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
No charges have yet to be filed against a California man who beat a German shepherd and Rottweiler to death with a shovel, burned them and buried them in a pit.
And they might not be. The owners of the dogs say they’ve been told what the man did was legal under California law, because he was protecting his chickens.
The two dogs — named Jager and Luke — escaped from their backyard Saturday through a hole in the fence and ended up in a yard four miles away, according to KTVU.
The owner of that home, saying the dogs were trying to attack his chickens, beat them both to death with a shovel, then took them to his workplace and used company equipment to dig a hole. He doused their bodies with gasoline, set them on fire, and later covered them up.
The dog owners, Ellen Barkley and Rocky Osborn, learned what happened when they returned home Sunday and were contacted by Contra Costa County Animal Control Services.
The couple, who rescued the dogs from a shelter two years ago, said they were told state law allows a person to kill dogs who are threatening livestock and poultry.
“It’s how he beat them. By his own admission, he beat them to death with a shovel,” said Osborn. “They had tags. He could have called us. He never did.”
Osborn said the dogs bodies must have burned for hours. All that was left of the animals fit into two small plastic bags.
“I’m blown away. I’m broken. I will never see them again,” said Barkley. “I want the laws to change. This never would have happened.”
A petition to change the state law has been posted at Change.org.
Brentwood police and Contra Costa animal services are investigating the incident.
Posted by John Woestendiek October 2nd, 2013 under Muttsblog, videos.
Tags: animal welfare, animals, attacking, beaten, brentwood, buried, burned, california, charges, contra costa county, dogs, german shepherd, jager, killed, laws, legal, legal right, luke, pets, rottweiler, shovel, threatening chickens
“In all my years of doing rescue, I’ve seen a lot of things but I’ve never seen a dog in such horrific condition,” said Rachel Farmer, president and director of Boston Buddies, a rescue group dedicated to saving terriers in southern California.
“How anybody can do this is just beyond me,” Farmer told NBC 4 in Los Angeles.
The dog was found in El Monte and dropped off at a Baldwin Park shelter on May 29. Due to the extent of his injuries, he was euthanized the next day. He did have a microchip, showing he was registered in a Midwestern state.
The dog was emaciated, and burned so badly his muscles were showing through his skin in multiple places, rescuers said.
Farmer came across the dog, believed to be 8 to 10 years old, during her daily check at the Baldwin Park shelter, and informed authorities she wanted to take him. Within hours, though, veterinarians at the shelter told Farmer they needed to put him down.
A Boston Buddies volunteer picked up the dog — who was being called Henry — and took him to another vet for a second opinion, but it was the same as the first.
The Los Angeles County Department of Animal Care and Control is investigating what happened to Henry, and tests were underway to determine if his injuries were a result of being burned.
Posted by John Woestendiek June 7th, 2013 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animals, baldwin park, boston buddies, boston terrier, burned, chemical, dog, dogs, el monte, euthanized, found, henry, investigation, pets, rescue, shelter
Two western Pennsylvania residents have been charged with animal cruelty in connection with the burning and abandoning of a 1-year-old mixed breed dog named Chance.
Raelynn Van Tassel, 23, and Shannon Clarke, 34, both of Sharon, are accused of keeping the dog in a basement for several days without medical treatment after inflicting what are believed to be chemical burns. Days later, they abandoned him in the streets.
In addition to burns over two-thirds of his body, the dog also was found with three broken teeth and a laceration to its mouth, according to WYTV.
The dog was found by a police officer on April 10 and turned over to the Mercer County Humane Society, which took Chance to a local veterinarian for treatment.
He has since been adopted and is expected to survive.
The Mercer County District Attorney’s office and the humane society conducted the investigation.
Posted by John Woestendiek May 10th, 2011 under Muttsblog.
Tags: abandonment, abuse, animal cruelty, animal welfare, arrests, burned, chance, charged, chemicals, dog, dogs, mercer county humane society, pennsylvania, raelynn van tassel, shannon clarke, torture
Twins Travers and Tremayne Johnson were scheduled to be back in court this morning for a second trial on charges of setting a dog named Phoenix on fire two years ago.
