPSO noted the complainant’s explanation of why the dog was seized but found in circumstances where the dog was not brought to the attention of the wardens because of his aggressive behaviour, and did not have a record of behaving aggressively, it was not significantly misleading for the article to say that there had been no complaints about the dog’s behaviour.

The complaint was not upheld, and the full adjudication can be read here.