By Michael W. Fox, DVM,
Two Bit Dog
When this dog show in New York City was in its infancy I made visits with friend Roger Caras, the show’s media MC, and dog writer Herm David---both now deceased. But the show goes on, bigger but not better because, as I always felt, along with Herm, that big dog shows were more for people than for dogs, and also for the big commerce of the multinational pet food and supplies industry. Roger, a dedicated breeder of blood hounds, knew which side his bone was softest, and kept silent on some of our concerns that blew up a couple of years ago across the waters in the U.K. The BBC refused to give any coverage to the Cruft’s dog show, arguably the world’s most esteemed dog show, because of concerns over the genetic defects and heritable diseases so prevalent in pure breed dogs. Since then various expert committees and commissions have been set up, and perhaps that is what Pedigree Pet Foods ( PPF, which originated in the U.K) has catalyzed by evoking the snarls and growls of the Westminster show-bred, dogged critics who are dropping PPF as a major sponsor because of its animal shelter advertisements promoting much needed adoptions.
First, I would like to know how much of this furor is really based on TV viewers being upset when they see these poor shelter animals in PPFs message and not on complaints from commercial breeders who see dog and puppy adoptions as undercutting their business.
There is also some saturation, if not competition, with similar TV advertisements put out by the ASPCA and The Humane Society of the U.S... These animal protection organizations are not in the business of selling products but promoting compassion and respect for life, if not also righteous indignation which upsets some people who would rather not see and do nothing.
PPF’s potential conflict of interest may be seen as a confluence of interest when they provide (as do other big pet food manufacturers) free or discounted pet foods to shelters and community/charity food banks. But all of these big pet food manufacturers need to come up with some cat and dog food formulations that meet what I believe to be the higher standards of manufactured pet foods (as detailed on my website and in my book co-authored with two other veterinarians, Not Fit For a Dog: The Truth About Manufactured Cat & Dog Food).
I feel that there are two wrongs here. Nobody is right, neither PPF nor the Westminster Dog Show committee. PPF’s media saturation with advertisements similar to the infomercials of the legitimate animal protection movement may, at best, serve only to desensitize viewers, but in the corporate ad-mind, promote a subliminal association with caring for animals rather than simply selling pet food. This is disingenuous at first sniff, and what ever moneys such pet foods do provide to animal shelters it would be more ethically acceptable if the ingredients were from humanely raised farmed animals and from organically certified sources. As for the Westminster dog show, while many dogs evidently love the limelight and attention, it is high time, as I document in my book Dog Body, Dog Mind, to outlaw all cosmetic ear cropping and tail docking of certain breeds, and get those with extreme physical/structural aberrations, currently regarded as desirable breed ‘standards’ genetically corrected through selective breeding for dogs’ sake and not for the show.
Dr. Michael W. Fox is a well-known veterinarian, former vice president of The Humane Society of the United States, former vice president of Humane Society International and the author of more than 40 adult and children’s books on animal care, animal behavior and bioethics. He is also a graduate veterinarian from the Royal Veterinary College, London, whose research lead to a PhD (Medicine) and a DSc (ethology/animal behavior) from the University of London, England.