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Tag: criticism

New kids film “Show Dogs” draws fire from parents groups

In the somewhat bizarre world of dog shows, the one traditional practice that most strikes outsiders as weird comes at that point in judging when a judge cops a feel of a male dog’s testicles.

As part of what’s called conformation — or seeing how well a dog conforms to “standards” — the process is usually a quick check, aimed at making sure the dog is intact (not fixed) and that his testicles have properly descended.

But to dog show spectators, who traditionally include families and children, it’s hard to miss.

It is also hard to miss in the new film “Show Dogs,” a family-oriented movie that stars Ludacris as the voice of a talking police dog named Max who infiltrates a prestigious dog show to investigate a suspected animal smuggling ring.

One subplot of the movie involves Max becoming comfortable, as a dog show contestant, with strangers touching his genitals.

In the PG-rated film, Max must learn how to “get used to” the groping, and it’s that aspect that has some parenting groups fuming about the movie.

showdogsWhatever parents teach their children about “inappropriate touching” and sexually predatory behavior, they say, this movie seems to be sending an opposite message: Grin and bear it, accept it, it’s no big deal.

Valid a concern as that may be, it’s funny — to me at least — that the practice is so accepted and goes so unquestioned at dog shows, also aimed at being fun for the whole family, but is proving so irksome in a comedic family movie.

Does that piece of a dog show really have to be performed before an audience of adults and children? Couldn’t it be done backstage, or as part of a behind the scenes pre-show screening procedure?

You don’t hear those concerns voiced so much among the high society dog show crowd — just as you don’t hear too much discussion about why a similarly sized, fully descended pair of testicles is so important in the first place in such competitions.

It’s because the American Kennel Club and other dog show operators see the competitions as a way to select and crown dogs that are prime breeding stock — those healthy and perfect dog that comes closest, appearance wise, to standards. (Standards set, by the way, by the AKC and other groups.)

Standards? How about one that doesn’t require a dog to to through a public groping in front of thousands, or maybe one that doesn’t require him to go through it at all.

From the makers of “Beverly Hills Chihuahua,” the movie opened in theaters May 18. It tells the story of a human detective (Will Arnett) and his canine partner Max, a Rottweiler whose voice is provided by Chris “Ludacris” Bridges. Together they go undercover at the world’s most exclusive dog show to solve a big case involving a stolen panda.

Since it opened, the movie has caught the attention of several parenting blogs, Entertainment Weekly reported.

“Max’s success is riding on whether or not he lets both his partner (for practice) and a stranger (the competition judge) touch his private parts. IN A KIDS MOVIE. WHAT??? Newsflash, folks: THIS IS CALLED GROOMING and it’s what sexual predators do to kids!” wrote Jenny Rapson in the blog “For Every Mom.”

In reality, those who show dogs do condition their dogs to get used to the groping to ensure they will behave properly during the judging practice.

“The movie ‘Show Dogs’ sends a troubling message that grooms children for sexual abuse,” said the National Center on Sexual Exploitation, previously known as Morality in Media. “It contains multiple scenes where a dog character must have its private parts inspected, in the course of which the dog is uncomfortable and wants to stop but is told to go to a ‘zen place.’ The dog is rewarded with advancing to the final round of the dog show after passing this barrier.

“Disturbingly, these are similar tactics child abusers use when grooming children — telling them to pretend they are somewhere else, and that they will get a reward for withstanding their discomfort. Children’s movies must be held to a higher standard, and must teach children bodily autonomy, the ability to say ‘no’ and safety, not confusing messages endorsing unwanted genital touching.”

The filmmakers responded to the concerns with this statement:

“It has come to our attention that there have been online discussion and concern about a particular scene in Show Dogs, a family comedy that is rated PG. The dog show judging in this film is depicted completely accurately as done at shows around the world; and was performed by professional and highly respected dog show judges.

