Dogs Trust – A dog is for life…

Everyone has seen the adverts; sad and lonely, rejected dogs cloaked by a grey filter whilst melancholy yet Christmassy music plays, before the grand finale of the iconic line “a dog is for life not just for Christmas”. It seems the advert and accompanying slogan have almost become as much of an indicator that Christmas has arrived as the reappearance of Slade (also not just for Christmas), or the jolly Father Christmas that adorns the back of the delivery trucks of a popular soft drink manufacturer during this period. This year the classic slogan of the UK’s oldest animal welfare charity (having been founded in 1891) will turn 40 years old.

The famous Dogs Trust slogan first appeared on screens in 1978, and according to Emily Mayer of the charity, the words came after former chief executive Clarissa Baldwin was asked to come up with something “cheap and cheerful, that really hit home the responsible dog ownership message” when working for the charity’s public relations team. Mayer goes on to say that 40 years later, “the iconic slogan is our mantra, and shapes everything we do at Dogs Trust – reminding people that dogs should never be given as gifts or bought on a whim”. Mayer says the charity is “pleased” that the slogan has become “a huge part of Christmas culture”, however she insists there is “still work to be done every year”. “We still have to pick up the pieces when dogs are abandoned after Christmas,” explains Mayer. She calls dogs a “wonderful addition” for a family however she echoes the sentiment of the classic statement saying “they must never be an impulsive decision”.

Advice on preventing ‘impulse’ purchases/adoptions

Dogs Trust’s method of preventing dogs from being handed in after Christmas, is to educate would-be owners on how to be a responsible dog owner along with encouraging them to adopt over purchasing. With Lucy’s Law banning the sale of puppies in English pet shops, Mayer says she would advise retailers to tell customers looking to acquire a dog to look at rehoming a rescue dog. “We have thousands of dogs of all shapes and sizes in our rehoming centres waiting to meet their special someone,” she explains before pointing out one of the modern pitfalls of new dog owners adding: “We would never recommend buying a puppy from any online source.” Mayer says potential new owners should be told to “thoroughly to do [their] research so [they] can be confident that the puppy you have your eye on, has been bred responsibly”. Pet retailers can always refer those looking at a new dog to the Dogs Trust website which Mayer says features “a wealth of advice”, to help would-be owners “be confident that they are buying a puppy from a good breeder, instead of a seller who makes a good living pedalling sick puppies who may have been illegally imported into this country”.

“If an advert seems too good to be true, it probably is,” is the ultimate piece of advice to give to those pondering a dog according to Mayer. When visiting a puppy she says buyers should “expect the breeder to be as curious about you and the home you can provide, as you are about the puppy”, adding: “If anyone ever feels rushed into making a purchase, they should walk away.”

A dog is for life in 2018

After running for 40 years, is the campaign still needed today? “We will carry on shouting ‘a dog is for life, not just for Christmas’ until the day that we stop seeing dogs abandoned, or handed in to our rehoming centres,” counters Mayer, who adds: “Our ‘a dog is for life, not just for Christmas’ campaign is still as relevant as it was 40 years ago, and with the popularity of online purchases – dare we say it – more important today.” She goes on to explain that her charity takes in thousands of dogs from “heartbroken” owners whose circumstances have changed and mean they can no longer look after their canine friend, so the staff who see the “other end of the spectrum” of a dog being handed in it was bought “on a whim” it is particularly hard for them. Mayer blames the “first-click world” which “worryingly now includes dogs” for the increased need for the charity’s work. Puppies bought online will not always come from good breeders, she explains and says a significant number will have been “illegally imported”. Mayer reassures those worried about the illegal pet trade that Dogs Trust is “working hard to tackle this cruel trade”.

With the charity gearing up for another Christmas campaign which will feature fundraising events such as Christmas fairs, raffles and tombolas. Mayer says the message from Dogs Trust will be exactly the same again this year, she adds “it’s really important to us that people understand that dogs – although a wonderful addition to the right family – should always be considered as a lifetime commitment”.

This feature was first published in the December 2018 issue of Pet Gazette

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