Resolution Statement – 28396-20 Katarova v Mail Online
Summary of Complaint
1. Elena Katarova complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that Mail Online breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined “Unscrupulous puppy breeders offer us free dogs 'like a pair of shoes': Reality stars hit out at the firms shipping in pets from Russia - following death of [named third party’s] new Pomeranian”, published on 5 June 2020.
2. The article reported on the death of a celebrity’s new puppy who had been bought from a dog breeding and importing company. The article included a quote from the celebrity which stated that the puppy “was going to die regardless. The autopsy results showed his skull wasn't fully developed and part of his brain was exposed. He didn't have a single white blood cell in his body”.
3. The complainant, the owner of the breeding and importing company the puppy was bought from, said that the article was inaccurate in breach of Clause 1. She said that the quote did not reflect the veterinary report, which, whilst it reported that the skull was not fully ossified, did not state the brain was exposed. She said that it was normal for a puppy’s skull to not be fully ossified at that age and the quote gave the misleading impression that this was part of the cause of death. The complainant also said that there was no veterinary evidence to indicate that the dog was suffering from a complete lack of white blood cells.
4. The publication did not accept a breach of the Code. It said that where the veterinary report had stated the skull was not fully ossified, it was not inaccurate to report that the puppy’s “skull wasn't fully developed and part of his brain was exposed”. It noted an image of the puppy was included in the article and therefore readers would understand that the brain was not literally exposed. It also said that a further veterinary report had stated that a blood smear had found that the dog’s blood had almost no neutrophils, which made up to 60-70% of white blood cells in dogs. It said that on this basis the quote from the celebrity was broadly accurate, but offered a clarify this with the more technical details.
Relevant Clause Provisions
Clause 1 (Accuracy)
i) The Press must take care not to publish inaccurate, misleading or distorted information or images, including headlines not supported by the text.
ii) A significant inaccuracy, misleading statement or distortion must be corrected, promptly and with due prominence, and — where appropriate — an apology published. In cases involving IPSO, due prominence should be as required by the regulator.
iii) A fair opportunity to reply to significant inaccuracies should be given, when reasonably called for.
iv) The Press, while free to editorialise and campaign, must distinguish clearly between comment, conjecture and fact.
5. The complaint was not resolved through direct correspondence between the parties. IPSO therefore began an investigation into the matter.
6. During IPSO’s investigation the publication offered to print the following correction:
With respect to Molly-Mae's statements about Mr Chai's cause of death, a pathology report undertaken in June was inconclusive as to the cause of death.
7. The complainant said that this would resolve the matter to her satisfaction.
8. As the complaint was successfully mediated, the Complaints Committee did not make a determination as to whether there had been any breach of the Code.
Date complaint received: 06/10/2020
Date complaint concluded by IPSO: 31/03/2021Back to ruling listing