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Animals Were Harmed: Reality TV and Animals a Dicey Mix

Major animal protection agency concerned for the welfare of animals on ‘reality tv’; plans new guidelines for 2009.

Ft. Lauderdale, FL, November 20, 2008 --( Animals are harmed and put in stressful situations on a growing number of ‘reality tv’ shows, according to the head of American Humane’s Film and Television Unit, with new oversight guidelines scheduled to be announced in 2009.

The American Humane Association, which began monitoring the treatment of animal ‘actors’ on movie sets in 1940, is designated by the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) as the only animal welfare organization with on-set jurisdiction in the treatment of animals. Since then, American Humane’s oversight has grown to monitor animals used for television, and the group has some serious concerns about the increasing number of animals appearing on so-called ‘reality tv’ shows.

“The problem with reality shows is they want the drama,” Karen Rosa, head American Humane’s Film and Television Unit based in Sherman Oaks, California. “They cast for the human, and the animal ‘comes with.’” The problem, according to Ms. Rosa, “is the animal is often put in an unfamiliar, drama-filled environment along with the human. And when money is involved, humans may forget what is best for their pet.

“You could have a wonderful dog in your backyard, but you’re bringing it into a completely different situation, a situation where the contestants are trying to one-up each other. Everyone wants to win, and sometimes they are doing things that are not in the best interest of the animal.”

Their Phone Was “Ringing Off The Hook”
Citing one recent example, Ms. Rosa said the organization’s phone was ‘ringing off the hook’ with concerned viewers of a 10-week network reality show broadcast over the summer. Although American Humane representatives were on the set intermittently, many of the “challenges” the dog-and-human pairs were already filmed ‘without our monitoring the situation,” Ms. Rosa said. “We saw it in the same way the public did—when it was on television.” American Humane was also upset when some contestants publicly described their actions as approved by the organization, something Ms. Rosa described as a “misrepresentation of our guidelines.”

American Humane is currently working with the television industry on new guidelines for the treatment of animals on ‘reality tv’ and expects to issue them in 2009.

The complete interview with American Humane’s Karen Rosa, can be heard at by clicking on the show “Pets In the City”, hosted by Diane West, publisher of New York Tails magazine.

About American Humane: The American Humane Association has overseen movie sets since 1940 to make sure animal actors stay safe while portraying heroes, villains, companions, and comedians. American Humane’s Film & Television Unit is designated by the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) as the only animal welfare organization with on-set jurisdiction and the only one authorized to bestow the “No Animals Were Harmed”® declaration on film and television productions involving animals.

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