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





  • Deb

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

  • Frank

    Like most reputable breeders, you’re getting defensive for no reason. I’m sorry that you feel that people are trying to take your right to breed away. I certainly don’t feel that way. There is room for reputable, responsible breeders (of which there are very few, and they are not causing the problem). 
    But unfortunately, the AKC doesn’t just register your animals. It registers animals in pet stores, it registers the thousands and thousands of animals churned out by the Hunte Corporation every year. It is in their financial interest to register as many dogs as possible, and by doing so THEY are wrecking your bloodlines, your hobby. If more responsible breeders stood up to the AKC, the AKC would be fighting along side everyone else against puppy millers and backyard breeders who breed purely for profit. 

  • Reuben

    I attended WKC Show for 15 years. Now I’m boycotting not only the WKC broadcast, but also Purina and USA Network advertisers. I’ve written them all (snail mail, not email) to let them know. Here are the relevant addresses:

    Peter R. Van Brunt PresidentThe Westminster Kennel Club149 Madison Avenue, Suite 402New York, NY 10016
    Mr. Steve BurkeChief Executive OfficerUSA NetworkGE Building30 Rockefeller PlazaNew York City 10112
    Mr. W. Patrick McGinnisPresident and CEONestlé Purina PetCare CompanyCheckerboard Square St. Louis, MO 63164
    Mr. Luc MongeauPresidentMars Petcare US315 Cool Springs BoulevardFranklin, TN 37067-1632

  • Reuben

    When you ability to breed is threatened, let me know, I’ll support you. Right now, we’re talking about helping shelter dogs who will die if they’re not adopted. In the military, there’s the right move, the wrong move and no move. No move is always the worst. What Pedigree does may not be perfect but it is better than nothing.

  • Reuben

    When you ability to breed is threatened, let me know, I’ll support you. Right now, we’re talking about helping shelter dogs who will die if they’re not adopted. In the military, there’s the right move, the wrong move and no move. No move is always the worst. What Pedigree does may not be perfect but it is better than nothing.

  • Stop Pet Euthanasia

    Omidog, in case you haven’t heard, there are breeders that intentionally crossbreed. This is where so-called “designer” dogs come from. While there may be legitimate reasons to crossbreed, most seem to only do it because they can get a lot of money for a “rare” breed. 

  • Stop Pet Euthanasia

    Omidog, in case you haven’t heard, there are breeders that intentionally crossbreed. This is where so-called “designer” dogs come from. While there may be legitimate reasons to crossbreed, most seem to only do it because they can get a lot of money for a “rare” breed. 

  • Guest

    Does The Animal Planet Network still televise the Westminster dog show? If so, perhaps its time to put some pressure on Animal Planet to drop the Westminster show.

  • FrustratedByBothSides

    You know, rhetoric like this isn’t helpful. Many people in the rescue community have nothing to do with the likes of PETA or HSUS. The problem is, a lot of the issues that result in dogs being abandoned to shelters is due breeders who are indiscriminate about who they sell to and take no responsibility after the dog is sold.

    In a perfect world, all breeders would use responsible practices, check out prospective buyers, and do genetic testing. However, a lot of them don’t, and nobody seems interested in demanding accountability. As long as a majority of breeding-related organizations take a position of being completely and totally opposed to all legislation that would stop inhumane breeders, there isn’t going to be any headway. Sometimes, you need to stop screaming, take a step back, and listen to what others are saying.   

    The fact is, there are people on the breeders’ side of the fence that are every bit as extremist as any PETA member. I know responsible breeders who care more about their dogs than their own profits are out there. Please, stop allowing the extremists to speak for you. 

  • Guest.

    Thanks for the info. I could not remember what network
    actually televised the Westminster show. Now I know who to direct my concerns to
    at the USA network.

  • Lora

    I am totally boycotting this show.  Do they have any idea how many purebreds end up at the shelters?  All of my dogs have been and will continue to be shelter/rescue dogs.

