Best Friends Blog

Westminster snobs snub shelter dogs

After 24 years, the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show has changed sponsors from Pedigree to Purina because the club doesn’t like Pedigree’s very effective “Adopt a Shelter Dog” ad series. The ads, widely regarded as the most effective adoption promotions ever, have helped Pedigree raise millions of dollars that have gone to the cause of pet adoptions. The ads were a redeeming feature of the Westminster TV presentation.

Westminster feels that the commercials are too serious for their broadcast. David Frei, head of communications for the club and on-air voice of the show, told the New York Times, “Show me an ad with a dog with a smile. Don’t try to shame me. We told them that and they ignored us.”  Frei added, “Our show is a celebration of dogs. We’re not promoting purebreds at the expense of non-purebreds. We celebrate all dogs. When we’re seeing puppies behind bars, it takes away from that. Not just because it’s sad, but it’s not our message.”

However, the Pedigree ads have been celebrated because they don’t portray shelter dogs as victims, but as unique individuals. The ads’ tagline says it all: “Don’t pity a shelter dog. Adopt one.” Dogs are shown in a kennel environment but not behind bars.

Unlike some well-known fundraising promotions that do show quivering and abused animals to milk people’s guilt, the Pedigree spots are a class act. The dogs are serious and their level gaze doesn’t impose guilt but rather asks the simple, straightforward question, “Will you help?” The voice-over by David Duchovny  is equally measured: “Shelter dogs aren’t broken. They’ve simply experienced more life. If they were human, we would call them wise. They would be the ones with tales to tell and stories to write.”

The dog show circuit, as wonderfully and pretty accurately lampooned in the film mockumentary “Best in Show,” is a world of pampered excess, political maneuvering, and money. I can attest to that fact because back in the mid-1970s, I spent a few months showing a dog on the greater New York circuit for a friend who had purchased a purebred and was obliged by the purchase contract to “finish” the dog, meaning establish him as a champion so that the breeder could notch up another championship on her kennel’s resume. The dog, my friend, and I soon tired of the nonsense, rewrote the agreement, and stopped showing.

Westminster Kennel Club is sanctioned by the American Kennel Club. Their decision to distance from the reality of shelter animals is right in line with the AKC’s staunch support of puppy mills. They can be counted on to oppose any progressive legislation anywhere that seeks to curb the abuses of puppy mills because the AKC makes its money by registering purebred dogs regardless of their health, the conditions under which they were bred, or any consideration whatsoever for the well-being of the dogs. The AKC makes big bucks from puppy mills and the pet trade. They couldn’t care less that millions of dogs, many from AKC-registered breeders, are dying in our nation’s shelters.

The Pedigree ads were the one redeeming feature to a show that otherwise mainly drives the pet trade. Too bad.

Francis Battista
Co-Founder, Best Friends Animal Society





  • AsIseeit

    Darn. I’ll miss watching Westminster. 

  • AsIseeit

    Darn. I’ll miss watching Westminster. 

  • EmilyS

    hey, Best Friends is welcome to use ITS millions to sponsor Pedigree ads.
    This kind of attack just increases the distance between breeders and rescuers.  Which is really BF’s agenda, isn’t it?

    • Michellew29

      Best friends already uses “it’s millions” to pick up the pieces of the mangled dogs puppy mills and back yard breeders leave behind. As well as all of the other rescue groups and shelters.

    • Fuzzgrooming

      I highly doubt anybody was paying for those ads other than pedigree. The AKC made it pretty clear they didn’t like the message that what being sent and won’t allow Pedigree to sponser them.
      BREEDING dogs is completely the opposite of rescue. period. You can’t do both.

      • CMH

        I want to like this 100 times, Fuzzgrooming. 🙂

    • Cmh96734



  • The AKC used to stand for responsible breeding and maintaining the breed standards. Now, they are a cash register collecting fees from uncertifiable and profit driven breedings. Good-bye AKC. This was self inflicted.

    • I couldn’t agree more. However, I believe there is too much of an over population for “breed standards” to be allowed to continue. Until the shelters are empty, I am against breeding 100%, for any reason in domesticated animals.

      (this next part isn’t geared towards you, Chad, but I have to mention in.)

