Broadcasting watchdog Ofcom is assessing more than 200 complaints about Britain’s Got Talent following the revelation that Blackpool-born champion Jules O’Dwyer used a stunt double dog for her winning sketch.
The show’s producers have apologised for not making it clearer to viewers – as well as the judges – that a lookalike dog was used to walk the parallel ropes.
Now angry fans have complained to Ofcom, which will decide whether or not to investigate the dog swap on Sunday night’s final.
“Ofcom has received 206 complaints about the winning act on Britain’s Got Talent on ITV,” a spokesman said.
“We will assess these complaints before deciding whether to investigate or not.”
Last night O’Dwyer said that she was “shocked and surprised” by viewers’ reaction.
The guide dog trainer, who beat Welsh choir Cor Glanaethwy and magician Jamie Raven to the £250,000 prize with a sketch involving a tightrope and stolen sausages, said that she had not used Matisse because he did not like heights.
“I was surprised, I was shocked because I’m thinking ‘Why?’ I spent so much time creating this lovely story – I wanted to make it exciting for the people watching,” O’Dwyer said of viewers’ reaction to the involvement of another of her border collies, Chase.
“I wanted that ‘wow’ nail-biting element (where they’re at) the edge of their seat, I wanted people to laugh so I wanted the comedy and the humour and then I wanted that ‘awww’.
“I was disappointed when people said I allegedly hid Chase and I was trying to make it like Chase was Matisse. That’s not so.”
She continued: “I introduced Chase in the semi-final, and I said Chase is Matisse’s best mate. ...Why put the pressure on the dog, when I already have another dog who can perform it on television?”
The sketch, which starred O’Dwyer as a policewoman going after “sausage thief” Matisse, also featured another of her pets, three-legged Skippy.
O’Dwyer added: “I know my dogs, and I know what they are comfortable with. I’m not hiding anything. Skippy was a secret – I wanted to keep him a secret because that was the emotional factor and we hadn’t introduced him before.”
There was no sign of Chase, who had previously appeared in the semi-final, when O’Dwyer and Matisse took to the stage to be congratulated on their win by the judges and hosts Ant and Dec.
But the dog trainer, originally from Blackpool but who now lives in Belgium, later told ITV show Lorraine: “Matisse is a little bit afraid of heights so, although he could physically do it, Chase is the dog who says ‘I’m the action dog’. He plays the double for him.”
Their prize includes a spot at this year’s Royal Variety Performance.
More than 13 million viewers watched O’Dwyer and Matisse become the second dog act to win Britain’s Got Talent, following Ashleigh Butler and Pudsey in 2012, in the highest rating final since that year.
ITV has released voting figures which showed O’Dwyer and Matisse won by just two per cent – getting 22.6 per cent of votes, compared to 20.4 per cent for magician Raven.
Outraged viewers claimed to be “misled” over Matisse on the tightrope stunt.
Rachel Louise wrote: “How can BGT allow a stunt double for the dog and try to hide it, shouldn’t be allowed to be the winner!”
Niamh Skinner said: “I’ve just been informed that Matisse had a stunt double doing the tightrope walk. Absolutely fuming. I voted for that dog!”
Andrea Foreman wrote: “I think they should step down and give it to the magic man.”
But others described the furore as a storm in a teacup.
Mike Ward wrote: “So she trained more than one dog to be brilliant? Seriously, what’s the problem?!”
A spokesman for the producers of Britain’s Got Talent said: “The audience had previously seen from Jules’s semi-final routine that she works with a second dog Chase alongside Matisse. For the final performance, as Jules has said publicly herself, Chase completed the tight-rope walking section of the act.
“During the competition viewers have seen that Jules’s act involves a team of dogs, including Chase and Skippy, alongside starring dog Matisse, to perform her unique mixture of dog agility and story-telling. We are sorry if this was not made clearer to the judges and viewers at home during their final performance.”