“Global Road Entertainment and the filmmakers are saddened and apologize to any parent who feels the scene sends a message other than a comedic moment in the film, with no hidden or ulterior meaning, but respect their right to react to any piece of content.”

Yesterday, though, the studio announced it would be removing two of the most controversial scenes from the movie, according to CNN.

Guess us kids will have to wait for the next Westminster Dog Show to see the grabbing of the gonads.

“Show Dogs” is clearly not an exercise in reality, what with its talking dogs and all, but it did pretty accurately nail this particular aspect of dog shows.

So why is it people are so quick to jump on, edit and whitewash a portrayal of a reality and fashion it more to their liking — all while not giving a second thought as to whether the reality deserves some scrutiny and reconsideration, too?

Grammy puppies-for-the-losers gag falls flat

At the 60th annual Grammy Awards on Sunday night, host James Corden handed out puppies to the losers in the Best Comedy Album category.

Yuk. Yuk.

Amid all that self-righteousness about the “Me Too” too movement, all those white roses to show solidarity, and all that trying way too hard to make a point about exploitation of the vulnerable by rich and powerful show business figures, Corden’s boneheaded idea was to hand out puppies as booby prizes, apparently having no clue just how hypocritical that stunt was.

Not only did it put some very young dogs in a fearful and stressful situation, it sent a pretty revolting message at the same time — that dogs are property, or at least comedy props.

News media on the day after seemed to be going along with the stunt, portraying the dogs as actual gifts, and not one lifting a finger to find out where the dogs came from, or report on where they ended up.

EBL News, in one of the most insipid reports, called the use of the dogs “hilarious and darling.” Entertainment Tonight reported that “those adorable consolation prizes” all went home with their trainer.

The puppy distribution came after Dave Chappelle’s win for the Best Comedy Album.

“Congratulations Dave Chappelle. Now I should say to all the nominees this evening who are not going home with a Grammy … I don’t want anybody to be upset tonight,” Corden said. “So the good news is, nobody goes home empty handed, because all night we’ll be handing out consolation puppies. Okay, so if you didn’t get a Grammy, you get a puppy!”

Handlers then delivered puppies to the losers — Jerry Seinfeld, Jim Gaffigan and Sarah Silverman.

PETA, in a statement, said the stunt showed how out of touch Grammy organizers are.

“It’s beyond belief that Grammy organizers are so out of touch with the issues of the day that they failed to grasp what is now commonly understood: that dogs are intelligent, complex animals — not toys, props, or prizes. While the stress of being passed around under bright lights by strangers may have been upsetting for these young pups, using them as prizes for runners-up sent a dangerous message to viewers that dogs aren’t the family members for life that they should be. In a country where millions of homeless dogs are waiting in shelters every year and are euthanized because there simply aren’t enough good homes for them, this stunt is no joke.”

Sarah Silverman later tweeted that she fell in love with her puppy at first sight, whereas Jim Gaffigan tweeted, “That dog was delicious.”

The sad part is, it could haven been a stunt that worked. It could have used adoptable pups. It could have made a point about adoption. It could have alerted and assured viewers that dogs were humanely treated and weren’t being handed out willy nilly, as if they were parting gifts for the also-rans.

Police officer refuses woman’s request that he shoot a dog damaging her car

An outraged Georgia woman, displeased that police weren’t doing more to stop a dog who was trying to rip off her car’s bumper, went live on Facebook in an attempt to show what she saw as malfeasance on the part of law enforcement.

Instead, she ended up bringing negative attention, and even death threats, upon herself — mainly because of her insistence that the officer shoot the dog.

The video, taken on November 9th by the car’s owner, Jessica Dilallo, shows a pit bull type dog trying to rip off the new car’s bumper as Dilallo complains that Dalton Police Lieutenant Matthew Locke should be doing more.

At one point she asks him to shoot the dog or throw a rock at it.

Locke calmly declined, pointing out the dog was not being aggressive to any humans.

The dog was apparently after two cats hiding under the car’s hood.