      Pups are a reflection of their owner. Fighting dogs were made so by their owners. Dog who pull on leashes were never trained to use one. Food aggressive dogs are usually as so, because they were starved and never got enough to eat.

      And I have seen so many dogs who were put into the shelter because of their Humans- “no time, the dogs bad, the dogs stupid, the dog is 8 weeks old and doesn’t know how to use the bathroom outside, we have no time, he got too old, we used him a show dog, but not hes not good enough.””Owners” who have tied their tired, starved, beaten dog to their doorstep of the shelter are sometimes even applauded in short amount, because they at least BROUGHT him to the shelter. We see too many who don’t make it there. Too many who escape and get picked up an brought in. Too many who don’t even see the luxury of the shelter doors. Sadly in their situation, you can call it that.

      The majority of those dogs bounce right back. The look they get when they see their rightful owner walk into the shelter and come to their kennel… it makes me tear up every time I think about it. They know. They know their long journey is about to come to an end, and they are about to have the family they always wanted. Their buddy to go hiking with. Their little girl to sleep with and protect at night. Their boy, their new best friend. And if you can watch those ads, you can go to a shelter, you can see and hear about these dogs everyday, but turn your back and do nothing? What, exactly, does that make you? Certainly not a “dog lover”. You are a money lover. You promote your dogs, forcing females to endure labor over and over and over again, for profit. Get a real job. Or better yet? Go volunteer at a shelter for just one week -just one- then see if you can turn your back.

  • Tammi2shoes

    I love Mr Frie’s comments about “We’re not promoting purebreds at the expense of non-purebreds.  We celebrate all dogs”.   Bullcrap, Westminster doesn’t want to piss off the AKC anymore because AKC is collecting so much money from puppymills that they allow to keep registering those “purebreds”.  I owned a “purebred”  that came from a renouned AKC showwoman & the conditions were deplorable from her “kennel” if you could even call it that, it was out of her house.  

    • Then you didnt do your homework. you should have asked to see her Kennels before you purchased your dog. The bredder i got my dog from was impecable. I chose her not the other way around, plus she had to feel right about me to make sure i knew the breed i was about to get

      • Bubbafett

        I didn’t see any Kennels on any of my dogs.  Most were turned out on the street because they were not good enough to be show dogs or worn out from breeding.

    • If they celebrated all dogs, they’d allow mixed breeds in their ‘show’. They don’t celebrate anything but dollars.

      • Diane

        Its all about money and showing off, Go to a show see how the dogs are kept in small cages waiting hours on end for their owner’s  5 minutes of glory! They will tell you that the dogs enjoy it…I will tell them that My dogs run free in the park and enjoy their lives the way dogs are meant to …not for their owners vanity and pocket!

  • Guest

    That’s outrageous! Shame on them!

  • Janicestandafer

    I will no longer be watching Westminister Dog Show. Everyone share this on FB and boycott. Like everything else in this world, it’s all about the one with the most money and that is not what concerns the majority of the people. Shame, shame on you Westminister!!!!!

  • Makes me think that the Pedigree ads have been too successful and are cutting in to the bottom line at the AKC. Let’s face it, good breeders don’t pay the salaries and accommodations at the AKC. It’s the puppy millers that do (or at least unknowing people that fall in love with puppies in the windows at pet stores unaware of those puppies dirty little secret pasts). Maybe we are getting through to people to adopt and not shop. 

  • Dbabbit

    Add me to the list of those who won’t be watching any more dog shows! Shame on Westminster and the AKC! 

  • Pugrescue

    I always loved watching dog shows…since I was a child.  I knew nothing of puppymills and the outrageous ways breeds were changed at the whims of humans…
    Unless a dog show clearly addresses and informs the horrors of puppymills and the overflowing shelters and the great need to spay and neuter….NO More dog shows for me.

  • Rose

    wonder if Pedigree had used all “purebred” dogs that are in shelters or rescues, if Mr. Frei would have cancelled the contract.  Westminster was probly getting heat from AKC because AKC allows so many puppymills to keep registering all the purebreeds,  thats where their money comes from and they know the conditions these pups are in but don’t give  acrap about it, as long as they keep getting the registration fees.

