Ad description

A circular, for the Scottish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Scottish SPCA), viewed in February 2012, included a picture of a highly emaciated dog, which appeared dead.  Text beneath the picture stated "Jack 2009 - 2011". Text beside the picture stated "It doesn't have to be this way ... ". The foot of the page included the Scottish SPCA logo. The reverse of the circular featured a before and after picture of a rescued dog, Willow, and stated "You can save animals from abuse  Jack was so starving hungry when he finally ate he choked to death. It's hard to imagine how that must have felt.  Sadly, last year we had too many cases like Jack's. But it doesn't have to be this way.  With your support we can rescue abused, abandoned and injured animals in Scotland and we can help take people responsible to court.  Poor Willow was skin and bones when she arrived in our care. In fact, we were worried she wouldn't make it through the night.  But thanks to our supporters we were able to nurse Willow back to health and find her a loving new home. We also found her owner, who was prosecuted and banned from owning animals following our investigation.  You can help rescue animals like Willow by joining the Scottish SPCA for £1 a week." The circular also featured further information about the charity's work and funding.


Four complainants objected that the ad was irresponsible because the image was inappropriate to be seen by children.


The Scottish SPCA believed the public should be aware of the true nature of their work and that a softened approach would neither be a fair representation of the abuse animals suffered at the hands of their owners, nor a fair representation of why the Scottish SPCA needed the public's support. They said the case studies accurately depicted the serious nature of cruelty to animals in Scotland.


Not upheld

The ASA noted the Scottish SPCA aimed to raise awareness of the abuse animals suffered at the hands of their owners and the need for donations to support that cause. We noted that such a distressing subject was likely to cause discomfort when presented in any medium. Nevertheless, we took the view that any discomfort inherent in the subject of animal cruelty ought to be balanced by the worthwhile purpose of raising awareness of their cause.

We noted the circular had been delivered without an envelope and featured an image of a highly emaciated dog. However, whilst we considered the inclusion of the image was likely to cause distress to some, including children, we considered that any distress caused was justifiable and was therefore not irresponsible.

On that basis, we concluded the ad did not breach the Code.

We investigated the ad under CAP Code (Edition 12) rules  1.3 1.3 Marketing communications must be prepared with a sense of responsibility to consumers and to society.  (Social responsibility) and  4.2 4.2 Marketing communications must not cause fear or distress without justifiable reason; if it can be justified, the fear or distress should not be excessive. Marketers must not use a shocking claim or image merely to attract attention.  (Harm and offence) but did not find it to be in breach.


No further action necessary.

CAP Code (Edition 12)

1.3     4.2    

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