“And so when he finally gets to whatever he’s going to we get to watch him destroy that as well? The cat gets to die, too?” Dilallo complains.

Locke tells her an officer with a catchpole is on his way. As the video ends, an officer can be seen approaching with an improvised catchpole.

A police spokesman said that when Locke arrived at the home, the dog walked “right up to his window and was not aggressive towards people. The dog resumed attacking the car’s bumper.”

“Lt. Locke decided not to try to pull the dog off himself because he didn’t want to be in a position where the dog attacked him and he was forced to shoot the dog,” the spokesman said.

Police later located the dog’s owner, Ben Bonds, and he agreed to pay Dilallo $500 for her insurance deductible. He was issued a warning to not let his dog run loose.

Dilallo spoke with NewsChannel 9 on Wednesday, saying the Facebook posting has brought her harsh criticism.

“I’m like the most hated person right now because I said I wanted to shoot the dog, but I still stand by that.”

Lt. Locke said he stands by his decision, and that using a stun gun or pepper spray on the dog might have made it more aggressive.

“My whole goal was to try to keep it contained, catch it and identify the owner and ultimately that’s what we did,” Locke said.

The dog was taken to a shelter but is now back home — and in a fenced yard.

Guggenheim, citing threats, pulls controversial pit bull piece from exhibit

The Guggenheim Museum in New York has pulled from an upcoming exhibit an “artwork” that features, on video, four pairs of pit bulls on treadmills charging at each other.

Real dogs are used in the piece, titled “Dogs Cannot Touch Each Other,” but it is a video version of a performance staged live when it first appeared in Beijing in 2003.

It and two other works condemned by animal welfare activists will no longer be part of the exhibit when it opens Oct. 6.

The charging pit bull piece — a seven minute long video — is by artists Peng Yu and Sun Yuan, a husband and wife team (let’s hope they treat each other with a little more kindness) who, in the original exhibit, lined up four pairs of pit bulls, face to face, on eight treadmills.

The dogs charge towards each other, but never get more than a few inches away. Still, they keep at it, panting and drooling and becoming more and more stressed out and frustrated.

The Guggenheim initially responded to animal welfare concerns by saying it had no intention of removing the work from the exhibit.

But, just four days later, museum officials reconsidered.

guggenheim-gallery-exterior-lightAccording to a report from NPR, the Guggenheim will pull the pieces from its upcoming exhibit, “Art and China after 1989: Theater of the World.”

The museum blamed “explicit and repeated threats of violence,” but provided no details.

An online petition demanding the museum remove the works garnered more than 600,000 signatures since it was posted five days ago, and protesters gathered outside the museum on Saturday, holding signs that say “suffering animals is not art.”

Even after that, the Guggenheim defended the pit bull video, calling it on Thursday “an intentionally challenging and provocative artwork that seeks to examine and critique systems of power and control. We recognize that the work may be upsetting. The curators of the exhibition hope that viewers will consider why the artists produced it and what they may be saying about the social conditions of globalization and the complex nature of the world we share.”

But on Monday the museum relented under the pressure and said it was pulling that work and two others, citing threats of violence and concern for the safety of its staff, visitors and the artists.

“Although these works have been exhibited in museums in Asia, Europe, and the United States, the Guggenheim regrets that explicit and repeated threats of violence have made our decision necessary,” the museum said in a statement. “As an arts institution committed to presenting a multiplicity of voices, we are dismayed that we must withhold works of art. Freedom of expression has always been and will remain a paramount value of the Guggenheim.”

In another of the to-be-removed pieces, artist Xu Bing tattooed meaningless characters all over the bodies of two pigs, a boar and a sow, who were put on display, mating, in a museum exhibit in Beijing in 1994. The Guggenheim was to feature the video of that “performance” as well.

Also removed was a work featuring live animals — reptiles, amphibians, insects — that are trapped in a glass enclosure and proceed to eat and kill each other for the viewing pleasure of attendees.