  • Acterrier

    Add to all this the fact that Purina is headquartered in a state that supports puppy mills, even making it a crime to photograph them.  But I agree with the comment below…do not group all breeders who love their breed and have infrequent quality litters of pups, and require spay neuter agreements if the pups are not show, to the political nonsense that is Westminster.  It’s a game, just like any other sport.  Not really so much about the animals as the people.  As for Pedigree, they will undoubtedly find another venue for their excellent ads.

  • Lousanimalhaven

    Thats a shame.

  • I felt the need to comment.  I just wanted everyone to know that not all people that breed and show their dogs think this way. I have a AKC Champion AmStaff.  After my friend bred and then showed him to his Championship, she gave him to me, knowing that he would have a wonderful home and we would be the best of friends.  She knew that I would immediately get him fixed, as I don’t believe in breeding dogs unnecessarily and she had no problem with this.  She breeds carefully, not for money, but to breed fine AmStaffs, healthy and with excellent temperaments.  The dogs from her litters (5 in 20 years) were either shown by her or adopted out to good families free of charge.  I don’t claim to understand all the political workings of the AKC, but I do know that there are good, reputable, responsible breeders out there that do not over breed, fight alongside me against puppy mills, and push the adoption of shelter animals.  Please don’t lump them all into one nasty group…Bogart and I thank you for keeping an open mind and heart.

    • Kathy

      Nancy, I agree with you. I have a Jack Russell Terrier that is a pure-bred. We can trace her lineage to her great-great grandparents, and although we never bred or showed her, we could have.
      The breeder I got her from, was very selective in whom she sold her pups too, and made sure they were loved and well cared for. She bought and paid for her puppy shots which she did not have to do. 
       I made sure she was not a puppy mill before I bought from her. With the lineage my JRT has she could have charged up to $1,000, but she chose not too because she knew we wanted a pet, not a show dog. Besides, AKC does not recognize the Jack Russell Terrier.
      But, I will not be watching the Westminister. Mainly, because I don’t like the way they did Pedigree.

      • They use the Parson russell terrier as the guidlines for the JRT.

      • Puz007

        why not go to a shelter ? hmmm bc you had to HAVE a particular breed? sad

    • Fuzzgrooming

      500 dogs, many of them bullie breeds, are euthanized EVERY MINUTE if YOU weren’t a snob, you’d have adopted one rather than get one you can brag about being a champion bla bla bla.

      • Debbieg36


      • CMH

        Exactly, Fuzzgrooming!  This country executes 3-4 million dogs and cats each year.  How can someone with any semblance of a conscience buy a dog in this climate and feel okay about it?  

        • Stazguy101

          Please don’t buy one,   be sure to always get a dog from the shelter, that is YOUR right, however you want us to  do as you do. who are you anyway? I can tell you someone is is not very bright. Best friends is your buddy? well ask them to take just one dog you know is in trouble, just one? watch all the excuses roll out. they can’t they are to busy going to other Countries to get those dogs to bring here NOT going to shelters saving those life’s, but going someplace else to bring more in. what does that say?

    • Gymcat76

      If your friend breeds in this way, then she is one of the very few breeders of a ‘champion” that would have taken your dog out of a breeding program. The majority of bredder/show-ers are purely opposite. You buddy is blessed …. 🙂

      • Not true. Actually a lot of breeders place dogs after they have obtained their Championship. I know I do. I know lots of people who do. We are not a minority. Might want to ask around a bit more on that.

    • Liz

       I just do not understand how anyone, in all conscience could buy or breed a pedigree dog when there are so many unwanted dogs euthanized. We have two rescue dogs, and no dog, pedigree or otherwise could give more pleasure and love to their owner.

      • Debbieg36

        I’ve nothing against shelter dogs. I n fact the dog we have now is the first purebred we’ve owned. But it is a personal choice and if you’re looking for a specific breed and temperment many choose a reputable breeder.

        • If you’re looking gor a specific temperament you’d do best to adopt a rescue or shelter dog that is older than a puppy and has been evaluated and, even better, spent time in a foster home.  Reputable breeder?  How would you define that?  I’m sure there must be one or two, but I become more and more convinced that “Responsible breeder is an oxymoron.”

          • CMH

            I completely agree, Taylor.  

            Breeding or buying a dog (or cat, since that is apparently an increasingly popular phenomenon) is irresponsible in a country that kills 3-4 MILLION dogs and cats every year because of overpopulation.

