It seems like every year I’ve teetered a little closer to disliking the World’s Ugliest Dog Contest.
A cute concept at first — and one that helped remind us what a superficial thing beauty can be — it seems to have grown into a pageant that, despite its focus on “ugliness,” inches ever closer to reflecting many of the same negative traits of purebred dog shows and beauty contests.
As the quirky little contest at the Sonoma County Fair in Petaluma has grown huge, and the title more sought after, there has been a concurrent increase in cut-throat competition, campaigning and hype.
But it’s the choice of this year’s winner that may have finally pushed me into being a fan no more. The title of World’s Ugliest Dog was won by a dog whose unusual appearance is the result of being abused.
And that troubles me.
This year’s winning dog, Peanut, a two-year-old mixed breed, is from Greenville, N.C. He was adopted from a shelter after being found abandoned and severely abused. It is suspected he was set on fire. While he’s healthy now, his eyelids, lips and patches of hair on his body were burned off, which accounts for much of his unusual appearance.
His owner, Holly Chandler, held fundraising campaigns to travel to California and enter Peanut in the contest — all, she said, to help raise awareness about animal abuse.
Given that’s a large part of this website’s mission, too, I have no problem with that cause.
I’m all for celebrating dogs who look different. I’m all for celebrating dogs who have overcome harsh odds. I’m all for abused dogs recovering and becoming rich and famous while their abusers rot in prison.
Where my discomfort comes in, I think, is placing abused animals in a “contest” context and, within that party atmosphere, picking a winner whose looks are the result of being horribly mistreated at the hands of man.
Abuse, it seems to me, should not be connected to pageantry and cash prizes, no matter how circuitous that link is.
Yesterday, I watched a local TV report about Peanut winning the contest. The anchor people, while noting Peanut had an inner beauty, laughed and joked about his appearance, as I’m sure the crowd did at the contest.
Peanut beat 24 other dogs to win the contest Friday, receiving more than double the votes the second-place dog received.
While his owner seemed sincere in her purpose, and probably did raise awareness about animal abuse, I can’t help but wonder whether we should all be chuckling — even while feeling sympathy and love for Peanut — at his appearance, at his prominent teeth, or his eyes that never close, given it was all the result of a cruel criminal act.
On the other hand, the world should know Peanut’s story — and the contest was a way to make that happen.
Maybe, though, there are better, more dignified ways, such as writing a book, or taking him to schools, or sharing his story with the news media — ways that might avoid the appearance of exploitation and have a little less of the circus atmosphere that seems, in my mind at least, to clash with serious nature of animal abuse.
I doubt there is any danger of people disfiguring their dogs in hopes of winning the World’s Ugliest Dog contest, but — given the world can be pretty ugly — stranger things have happened.
I think it would be wise, and in good taste, for contest officials to impose and enforce a ban on dogs whose “ugliness” or unusual looks are a result of actions taken by humans — whether those actions are heinous criminal acts or cosmetic steps, like dyeing, taken for amusement purposes.
While the contest’s web page states that “all the dogs must provide a veterinarian’s paperwork asserting that they are healthy and are ‘naturally ugly,’ Peanut’s victory casts some doubt on how strongly that’s being enforced.
All that said, I don’t find any fault with Chandler entering Peanut in the contest. She was on a mission. She made her point.
Maybe the World’s Ugliest Dog contest, after 25 years, has made its point too. A cute and well-intentioned gimmick with a sweet message, it might be growing into a bit of a monster. Maybe it should fade way before it becomes too Westminstery.
I have problems with contests that award people, or dogs, for good looks and conformity. Maybe I have issues with awarding them for “bad” looks and non-conformity, too.
Definitely I don’t like the idea of people laughing and finding amusement in a dog’s misery, which, in a very distant, removed and indirect way, is what’s going on.
That’s the best I can do at explaining the ill-at-ease feeling Peanut’s victory gives me.
I’d love to hear your thoughts.
(Photo: From Holly Chandler’s Gofundme page)
Posted by John Woestendiek June 23rd, 2014 under Muttsblog.
