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Complainant Name:
Mr S Reynolds

Clauses Noted: 1

Publication: News of the World


Mr S Reynolds of St James, Northampton, complained that an article published in the News of the World on 25 May 1997 headlined "Sick as a Dog!" contained inaccuracies in breach of Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Code of Practice.

The article said that the complainant had re-sold, to an undercover reporter, a dog which was still suffering from mange even though it had been returned to his kennels because of the disease. The complainant allegedly told the original purchaser that she could not have her money back until it was re-sold. The article concluded that the complainant was "vile", "heartless", "evil" and "greedy", the last allegation being made because the complainant had apparently complained that the financial rewards were not as great as he had thought. It also said that the complainant's kennels were dirty and full of distressed and matted dogs.

The complainant said that, in spite of the implication in the article, he did not own the kennels, and had been employed two weeks prior to the article to manage them whilst the owner was away. This accounted for a sign in the kennels which asked for cheques to be made out to him. He insisted that he had treated the dog before its re-sale, and said that the policy on refunds was that of the owner. He was not greedy as he did not personally profit apart from his fixed weekly pay. He objected to being described as "vile", "evil" and "heartless". The kennels were cosmetically shabby, but not dirty, and he enclosed a letter from the kennels' vet which stated that the kennels abided by a strict Code of Practice. Following the article, local authority and RSPCA inspections had confirmed the state of the kennels as satisfactory.

The newspaper said that the question of ownership was immaterial: the complainant was clearly in charge of the kennels and responsible for the upkeep of them and the welfare of the dogs. An officer from the National Canine Defence League (NCDL) confirmed that the dog was still suffering from mange and that the complainant had complained about the hard work and long hours. The reporter maintained that the complainant knowingly sold her a sick dog and that he had told her that he had "taken over" the kennels. The reporter telephoned the complainant after she had bought the dog, and the complainant insisted that the dog was healthy. Although the dog may have been treated, it was in fact still suffering from mange. The NCDL officer said that one treatment alone would not have been enough to cure the dog.

Not Upheld


The Commission noted that the article was one in a long-running high profile campaign about a subject on which the newspaper had clearly formed a robust opinion. The strong opinions about the character of the complainant would be seen in this context. The Commission considered that although the reporter could have taken more care to establish the existence of the owner of the kennels and recognised that in the absence of the owner the complainant would have been working under some difficulty, the complainant would be seen to bear a degree of responsibility, as manager, for the re-sale of the dog and the condition of the kennels. Although he may have treated the dog, it did appear that the animal was still ill after its re-sale. The observations on the state of the kennels were clearly the view of the reporter.

The complaint was not upheld.


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