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Tuesday, 29 August, 2000, 09:52 GMT 10:52 UK
Disney accused over Dalmatians
101 Dalmatians
A scene from the 1996 film 101 Dalmatians
American animal rights activists have accused Disney of endangering the lives of Dalmatians by the way they portray the dogs on screen.

Campaigners say the studio's forthcoming movie, 102 Dalmatians, creates an unhealthy stereotype that shows the animals to be friendly and loving.

But they claim the harsh reality is that the dogs are unpredictable and highly-strung, which has led to hundreds being abused and abandoned by their owners.

A spokesman for Disney said the company did not want to comment on the accusations at this stage, but stressed they were working with the Dalmatian Club of America to educate people about taking on pets.


Disney is making a fortune off these dogs but they don't bear any responsibility for the abuse they suffer when they're no longer cute little puppies

Activist Ann Herrington
The new film, the sequel to 101 Dalmatians, is due for release in the US in November and promises to be a huge box office hit.

Opponents say demand for the dogs will soar, resulting in overbreeding by kennels.

Ann Herrington was among a group of animal rights activists who held a press conference outside Walt Disney Studios in Hollywood to highlight their concerns.

Dump

She told reporters: "Disney is making a fortune off these dogs but they don't bear any responsibility for the overbreeding and abuse they suffer later on when they're no longer cute little puppies and owners dump them into the animal shelters."

The activists claimed Disney had licensed more than 17,000 items of merchandise for 101 Dalmatians and were predicting much the same for the sequel.

But they insisted the cute, friendly image of the dogs was off the mark, with many growing up to weigh nearly six stone and being unpredictable with children.

In addition, up to a quarter of the breed are deaf and many are born with deformities, they added.

Teri Austin of the Amanda Foundation - an animal welfare group in Los Angeles - said the number of abandoned Dalmatians had risen by more than one hundred per cent since the release of the first film and they were bracing themselves for another spate of badly bred and abused dogs.

"These dogs are a wonderful breed, but they're not for everyone," she stressed.

Walt Disney Motion Pictures chairman Richard Cook promised that publicity for 102 Dalmatians would include education about pets for the public.

"One of the main themes of this sequel involves animal shelters and promotes responsible pet ownership," he added.

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