Last night, ITV aired their documentary on the rising fashion of ‘teacup’ pets, and how their popularity has grown over the past few years. Helped by celebrities such as Paris Hilton, pets that can be carried around have become a fashion accessory for the masses, and Super Tiny Animals focussed on those people that have become fans and even entrepreneurs of the trend.
Unfortunately, the show took a very favourable approach to the topic, avoiding many of the health implications that accompany such miniaturisation through breeding. Instead, the first focal point centred around a store in Florida that supplied not only toy dogs for sale, but also accessories for those miniature pets. Whilst on the face of it, supplying to the fashion seems like a fantastic and niche marketing opportunity, the reality is almost bordering on abuse.
The store targets those people that wish to ‘spoil’ their pets and treat them more like children or toys than animals. It is common knowledge for pet owners that ‘spoiling’ a pet will more often than not lead to health issues, which could be anything from obesity due to over-indulgence in treats to health problems caused by incorrect foods being given as titbits. The term ‘teacup’ is not recognised or official, and should never be treated as such; the people that use it are making money from the problem, and in the long run are not helping these animals or the market.
It isn’t just the sales of the animals that make a mockery of pet owners – it’s the accessories that people were buying as well. Not only were the little clothes options available (which tends to make the animals look more like a dress-up doll than a real pet) but silly items such as jewellery or cologne which make you question whether these people are honestly fans of the fashion or if the whole trend is one big joke.
The show did not just focus on those making a direct profit from these pets however, as it soon turned to a woman who provided a rescue for those ‘toy’ or ‘teacup’ dogs that are left abandoned or whose owners care for them. Again, what sounds like fantastic work was soon tainted by the revelation that the woman used those dogs she had rescued to parade in clothes that she had made by hand, in order to market and sell them over the internet. In this case, the money is used to fund the rescue home, but by marketing the dogs in the clothes the problem of perception of the ‘teacup’ animals is not being abated, and the problem exacerbated. The more popular these animals become, the more will end up abandoned – this is a common theme with any fashionable breed, and this ‘teacup’ fashion will be exactly the same.
Even the hobby farm trend of breeding and buying these miniature animals proves my point – these people are cashing in on a fashion that has over-priced and over-valued these diminutive animals that were once recognised for the genetic defects that affected them. The health issues and problems associated with such small statures are warning signs that this fashion is making people ignore, if not be completely ignorant of altogether.
I find it a shame that ITV did not use the program to show both sides of the argument, as I am sure that it will be a popular topic of discussion, especially on the run up to Christmas for the purchase of ‘teacup’ animals. A message has been sent out to the UK audience that these animals are fun, just like other pets, and are a fashionable and favourable purchase; rather than utilising the primetime slot to explain the problems as would have been ethically correct, ITV have instead allowed those people that plan on cashing in on this trend access to a much larger audience, and I fear that the only losers from this entire experience will be the animals.
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