The first trial for the Baltimore brothers ended in a mistrial in February.
The dog was found on fire by a police officer, who used her sweater to put out the flames. Days later, Phoenix died while being treated in Pennsylvania.
The case led to an increased focus on animal abuse in Baltimore and the creation of an Anti-Animal Abuse Taskforce.
In the first trial, a single juror held out against a guilty verdict, resulting in a hung jury.
Posted by John Woestendiek May 4th, 2011 under Muttsblog.
Tags: abuse, abused, animal cruelty, animal welfare, baltimore, burned, dog, fire, mistrial, new trial, phoenix, pit bull, postponed, postponement, second, set on fire, torture, travers johnson, tremayne johnson, trial
A candlelight vigil was held in Milwaukee Sunday in honor of Big Boy, a 2-year-old miniature pinscher that police said was beaten with a stick, doused with gasoline then set on fire, sustaining injuries so severe he had to be put down.
The dog’s owner, Clarissa Burnette, read a poem about Big Boy, who joined her family two years ago. The dog was stolen April 9 after he was let outside, according to TV station WISN.
Milwaukee police have arrested a 13-year-old boy in connection with the case.
Organizers of the vigil said the case shows the need for tougher animal cruelty laws. “We want them to know they really need to tighten these law up,” said organizer Wendy Blish.
The Humane Society of the United States on Friday offered a $2,500 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of those responsible for the abuse.
Posted by John Woestendiek April 19th, 2011 under Muttsblog.
Tags: 13-year-old, abuse, animal cruelty, animal welfare, animals, arrest, beaten, big boy, burned, cruelty, dogs, doused, fire, gasoline, laws, milwaukee, min pin, miniature pinscher, pets, torture, vigil
That was back in the fall of 2009 when the dog was pulled from a Gardena auto shop that had been set ablaze in an apparent suicide.
Over the weeks he received treatment for his burns at the Affordable Animal Hospital in Torrance, dozens of people expressed interest in adopting him — but no one followed through. About a year ago, Hachi — after surviving the fire, after prolonged and costly medical treatment — appeared headed for a sadly ironic end.
When Faith Summerson, founder of Pal Rescue, heard Hachi was about to be euthanized by the county shelter due to lack of space, she stepped forward, and Hachi was rescued again.
She picked him up and sought to find him a forever home – keeping him in one of her kennels and later at her own home.
Pal Rescue was founded in 1995 and has helped find homes for over 3,000 cats and dogs. Hachi, though — despite gaining notoriety on the Internet, because of his unusual appearnace, as the “Terminator” dog — didn’t appear destined to become one of them.
Until last month, when his year and a half wait ended.
After his story appeared on the news, Pal Rescue reports, they heard from a man who had recently lost his own dog. While many had offered him dogs to fill the void of his previous dog’s death, he had turned them all down, opting to wait instead for a dog who truly needed him — one not everybody else would want.
Call it rescue No. 3 for Hachi, a dog named, after his first rescue, for the legendary Akita, Hachiko, who waited every day at a train station in Japan for his master to return from work — and continued to do so for another 10 years after his master’s death.
The rescue organization reports that Hachi’s new dad is “a very dedicated and experienced dog owner that has had many beloved dogs in his lifetime, and always gravitated to the ones most in need.”
“The two hit it off immediately when we home delivered Hachi yesterday … Hachi was at ease the moment he walked in the door.”
You can find Hachi’s full story at petfinder.com
Posted by John Woestendiek April 4th, 2011 under Muttsblog.
Tags: adopt, adopted, adoption, affordable animal hospital, akita, animals, burned, california, chow, dog, dogs, fire, forever home, hachi, hachiko, home, mix, pal, pal rescue, petfinder, petfinder.com, pets, rescue, shelter, the pal rescue, waiting