Tags: 2014, abuse, animal cruelty, animals, awards, awareness, beauty, burned, competition, contest, contests, dogs, peanut, petaluma, pets, set on fire, sonoma county fair, ugliest, ugly, world's ugliest dog
A friend recently emailed me this poster she came across online — because the dog with the noose around his neck is the spitting image of my dog, Ace.
Or is it Ace?
For a while, I thought it was my dog, and wondered whether someone had copied one of the many photos of him that have appeared on ohmidog! and elsewhere, and then photoshopped a noose around his neck.
It reminded me of a photo I took of him in Montana about seven years ago, but that was noose-less, and in the middle of a snowstorm (hence the downward cast face). I guess snowflakes can be removed as easily as nooses can be added, though.
I have no problem with the message on the poster, even with its misplaced comma: “Abandoning a dog, means killing it.”
That is, usually, the case.
But, if it is my dog, and my picture, someone should have checked with me first before looping a noose around his neck — even if it was done only through photo manipulation.
Is it Ace? I’m not sure. (That’s him to the left.)
The dog in the poster looks like him, with his big head, little ears, and high-rise legs. And that seemingly contemplative pose is one Ace strikes frequently.
Then again, the dog in the photo might be just a little grayer around the muzzle than he is.
To try to get to the bottom of it, I turned to tineye.com a reverse image search engine that allows you to play detective on the Internet by uploading a photo and getting a list of websites on which it has appeared.
It, after searching 5.283 billion images in an amazing 0.001 seconds — which is harder than I will ever work — found six results.
Three of them were in English, and two were this French version:
Another one was in Italian, and it was the one that had been on the web the longest.
I clicked on that link and it took me to an Italian government webpage, listing public service campaigns the government had sponsored over the years.
The Ace lookalike appeared in a 2011 campaign aimed at informing the public that abandoning dogs is illegal, and that abandoned dogs usually die.
The slogan,”Chi abbandona un cane lo condanna,” means roughly that one who abandons a dog is condemning that dog to death.
The campaign made use of billboards and TV and radio spots, with most of the publicity coming at peak times of holiday travel. As a computer-translated version of the web page explained:
“It was decided to carry out the campaign at this time in view of the fact that the problem of stray dogs is sharpened so evident during the summer, when they touch the peaks of dropouts due to the difficulty of managing the presence of the animal in a recreation area.”
I’m sure it makes more sense in the original Italian.
What did come across clearly were the potential punishments for dog abandonment — a year in prison, or a fine of up to 10,000 Euros.
If that is Ace helping make the Italian public more aware of the problem, I’m proud to have him serve in that capacity. If it’s not, I can only assume it’s another Rottweiler-Chow-Akita-pitbull mix).
With Ace being a mix of four breeds (according to DNA tests) it’s not as common as it is with purebreds to come across nearly exact replicas of him. But I have seen a few doppelgangers.
One thing I found while researching “DOG, INC.,” my book on commercial dog cloning, was that – rather than spending $100,000 to have your dog replicated in a laboratory in South Korea — you can generally find a lookalike in a shelter, if not in your hometown, probably not too far away.
I’m guessing Ace is not the poster boy in this case, and I’m assuming that Italy used an Italian dog for its public service announcement.
As for the Ace photo it reminds me of, it’s on my other computer — the one that’s not working right now — so I can’t call it up and compare. And the post I may have used it in apparently tunneled its way out of the Internet (which is the only way of escaping).
If anyone in Italy knows about the dog in the photo — assuming an English to Italian computer-translation of this account makes any sense at all (and I bet it doesn’t) — get in touch with me at email@example.com.
Posted by John Woestendiek June 3rd, 2014 under Muttsblog.
Tags: abandon, abandoned, abandoning a dog means killing it, abandonment, ace, altering, american, animal welfare, animals, awareness, campaign, dogs, french, government, homeless, image, italian, italy, john woestendiek, noose, ohmidog!, pets, photograph, photographs, photos, photoshop, poster, psa, public awareness, public service announcement, rescues, reuse, reused, share, shared, shelters, slogans, stray
This public service announcement from the Shelter Pet Project totally captured the attention of my dog, Ace.
He was laying with his back to the television, watching me eat, when the jangling collar led him to turn his head a full 180 degrees to see what was going on.
