Simon Cowell may enjoy the animal acts on Britain’s Got Talent, but the treatment of one ‘talking’ dog is under investigation by the RSPCA.
French ventriloquist Marc Metral won rave reviews from the ITV show’s four judges on Saturday night for his performance with pet Wendy, who seemed to mime answers to his questions.
But viewers quickly began voicing concern over Wendy’s welfare, with some arguing that putting a mask over an animal’s mouth is cruel. TV regulator Ofcom has so far received 30 complaints about the act, with ITV receiving 35 more.
The RSPCA has confirmed it will be contacting producers to “ascertain what methods were used and how they impacted on the dog”.
“It is not clear if Wendy was wearing any sort of muzzle or mask during the performance on Britain’s Got Talent,” a statement read. “However, the RSPCA would be very concerned if it became clear that she was caused distress at any point.
"Distress could result from her being unable to breathe or pant properly in an environment which can get very warm. Any muzzle or mask should only be used if introduced gradually to the dog and with positive training methods. Dogs should never be forced to wear anything.”
The spokesperson added that the animal welfare charity is wary of people “trying to copy such acts”. “Using animals in performances requires very careful preparation and planning to minimise any impact on their welfare,” they said.
"Environments like this have the potential to cause distress to animals in general due to the flashing lights and loud noises and we would hope that Britain's Got Talent has considered very carefully the welfare of any animals being used in performances.”
Britain’s Got Talent has also issued a statement in response to accusations of cruelty on the first episode of its ninth series, which attracted an average of 10.1 million viewers.
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“During the audition process we consulted the RSPCA’s guidelines for the welfare of performing animals and spoke to Marc in detail about his act,” it read.
“We are comfortable that Marc’s act complies with the guidelines laid out by the RSPCA and we look forward to hearing from the RSPCA to talk through the methods used and precautions taken.”
Metral has also refuted claims that Wendy is mistreated. “I’ve been working with Wendy since she was a puppy, training and caring for her for the last five years. She loves performing and I would never put her in a situation that would cause her distress,” he insisted. “She gets excited when we go to work and is always comfortable on stage.”
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