China’s dog meat festival opens to protests

The annual dog meat festival in the Southern China city of Yulin opened yesterday — despite what was probably the heaviest barrage of criticism and protest in its history.

As vendors slaughtered dogs and cooked their meat in dozens of restaurants across the city, animal welfare activists attempted to disrupt the opening of the 10-day festival.

Some bought dogs from dealers to save them from being slaughtered. Others argued with local residents, and police were intervening to prevent physical confrontations, according to news reports.

“We came to Yulin to tell people here dogs are our friends. They should not kill dogs in such a cruel way and many of the dogs they killed are pet dogs,” said Yang Yuhua, a volunteer from the central city of Chongqing.

While most of the meat used at the festival comes from farm dogs raised for that purpose, critics say strays and stolen pet dogs often end up in the mix.

One day into the festival, local residents were complaining that outsiders were ruining the tradition.

“It’s been a tradition for years for us to celebrate the festival. We can’t change it simply because they (animal lovers) love dogs,” a local resident told The Associated Press. “They don’t want us to eat dog meat. We eat dog meat to celebrate the festival, but since they’ve come here, they’ve ruined our mood completely.”

Promoters say eating dog meat during the summer helps ward off the heat and maintain a healthy metabolism.

More than 10,000 animals are killed each year for the summer solstice festival, which has become a focal point for those seeking to halt the tradition of eating dog in China and other Asian countries.

An estimated 10 million to 20 million dogs are killed for their meat each year in China.

This year, the list of celebrities speaking out against the practice grew.

Matt Damon, Pamela Anderson, Minnie Driver and Joaquin Phoenix were among those appearing in a video (above) produced by the Animal Hope & Wellness Foundation.

Yulin’s local government has sought to distance itself from the event, forbidding its employees from attending and limiting its size by shutting down some dog markets and slaughter houses.

“The so-called dog-meat eating festival has never been officially recognized by government or by any regulations or laws,” said an official reached by telephone at the city government’s general office.

“We hold meetings every time before the so-called festival, discussing counter measures such as deploying local police, business and sanitary authorities to inspect and deal with those who sell dogs,” he said.

Between those efforts and the international criticism that seems to increase every year, some organizations say the number of dogs killed for the event might be decreasing.

The puppy ad Go Daddy pulled off the air

Go Daddy previewed its Super Bowl ad today, but hours later decided to drop it amid a flood of criticism from dog lovers who said it was tasteless, mean-hearted and irresponsible.

The video of the ad was taken off YouTube, where hundreds of commenters had blasted it, including top officials of animal protection groups.

A back-up ad will be used during the 2015 Super Bowl, the company said.

The ad was intended to poke some fun at Budweiser’s puppy ads — both the highly acclaimed one that aired during last year’s Super Bowl, “Puppy Love,” and a follow-up ad that the beer company will during Sunday’s Super Bowl, called “Lost Dog.”

The 30-second Go Daddy ad featured a retriever puppy finding its way home after falling out of a truck, only to find its owner has used Go Daddy to set up a website that lets her promptly sell the dog to a new owner.

Many in the animal welfare community responded, pointing out that dogs purchased online often come from puppy mills. (For a sampling of their anger, check out hashtag #GoDaddyPuppy, or read the comments left on the YouTube page where the video itself has been deactivated.

The ad was made by Barton F. Graf 9000, but heads of the agency declined to comment.

GoDaddy CEO Blake Irving responded to the ad’s critics on Twitter this afternoon, vowing “we will not air it.”

Earlier in the day, though, Irving had defended the ad, according to AdWeek, saying, “Buddy was purchased from a reputable, loving breeder, just as the ad suggests. Sell or adopt, both need an online presence.”

Around 6:30 p.m., Irving posted a statement confirming the ad won’t run, and that another ad will be substituted.

“You’ll still see us in the Big Game this year, and we hope it makes you laugh,” he wrote.

The YouTube video was removed around the same time.