  • Becky Dodge

    Thanks Francis for saying this. I don’t say that ALL breeders fit the mold as shown by the Westminster Show folks but it seems that many breeders don’t care how many dogs they breed or where they go as long as the breeder makes money. There seems to be very little concern for the dogs except as commodities and in making sure they look like what the AKC says they are supposed to. That doesn’t do a lot of good for the actual genetic wellbeing of dogs. If the only thing being focused on is a cosmetic standard then it can’t be emphasizing the genetic health of dogs in general. Also, what happens to dogs not sold by breeders? In many cases they are dumped at shelters with no regard as to whether the dogs are killed or not. The main interest for many breeders, both large and small, is making money, not ensuring that dogs are placed in good homes. I no longer watch the dog shows because of the attitude of a large percentage of people involved and because of the lack of concern for the millions killed in shelters while breeders focus on money and the outward appearance of their dogs.

    BTW I have adopted 10 dogs over the years and all were wonderful, loving companions who I wouldn’t trade for anything.

  • Barry Heaver

    Like Nancy below, we have two rescue dogs.  No two dogs could bring more love and joy into a household than these two.  And when we run into friends who have met these dogs at our home, the first question is always, “How are Noelle and Abby these days?”  They are both fine.

    This stance against dogs without papers is disgusting.  Not all breeders are bad or selfish, but some are.  In Oklahoma, many efforts are being made to eradicate the puppy mills which are not maintained “as one would maintain a pet.”  Progress is being made.  And great people continue to work for meager wages or purely on a volunteer basis to help lost dogs find good homes.

    We feel blessed to have our dogs.

    Barry in Tulsa

  • Anonymous

    Screw all you breeders and supporters of breeders. What is this bull chit about breeding for temperment ????  ALL dogs have good temperments, ALL dogs are born good and as long as you treat them right and teach them with patience, they’ll be just as, if not more well behaved then these so-called “show” dogs. Dogs aren’t for show, they are companions, family, friends. This is like those baby pageants………sick sick sick…. And yes I am lumping all of you BREEDERS into one nasty big old crusty infectious boil of a group. Cause you all are scum. And if you think we are stupid enough to think that someone breeds for NO PROFIT ???? you are sadly sadly mistaken……….Now go drink your fluoride like a good sheeple.

  • Pamela Wieczorek

    I will be another person not watching the Westminster Dog Show next year. As a breeder, owner  and trainer of working dogs I see this show as a joke now, If they want to choose a dog that is a puff of nothing at least choose a great rescue dog as Best in Show. It is a disgrace to America. They should be showing and advertising for these dogs during the entire show. This is supposed to be a show that celebrates great breeding. Does that judge even now what good beeding is? That is an out dated Chineese aristocratic dog that has no place in our society. Well accept on the lap of some stupid Hollywood stars lap. They can’t even produce without Vet assist most of the time. Shame on USA and Shame on America.

  • Anita Stratton

    No bueno, Westminster! The American Kennel Club should support ALL dogs, not just purebreeds. Showing those Pedigree ads during your show proved that. Now you just look like elitest snobs. I say that as an owner of a Lab mix (adopted from a shelter) AND a purebred Lab.

  • Heather Reynolds

    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?”

  • Heather Reynolds

    Honestly, I would never feed any of my dogs Pedigree food. However it is cheaper to make. I can’t bash them because they do give A LOT of it away to shelters. I’d assume they won’t change it, because if they spend more, they can’t give as much. In retrospect, if you go to their website, at least they’re honest. They list their ingredients, the real ones, right there for you. A lot of companies-Purina for example- just have pictures of whole chicken and claim their food doesn’t have fillers or by-products in it.

    Compared to Alpo, Iams, Purina, etc., Pedigree’s food really isn’t so bad when you put in the fact they really have changed their ways, and are doing a lot for the rescue community. What has Iams done? Tested their products on dogs and cats FROM the shelter until they died? Yep, those are Iams Dogs.
    ( )

