Emmerdale boss responds to 'grim' animal cruelty backlash following over 800 Ofcom complaints

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Emmerdale boss Laura Shaw has spoken out after the ITV soap received over 800 complaints.

Fans were outraged by a storyline that saw dog Piper poisoned by owner Tom King (James Chase) in an attempt to get his wife Belle King (Eden Taylor-Draper) out of a mental health unit.

The distressing scenes sparked a backlash from viewers, with some so upset they vowed to stop watching the show. Despite efforts to quell the outrage by showing that Minnie, the dog actor playing Piper, was safe and sound with a behind-the-scenes clip, fans were not placated.

One angry viewer took to social media saying: "I think we'll let @Ofcom decide whether it was acceptable to include this in the storyline. Someone's got to rein your show in from its mad dash to become a 9pm drama. Where are the family-friendly plots? The laughs? It's always so grim without any warning."

Another viewer commented on the potential consequences: "People know Piper/Minnie is loved dearly; it's the animal cruelty that everyone is upset about. It will give abusive partners ideas." A third person agreed: "I think most of us know the pup is fine, but there was no real need to show the extensive abuse that you did. The storyline has gone on far too long."

A significant 876 complaints were made to Ofcom after Emmerdale aired the controversial scenes, with 513 complaints from the episode aired on 27 May and another 363 the following day.

Speaking to the Daily Star and other press, producer Laura Shaw explained: "Whenever you put any sort of pet in danger on Emmerdale or anything, everyone gets up in arms about it.

"So did I expect it? Yes, but Piper will definitely continue to play a role in the story. And you know - and again this is research-led - I'm joking about it, but it is research-led.

"One of the things that we found is that abusers will use the family pet or people that you love as weapons against you. So this is all based on research. I promise you it's not just us being mean to the dog for the sake of it."

An Ofcom spokesperson said at the time: "The complaints were relating to a storyline about the poisoning of a dog." Following the backlash, Emmerdale also released a statement reassuring viewers: "These scenes can be distressing to watch, but we want to remind you that Minnie (AKA Piper) is a very good actor and is always living her best life on set. We can confirm that no harm has come to her whatsoever."

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