Every year the World’s Ugliest Dog contest is held in Petaluma, California. While at first mention, one might think it’s an affair to mock the less-than-beautiful/aesthetically pleasing in the canine world, it’s actually held with a more sincere intention. As much as the purpose is to judge, and award, “ugliness” – the contest also supports animal rescue and pet welfare. Some of the contestants this year, though, really should not have been accepted, and not because they weren’t ugly enough.
|2014 World’s Ugliest Dog, Peanut (AP)|
Jon Adler, pet parent and #1 Fan of Icky (and now also Zoomer Warhol) previously told me about the prevailing commonality among many of the contestants – their humans are big on rescue, and very often that is the main motivation for them to enter this contest. The winner receives $1500, which is donated to the charity of their choice, and they are offered interviews and photo ops with major media outlets. The latter allows these rescue advocates plenty of opportunity to promote rescue and adoption.
|Icky and his dad Jon (Photo by George Nitikin, AP)|
In this year’s contest, however, and exemplified by the winner, rules seemed to be bent more than just a bit. In the past, there were strict guidelines that limited which dogs were eligible to enter, in order to preclude forced, deliberate ailments/disfigurements in the dogs just for the sake of the contest. These were meant to prevent those who would forego necessary medical treatment or who would allow circumstances to continue, just so their dog would have the “ugly factor” for the contest.
The entry of Peanut, an alleged Shih Tzu/Chihuahua blend, was not denied even though his appearance is of manmade causes. That in itself is, in my opinion, a cause for concern. Regardless of intent, this could be setting a regrettable precedent.
Peanut’s mom, for the record, is a wonderful woman with a big heart.
|Peanut (Huffington Post)|
Holly Chandler adopted a rescue dog that had been abused and suffered disfiguring injuries from being burned. She plans to use the money she won to help pay for medical bills of similarly abused dogs. And her original intention was to bring awareness to the issue of abuse.
All well and good, but I have a few questions. How can you use the fifteen minutes of fame to raise awareness about pet abuse? What do you do or say that people aren’t already aware of? What is the call to action? Is this not risking a twisted glorification of abused dogs in the minds of some?
An extreme example such as Peanut only confirms the victimization of those at the hands of people who are disturbed. Whether it’s spousal abuse, child abuse, or pet abuse — we all know it exists. And we know it hurts the ones involved.
What is there to gain by parading around a dog who, in all likelihood, has some pretty severe fear issues in the first place? I watched the video of them winning the contest, and the one where they were guests on Jimmy Kimmel’s show, and all I could think of was how terrifying it must be for poor little Peanut.
Perhaps I’m over-reacting. Perhaps I’m just totally off-base and viewing this issue from the wrong perspective. But I don’t think the contest management made wise decisions this year in who they allowed in the contest. For an event that is supposed to be lighthearted yet promote tolerance and enable good causes – sanctioning dogs’ disfigurements by the hands and/or poor choices of humans is just wrong in my book.
|Zoomer Warhol, 2014 World’s Ugliest Dog 2nd Place Winner
(Photo by George Nitikin, AP)
The 2nd place winner, Zoomer Warhol, is actually Icky’s adopted brother. Congratulations, Zoomer!! We had the privilege of interviewing Icky’s dad a couple of years ago – Icky: Beauty Is More Than Skin-Deep. Icky’s and Zoomer’s dad works tirelessly for rescue dogs by fostering and fundraising for rescues. That’s a #1 Winner in our book!
On final note, this is not in any way meant to discredit Peanut’s win, which was well-deserved for sure. Nor is it in any way meant to discredit his mom, who is clearly a woman with a big heart and well-meaning motivations. I just think things went a bit too far this year. As for Peanut — well, I hope he gets lots of extra lovin’ and some really yummy treats for being who he is, an awesome, beautiful dog.
Do you think Peanut’s history matters? Would you enter your dog in the contest?