        • Liz

           Human rights and personal choice is used to justify so many wrongs nowadays. What about the rights of animals? They are not commodities, but living, breathing beings. Temperament is something which is fostered by good ‘parenting’, just as it is in children.

          • CMH

            You’re amazing, Liz.  I could not have said it better. 

          • diane

            AMEN TO THAT.

        • KB

          Do you have any idea how many shelter dogs are purebred?  I have 2 dogs I purchased from a reputable breeder and 2 dogs of the same breed from a rescue.  There is no difference in their tempermant.  I lost one of the dogs from the highly recommended breeder I used, from Mitral Valbe Disease, (known to the breed) when he was only 8.  I have one rescue who is 10 or 11 and still going strong and the other rescue who is 8 and is still heart clear.  Something to think about.

          • KB- This is common! when you have a “purebred” dog, they are more likely to succumb to diseases common in their line. When you have a ‘mutt’-my FAVORITE breed of dog- a good amount of the time, those health problems are not present. This doesn’t go for all cases, but you are more likely to experience unfortunate health risk common in the breed, such as hip dysplasia, heart problems and Mitral Valbe Disease, if you have “purebred”. This goes the same for cats.

            I, too, will NEVER understand how or why people can buy a dog from a breeder. I have heard people say they “adopted” their dog from breeders, and if I’m not in the mood for “that” conversation, have to hold my breath.

            Like many have said, there are thousands of shelters and rescues that have pure bred dogs- some even ONLY have a certain breed, some even with “papers”! However, the only papers I plan to ever see with my dog are those from their true adoption. I wish there was a Mutt Kennel Club. Anyone want to get one started? We can make it FUN and not such like the AKC competition on looks.

            We could have different categories, such as “Best Pit Bull Smile” and “Who Can Steal More Covers” even ” Who Can eat this Expensive Shoe the Fastest?”

      • Deb

        Liz, You still have a choice… But breeders of Merit which there are many. Breed for good health & temperment. 

  • Rhonda


  • Rsnorby

    Wow, Westminister is very out of touch with reality. Both of my Goldens (rescue) are beautiful and the exact opposite of good breeders versus horrible breeders. My 11 year old was bred times before she was 4 and was terrified when her “breeder” dumped her at a county shelter. My 6 year old was immediately spade at the earliest time because of a significant heart murmur. they are wonderful and the loves of our lives. Wow,when is Westminister going to wake up

  • Jeannecas

    Too bad is right…won’t be watching the Westminster Dog show anymore and thumbs down to the AKC for supporting puppy mills.  Millions of dogs/cats end up in shelters every year and sadly the majority of them are euthanized.  David Frei should be ashamed of himself in not wanting to help shelter dog.

  • Julie

    This is so wrong!  What can we do??  Will Pedigree be doing the match contributions through their website during the show anyway?  If so, they need to publicize that so we can donate in support of them!  They save the sponsorship costs and still help the rescue dogs!  Win Win…..  thoughts?

  • frankie13

    I for one will not be watching this year…

  • Sakari1021

    I knew there was a reason I never cared for 

  • Jbm_32206

    I’m behind Pedigree 100%, they had the love of dogs to promote adopting a shelter dog…shame on Westminster Kennel Club!

  • Sandi

    I will be one less person watching that show this year and beyond!

  • Judy

    These people are not dog lovers !  They really are “snobs”.  The AKC obviously doesn’t care that they are licencing poorly bred dogs for their “snob” friends and also have no regard for the poor dogs that are cruelly treated in the puppy mills…….all for the all mighty buck.  Money breeds greed and stupidity in this instance !

  • Judy

    These people are not dog lovers !  They really are “snobs”.  The AKC obviously doesn’t care that they are licencing poorly bred dogs for their “snob” friends and also have no regard for the poor dogs that are cruelly treated in the puppy mills…….all for the all mighty buck.  Money breeds greed and stupidity in this instance !

  • Judy

    These people are not dog lovers !  They really are “snobs”.  The AKC obviously doesn’t care that they are licencing poorly bred dogs for their “snob” friends and also have no regard for the poor dogs that are cruelly treated in the puppy mills…….all for the all mighty buck.  Money breeds greed and stupidity in this instance !