A petition launched on the website Change.org by animal rights advocate Helena Yurcho demanding the ad be pulled had more than 42,000 signatures by afternoon.

“Essentially, GoDaddy is encouraging private breeding/puppy mills while shelter animals wait patiently for their forever homes or worse—to be euthanized,” she wrote. “They are also encouraging purchasing an animal online; the animal could be sold to someone who runs a fighting ring, someone who abuses animals, or to someone who cannot adequately care for the animal. Animal rights are no laughing matter and to portray them as such is cruel and irresponsible.”

On YouTube, the clip received more than 800 comments, many of them negative. Dog breeders and animal rescuers alike were critical of the spot for sending a negative message.

Sochi’s strays: Heck with the gold; here’s to bringing home some dogs

jacobellisAt least two Olympic athletes from the U.S. are reportedly planning to bring home stray dogs from the streets of Sochi — and that has prompted another chorus of grumbling from the “they-care-more-about-dogs-than-people” crowd.

You know the type — they assume that if you show compassion for dogs, you must have none for people, and they think that is some kind of disorder, and that they must inform the world about it

The truth is, people with compassion for dogs usually have more empathy for people too, and often dogs are the ones that taught them that.

Yet, to read recent pieces like this one in The Guardian, and this one in Slate — or at least their headlines —  the writers make is sound like it’s an either/or proposition: One who rescues dogs must not give a whit about humans.

You might look at Gus Kenworthy, the skier who’s bringing home four stray pups and their mother from Sochi, or Lindsey Jacobellis, the snowboarder who’s bringing a street mutt back to the U.S., and see people doing something heroic, good and noble.

But some people — and they’re not all journalists, more often they are nameless Internet commenters — have an innate need to find, or manufacture, a downside, and broadcast it, portraying an act of kindness toward a dog as proof that the world’s priorities have gone topsy-turvy.

kenworthySo Kenworthy is bringing home five dogs, they’d say, what’s he doing about human rights issues in Russia?

It’s true that there are plenty of those in need of attention. It’s true there are people who find dogs easier to love, and easier to help, than humans. It’s true, too, there are millions of homeless dogs right here in America.

But where does one person get the right to question and critique another person’s charitable acts — to whom they should give, exactly what they should save or rescue, and where they should do it?

I may lack the appropriate Olympic fervor, but I am far more impressed by an athlete bringing home a stray dog than I am by how fast he or she can slide down a snowy hill; and I think the dogs will bring them, in the long run, far more joy (though fewer commercial endorsements)  than a medal.

The athletes aren’t there to rescue dogs, and they aren’t there to solve human rights problems. Any action they might take regarding one or the other is bonus to be appreciated, as opposed to grounds for criticism.

Yet, a headline in Slate asks the question,  “Why are Olympians putting puppies before people in Sochi?

(Maybe because the athletes aren’t finding people starving and sleeping in alleys, and couldn’t bring them home even if they wanted. Maybe because it’s easier to toss a dog a sandwich than it is to end government oppression. Maybe it’s because they know the city of Sochi has a contract out on strays, and a company is exterminating them.)

Josh Levin, Slate’s executive editor, wrote that, while he finds puppy-saving commendable, there are far bigger issues in Russia in need of addressing, such as:

“…the country’s 2013 passage of anti-gay propaganda laws, as well as a number of other disturbing transgressions: the fact that more than 50 journalists have been murdered in Russia in the last 22 years; that Sochi’s venues were built by more than 70,000 migrant laborers who toiled ceaselessly in violation of Russian law …”

I’m not sure your average bobsledder is equipped to single-handedly rectify issues like that — at least not during the couple of weeks he’s visiting.

A stray, hungry dog, on the other hand, is something a single person can do something about — whether it’s tossing him something to eat, or slaloming through enough red tape to bring him back to their home country.

So we say “Go Team!”  

And good luck with those athletic events as well.

(Photo’s: Jacobellis with the dog she befriended in Sochi; Kenworthy with the four pups he plans to bring home /Twitter)