For 24 years, Pedigree has been the sponsor of the annual Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, but not anymore. This year, Westminster switched sponsors to Purina. The reason? Pedigree’s commercials promoting adoption from shelters are not the image Westminster desires.
It is well known that Westminster is all about purebred dogs. As the website says, the show is “Storied in its history, rich in its tradition, The Westminster Kennel Club’s famed annual dog show is unique, prestigious, and elegant for all concerned.”
It’s an all too familiar story of the haves and have-nots. In OWS parlance, shelter dogs are the “trying to survive” 99% while purebreds are the pampered and privileged 1%.
So a Pedigree commercial like this one is too distasteful for the Westminster crowd. Too bad!
Now, this is certainly not a breathtaking news story. But it is important to point out what is wrong with Westminster’s decision is that it’s promoting the attitude that purebred dogs are superior to mixed breed dogs. The Canine Diversity Project tries to educate breeders about the dangers of inbreeding, which leads to the loss of genetic diversity. This has a dramatic negative effect on the health of dogs who are over-bred.
As a mutt lover myself, I do not watch the Westminster Dog Show. How about you? Many animal advocates are disappointed with the Westminster decision. Not so much because they are concerned which company sponsors the show. It’s because of the remarkable work Pedigree has done in educating the public about the plight of shelter dogs needing adoption. It just feels, well… snobbish!
A Pedigree video narrated by David Duchovny aired during the 2010 and 2011 Westminster Dog Shows says it all. Shelter dogs are described with dignity in a straightforward message. It doesn’t get anymore straight forward than this:
“Shelter dogs aren’t broken. They’ve simply experienced more life. If they were human, we’d call them wise. They would be the ones with tales to tell and stories to write. The ones dealt a bad hand, and who responded with courage. Do not pity a shelter dog. Adopt one.”
Melissa Martellotti, a brand communications manager for Mars Petcare U.S. (MARS makes the Pedigree brand) says dog show officials informed Pedigree they were initiating the split because of concerns over the adoption ad campaign, according to the New York Times.
“They’ve shared with us, when we parted ways, that they felt that our advertising was focused too much on the cause of adoption and that wasn’t really a shared vision,” she said. The kennel club is “focused on the purebred mission,” said Martellotti. And that includes the adoption of pure breeds over mixed breeds.
Perhaps Westminster should be informed that about 25% of shelter dogs are actually purebreds that were surrendered or found as strays. And perhaps it would be wise to let the public know that the AKC — which sponsors Westminster — has no problem with people purchasing purebreds that started life in puppy mills.
If you are the type to fight for the underdog, you can contact Westminster to let them know how you feel. Contact David Frei, Director of Communications for Westminster at (212) 213-3212 or email him at email@example.com. The important thing isn’t to get Westminster to bring back Pedigree as a sponsor. It’s to educate the club about the power of public attitude toward shelter dogs.
To paraphrase some bumper stickers, tell him “my shelter dog can beat your purebred dog any day of the week!”