Ace generally ignores television (I’ve yet to achieve that), so I was surprised when, about the time the dog knocks on the screen, Ace got up, walked over to the TV, sniffed a few times and then gave the dog’s image a big lick.
I guess that’s a paws up from him.
And I give the series of announcements, which feature former shelter dogs and are intended to encourage adoptions, a big thumbs up, too.
Jules — the dog in this one — was adopted by a family in 2010, and has since become a world traveler, going as far away as South Africa.
You can see the full series of announcements here.
Posted by John Woestendiek May 2nd, 2014 under Muttsblog, videos.
Tags: ace, adopt, adoption, ads, animals, awareness, dog, dogs, jules, marketing, pets, psa, public service announcement, rescue, screen, shelter, shelter pet project, shelters, television
A Houston man who once portrayed McGruff the Crime Dog has been sentenced to more than 16 years in prison on drugs and weapons charges.
John R. Morales was sentenced to federal prison last week for charges related to his 2011 arrest.
Police who raided Morales’ residence then seized 1,000 marijuana plants and 9,000 rounds of ammunition for 27 weapons — including a shotgun, pistols, rifles, and a military grenade launcher, according to court documents obtained by NBC.
What does all this prove? If you want mascot who is pure, ethical and beyond reproach, choose a real dog. They are far less likely to get arrested, far less likely to cause a scandal, and far less likely to cave in to temptation, unless they are of the bacon variety.
This wasn’t the first time the choice of a human to play McGruff has come back to bite law enforcement. There was an incident in Phoenix in 1998 when a prison trusty police assigned to play the role removed his head and was recognized by parents in the audience as a convicted child molester.
Morales wore the McGruff costume for the Harris County Sheriff’s Association in the late 1990s. Fox News reported.
The human-like, trench coat-wearing dog was created by the global advertising agency Saatchi & Saatchi through the Ad Council for the National Crime Prevention Council to increase crime awareness among children.
He appeared on television in animated form, and in public appearances he was portrayed by actors wearing the giant dog head and costume.
He urged young people to “take a bite out of crime.”
Morales, after his McGruff gig, was stopped in 2011 by police in Galveston for speeding, and marijuana was detected in his car trunk. Authorities said that, in addition to marijuana plants, they found a clipboard with diagrams of two indoor pot farms in his car.
That led officers to a stash of 1,000 marijuana plants and the weapons.
And who was it that first detected the marijuana in the car? A real police dog.
Posted by John Woestendiek February 10th, 2014 under Muttsblog.
Tags: actor, ad council, anti crime, arrest, awareness, character, costume, crime, crime dog, crime prevention, drugs, embarassment, houston, marijuana, mascot, mcgruff, mcgruff the crime dog, take a bite out of crime, weapons
On April 30, the Postal Service will issue a 44–cent, Animal Rescue: Adopt a Shelter Pet stamp series.
With the 10 stamp designs — five cats and five dogs — the U.S. Postal Service hopes to raise awareness of the need to adopt shelter pets.
The pets depicted on the stamps were photographed by Sally Andersen-Bruce near her home in New Milford, Connecticut. All had been homeless at one time; all but one had been adopted when they were photographed.
The stamps were designed by Derry Noyes of Washington, DC.
In celebration of the new Animal Rescue: Adopt a Shelter Pet stamps, the Postal Service, together with Ellen DeGeneres and her dog food company, Halo: Purely for Pets, will be donating a million meals to animal shelters around the country.
To pre-order the stamps, go here.
Here’s a closer look at the dogs chosen for the stamps:
Teddy, a wired-haired Jack Russell terrier: The owners of Teddy’s mother were surprised when she gave birth to another litter. They couldn’t afford to raise more puppies, so they gave Teddy and his siblings to a shelter.
Today, Teddy lives with a loving family, their other Jack Russell, and a cat.
Trevor, a yellow Lab: Trevor and his litter mates were found abandoned at 8-10 weeks of age at a new home construction site.
They were rescued by Labrador Retriever Rescue of CT, Inc. Trevor was adopted by a couple who are a perfect match for his outgoing personality.
Buddy, a golden retriever: Buddy is a pure-bred golden who was purchased from a pet store. At only eight months old, he had such bad hips that his family gave him to a shelter.
