Welcome To The White House Baby Bo

 |  Apr 13th 2009  |   37 Contributions


Articles abound on the internet about Bo, the new First Dog. I chose to comment on the Tails Of The City post because author Amelia Glynn seems to share my feeling of disappointment over the choice of a non-shelter dog.

Bo is adorable, and I'm happy there is a dog in the White House, but I can't help feel an important opportunity was missed here. One that could have had great impact for other rescue dogs.

While this new, cute (and hypoallergenic) First Bundle of Canine Joy prepares to move into his new home at the White House this Tuesday, some shelters and rescue organizations across the country including Adopt-a-Pet.com are expressing disappointment at the Obamas' choice to acquire a dog from a breeder - a decision that is in sharp contrast to the President's earlier pledge to adopt from a shelter.

"This is a missed opportunity to set a pet-adoption trend among Americans," says Abbie Moore, executive director of Adopt-a-Pet.com. "With pet relinquishment up 20 to 30 percent due to the poor economy, pets in shelters can use all the help they can get."

So, now there is a purebred in the White House, perpetuating the myth that rescue dogs aren't good enough, have too many issues, or that you won't be able to find the dog you're looking for. I am happy that Bo was at least a re-homed pup, things didn't work out at his first place of residence.

Bo was born in October, along with nine littermates. His breeder was already a big Obama supporter and gave the litter a "Hope and Change" theme. Consequently, all of the puppies had registered names that had something to do with Hope or Change. Bo's registered name is Amigo's New Hope - perfect for President Obama's dog, don't you think? Senator Ted Kennedy, who also got a puppy from this litter, has a puppy with the registered name Amigo's Change to Believe In.

When he was old enough Bo was sold to a woman in Washington DC who had just lost her old Portuguese Water Dog. But she still had another old Portie. She thought that the puppy, whom she named Charlie, would be good company for the old girl. Unfortunately, Charlie proved a little too much. For one thing, he tried to nurse on the other dog, which some puppies will do. The other dog was not happy about this situation. And, sometimes bringing a puppy into a home with an old dog, especially if they may be grieving, can be a problem. So the owner decided she couldn't keep Charlie.

Although Bo is technically re-homed, he is by no means a rescue. He was sent back to the breeder she bought him from and would have been sold again, he is an AKC-registered purebred dog from champion breeding.

The Chicago Sun Times reports that since the Obama's didn't adopt from a shelter, they plan to make a donation to a Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) instead. So perhaps it's not surprising that the HSUS issued a statement today that simultaneously thanks the Obamas' for taking in a "second-chance" dog and warns of disreputable breeders who may take advantage of the public's increased interest in Portuguese water dogs.

"There are reputable breeders of these dogs," says Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of the HSUS. "Yet sadly, we expect disreputable puppy mill operators to start producing them as well, intent on cashing in on the heightened awareness of this breed. President Obama can do even more for animal protection, helping us enforce existing animal welfare laws and cracking down on the national shame of rampant puppy mills in America."

While I realize the Obamas needed a hypoallergenic dog, about a quarter of all dogs at shelters are purebreds. Over three million dogs and cats are euthanized every year because they don't have homes. That is a number almost beyond comprehension, but we can make a difference one animal at a time. Adopt from a shelter, save a life.

*SOUZA/The Washington Post

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