Please, sir, the dog ate my census
"The dog ate my homework" has never impressed teachers as an excuse - and now the Office for National Statistics is warning that it will not wash as a reason for failing to fill in the census form.
A helpline for the census has reported that requests for new questionnaires because of tea and coffee spills and even dogs chewing forms rank among the most common inquiries in England and Wales from people filling in the 2011 Census.
More than 360,000 people have either called or sought help online for filling in the form in advance of Census Day on Sunday.
Glen Watson, 2011 census director, said: "I urge everyone to fill in their census questionnaires to ensure a better future for all.
"The census provides a richly-detailed snapshot of society that helps the right decisions to be made in future about services, including housing, schools and health provision.
"Concerning the dog question - as with homework, 'the dog ate it' doesn't excuse you filling it out. It has to be done."
Census questionnaires were posted to 26 million households across England and Wales earlier this month.
Filling out the census is compulsory, with the threat of a fine of up to £1,000 if a questionnaire is not completed and returned.