News - September 27, 2012

Dog story was old hat

Who? Paul Koene, lecturer and researcher in the Animal Sciences Group.
Why? Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf reported that Wageningen UR was recommending a ban on keeping dogs, based on outdated information.
What? Koene put the story right for various media. The offensive list was an old test of a research method, not an official recommendation.

Did the report in De Telegraaf lead to a lot of media interest?
'There was a bit of a surge. Trouw [another newspaper] called, as did two TV companies and four radio stations. They were satisfied with my explanation but then they didn't use it as an item. Apparently it doesn't count as news if another medium got things wrong. But it is frustrating when that means you don't get the truth publicized.'
What were the facts of the matter?
'We are working on a system for assessing the suitability of mammals to be kept as pets. We did a quick scan with the first version, a practice run. Now it has evolved further with information about welfare, natural behaviour and the human-animal relationship. The report in De Telegraaf was about the quick scan. The story they printed was old hat.' 
Do you find it annoying that they misrepresent your research like that?
'It just happens, so I'm used to it. It would make life easier if everyone just presented the facts objectively but the world doesn't work like that.'