Now, Buddy is flourishing with his family who have improved his health through regular exercise and a good diet.
Bindu Su, an Australian shepherd: Bindi Su’s mother was handed over to a rescue group when her owners found out she was expecting.
Bindu Su was adopted at eight weeks old.
Now she competes in agility events and visits a local nursing home weekly.
Jake, a Boston Terrier: Purchased at a pet shop on Thanksgiving when he was eight weeks old, Jake’s original family quickly realized that they couldn’t take care of him.
The pet shop had a no-return policy, so Jake was turned over to a shelter.
Posted by John Woestendiek March 22nd, 2010 under Muttsblog.
Tags: adopt, animals, australian shepherd, awareness, bindu su, boston terrier, buddy, cats, connecticut, derry noyes, designer, designs, dogs, donating, ellen degeneres, golden retriever, halo, jack russell terrier, jake, meals, million, new milford, news, order, pets, photography, photos, post office, postal service, rescue, rescued, sally andersen-bruce, shelter, shelters, stamps, teddy, ten, trevor, yellow lab
Animal Planet will kick off a new series of investigative specials Monday night with a no-holds-barred look into the underground culture of dogfighting.
“Animal Planet Investigates: Dog Fighting Exposed” will probe the secretive world of organized dogfighting, with rare footage and commentary from law enforcement officers and former dogfighters. The special examines cases across the United States, including Ohio, Texas, Georgia, Michigan and New York.
“By bringing viewers the true and uncensored reality behind dog fighting, we intend to raise public awareness about this cruel and inhumane practice,” says Marjorie Kaplan, president and general manager of Animal Planet.
“The brave men and women working tirelessly to expose and dismantle these fighting rings are using daring tactics and thanks in large part to their efforts we were able to share this powerful story with our viewers in an in-depth and unprecedented way. Some of the images might be tough to take, but it’s vitally important that these stories are told.
The hour-long show is the first in a quarterly series of specials on the network that will investigate animal issues.
It premieres Monday at 10 p.m.
Posted by John Woestendiek January 24th, 2010 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animal planet, animal planet investigates, animals, awareness, culture, dog fighters, dog fighting, dog fighting exposed, dogfighters, dogfighting, dogs, investigation, investigative, monday, organized, pets, pit bulls, rings, series, special, television, tv, underground
Main Line Animal Rescue placed an ad in today’s Washington Post, pledging five bags of dog food to Washington D.C. animal shelters for each time Michael Vick is sacked.
The rescue, located outside of Philadelphia, said the ad is aimed at bringing attention back to the needs of dogs.
Each time the Eagles new backup quarterback is tackled during the Oct. 26 away game against the Washington Redskins, five bags of dog food will be donated to a D.C. animal shelter.
It also encourages people to volunteer at a shelter on game day.
Vick served 18 months in prison for funding a dog-fighting operation. The Eagles, in signing Vick to a two-year deal, said he’d served his time and deserved a second chance.
“I think we’re all getting tired of the ‘Does he deserve a second chance?’ kind of thing,” said Bill Smith, founder and CEO of the shelter, which is near Valley Forge. “… Maybe it’s about time that the million pit bulls euthanized every year got their second chance.”
“It’s such a misunderstood breed. … They’re great dogs,” Smith told the Philadelphia Inquirer, adding that the stigma pit bulls carry is ”because of people like Michael Vick.”
The ad’s aim is to bring attention back to the needs of dogs, he said. “I think we just need to raise public awareness and this is a good way to do that.”
The ad may run in other cities where the Eagles play, including San Diego, Chicago and New York, he said.
Smith said that if Vick had “any sense of humor at all,” and really wanted to help dogs, he could stand on the field before the Oct. 26 game and let players tackle him, so even more dogs will get fed.
Given Vicks public statements that he wants to help the dogs he once tortured and killed, “He should thank us” for the opportunity, Smith said.
Posted by John Woestendiek September 9th, 2009 under Muttsblog.
Tags: advertisement, awareness, bill smith, dog food, dogfighting, dogs, donation, eagles, football, main line animal rescue, michael vick, philadelphia, pledge, public, redskins, sacks, second chance, shelters, tackles, washington, washington d.c., washington post