By Carole Davis
Not everyone jumped for joy on Valentine’s Day when Malachy, the Pekingese, was named Best in Show at the Westminster Dog Show. Real dog lovers raged. Why? Because a Peke won a beauty contest and consequently tens of thousands of Pekes will suffer a horrible fate. Because it means rough years ahead for Pekingese breeding dogs who are abused in puppy mills and backyard breeding operations. Because thousands of Pekingese will be dumped at the pound when the novelty wears off. The Westminster Dog Show and its parent, the American Kennel Club, the most established of the breed registries, has blood on its hands.
I wasn’t always this angry about dog shows. As a teenager I was a total dog geek. I would run every year to Madison Square Garden, the dog lover’s Mecca, to buy the three-day, all-access pass to The Westminster Dog Show. Since then, during twenty plus years in the animal protection movement, I have learned the truth. The Westminster Dog Show is a sham. Behind the flashing lights and the trophies are the American Kennel Club’s dirty little secrets:
1. Annually, the AKC, a “non-profit” animal enterprise, profits over 40 million tax-exempt dollars promoting the business of dealing dogs; many of them inbred with genetic malformations that are painful for the dogs and expensive for the owners (see the BBC’s special, Pedigree Dogs Exposed).
2.The AKC routinely registers puppies from inhumane dog factories (puppy mills).
3. AKC reps are a constant presence at dog auctions, making deals not to promote the well-being of dogs, but to ensure registration fees from unscrupulous breeders. At these auctions, commercial breeders buy and sell breeding dogs, their “product,” for as low as a dollar. The “product,” which should be a family pet in a loving home is instead sold to live out her sad life reproducing in a cage.
4. The AKC denies and covers up its responsibility for contributing to the millions of dogs housed in our nation’s shelter system at our expense until they are tragically killed.
5. The AKC spends millions of dollars fighting animal protection legislation in every state in order to continue to profit from the dog dealing business.
And here are the dots it took me twenty years to connect: The Best-In-Show trophy awarded every year at the Westminster Dog Show fuels intense desire for purebred dogs. It promulgates the purebred fetish—the elitist idea that some dogs are better than others because of absurd criteria like the length of their hocks, the shortness of their snout, the texture of their fur or the protrusion of their eyeballs. Many of the genetic traits that garner prizes at dog shows are congenital malformations that cause suffering to dogs and can eventually kill them. And by the way, none of those standards are the qualities that make us love our dogs and that make our dogs love us.
This year, because of the Westminster Dog Show, millions of people will covet the latest fashion accessory, a Pekingese dog, and commercial breeders will happily cash in on the bonanza. Pet stores will order them by the truck-load from brokers, who will buy them in bulk from commercial breeders. The word on the puppy pipe line will be: “Churn out those Pekingese puppies, they’re selling like hotcakes!”
You can order your Peke on-line at www.nextdaypets.com. All you need is a credit card and your Peke will come in the mail in twenty-four hours, just like a pair of shoes—if he survives the trip; many don’t. And when Peke fashion passes its peak, you can unload your used Peke at any shelter, where unless a socially conscious person shows up to adopt him, he will be killed.
While dogs are bought on a whim by selfish people who want what they want when they want it, over five million companion animals are killed in our nation’s shelter system for lack of adopters. It’s a national scandal that we are paying over $2.5 billion a year to house and kill these innocent animals. Twenty-five percent of those dogs are purebred dogs.
The Westminster Dog Show is a televised convention to promote the multi-billion dollar business of dealing purebred dogs. Behind the scenes is a sinister web of handshakes and deal-making with the long term plan of fighting any legislative measures the animal protection movement attempts to pass. Any talk of regulation that hinders the bottom line of commercial breeders in order to alleviate the suffering of breeding dogs is met with fierce opposition and deep pockets.
The commercial breeders and the clubs that enable them, like the AKC, are stubborn in their insistence that animal rights activists back off . The breeders stick together, lobby Washington and take out ads in national newspapers to portray the animal protection activists as “fringe,” “extremist,” “anti-business” and “fanatics.”
The animal protection movement is not going to back off. We will continue to expose the truth about the dog dealing industry and the shows that promote them. The Westminster Dog Show and the American Kennel Club need to come clean about their shameless disregard for the welfare of dogs. Instead, they congratulate themselves with trophies while we go broke cleaning up their mess, rescuing broken dogs, nursing them back to health, soothing their fear and finding them loving homes.
While the Westminster Dog Show winners celebrate, we cry over our dead—the millions and millions of dead dogs, our supposed best friends.