Website Misled Dog Owners

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Website ‘misled’ dog owners
18th May 2017

By Karen Pickwick

A website for a dog breed certification company has been found to misleadingly suggest that by buying a certificate a consumer’s dog would not be regarded as a government-banned type by the courts or could be placed on the Index of Exempted Dogs.

The via-pet.co.uk website – seen in March 2017 – included text that stated: “The VIA-PET Pit bull Exemption certificate will save tens of thousands of innocent dogs from execution…Can be used legally in court or with any agency.”

A complainant, who understood that whether or not a dog was a government-banned type depended on what it looked like rather than its breed, challenged whether the ad was misleading and could be substantiated.

Via-Pet did not respond to the Advertising Standards Authority’s enquiries. The ASA was concerned by this lack of response and apparent disregard for the Code, and ruled that the company had breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rule (Unreasonable delay). The authority reminded Via-Pet of its responsibility to respond promptly to its enquiries and told it to do so in the future.

The complaint was upheld because the ASA considered consumers would interpret the ad to mean that by obtaining a certificate from the advertiser a dog would not be regarded as a banned type or would be able to be placed on the Index of Exempted Dogs.

“We noted that the official government guidance said whether a dog was a banned type depended on what it looked like rather than its breed and that this was assessed on a case by case basis by the court,” the authority stated.

“We considered that as the advertiser’s certificate was based on genetic testing it would only ever be able to confirm the breed, which they had not demonstrated was a consideration for the courts when making a determination about whether or not a dog was a banned type. We therefore concluded that the ad was misleading.”

The ASA ruled that the ad must not appear again in its current form and told Via-Pet to ensure its future advertising did not misleadingly imply its certificates would ensure a dog was not regarded as a banned type. The authority also referred the matter to the CAP Compliance team.