  • Heather Reynolds

    Really? Us “rescue snobs” are human. Were not mechanically engineered to believe that in order to have a “good” dog you must ”
    s spend thousands of dollars on health screenings, fund research, organizing and supporting breed rescues, and fostering/finding homes for ‘their’ breed” We don’t care. We don’t care where our dogs came from. We don’t care how much they cost. We care that they will give us unconditional love for as long as they can. We care that we just saved a life. We care that these dogs are dying. We feel. We don’t just look away and hope someone else cleans up our mess. Obviously, you are not getting in. MILLIONS OF ANIMALS DIE EVERY DAY IN THIS WORLD because of people like YOU. And for a little bit of education for you, we DO spend thousands of dollars. We transport dogs all around the U.S to save them. We spend thousands on their surgeries to save their lives. We open up our homes, and provide them everything they may need to survive and have a good life. And our mixed breeds are coming from YOUR BREEDERS mistakes. The dog that got out and no one cared to look for. The AKC Champion that was above his prime and got thrown out into the shelter. The millions of strays people drop on the street, un-fixed. Our dogs come from your *&^%@) messes that you leave us to clean up. And by the way, we spend hours researching where our “breeds” come from as well. Just so happens we get up to ten great breeds in one little package of love.

    Our dogs are our life. They get to play in the mud. Eat poop. Get into things they aren’t supposed to. They get to have a life. They’re not put onto a shelf for their lifespan and made to be some little toy princess for us to look at. They enjoy life. And I enjoy every second of time with my little babies.

  • Ospreywatcher

    Dogs shows are right down there with “Toddlers and Tiaras.” So focused on all the wrong values.

  • Heather Reynolds

    As the saying goes: “The best way to tell a person’s personality, is to look at their dogs!”

  • Heather Reynolds

    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.

  • Dgiroux819

    Thank you for stating it “as it is.”  Your blog says it fully, and simply. 

    New and better regulations need to be brought in to regulate the breeders and puppy mills–avoid tail and ear cropping and unnecessary medical procedures.  End the ridiculous miniaturization and gigantism of the extreme breeds, ensure that all animals born are given the essentials of life and proper socialization, support and enhance adoption of dogs and cats at affordable prices and regulate the quality of food production so that their lives are healthier and happier.

  • Dabrune8

    This is for Stazguy.  Our dog Dillion was rescued by Best Friends from a horrible place right here in the New York area, not overseas.  He has been a great blessing for my daughter who has bone cancer.  The two are a great team, and he has always been by her side, even when we had to sneak him into the hospital.  Well behaved, gentle and beyond price.  What breed is he? Maybe part lab, but who knows?  He is definitely a large part angel. 

  • diane


  • JS

    Pedigree is one of the worst foods out there and they can donate it because it is basically like sawdust! Equivalent to donating McDonalds to homeless shelters, good grief

  • JS

    thank you! exactly what I say all the time, the majority of shelter dogs come from ignorant people that buy from backyard mistakes and from people that refuse to spay/neuter their mutts. Educate yourselves people!

  • JS

    JAKC, I have been a pet groomer for going on 28 plus years, along with showing my own pets along the way. I am sorry to hear about your neighbors collies but that is out of the ordinary for show dogs because one of the most important things required when showing dogs is that they be in top condition. Dogs don’t get that way without good and regular exercise. As a full time groomer of family pets I can tell you that most owners have no idea about proper conditioning and feeding of their pets. They don’t walk or exercise them and feed them any brand of Beneful or Pedigree that is on sale at the grocery store. So many are obese and have severe periodontal disease. When I try to educate them basically they say they don’t have time to exercise them! I currently own two boxers one an American Champion and her son both of which sleep on my bed and get walked for an hour a day everyday, so please know that most show dogs are only show dogs for a very short time in their life before they go back home to be treasured family members forever.

  • Zorica Stancevic

     if this FL breeder was so reputable and committed, then why were four of her senior dogs sitting in a shelter, mangy and ear infected.  kudos to you for pulling them for adoption and her taking responsibility for them after the fact. the spaniels that were rescued should have never been so neglected and abandoned in the first place. at it’s core, this only demonstrates the fact the not all breeders keep track of the dogs they sell to ensure they live long and healthy lives with loving families.  and there are alarming percentages euthanized all every day.

  • volunteer4paws

    I never really found much enjoyment watching this, but now I certainly will avoid it.
    I’m with you – those Pedigree ads are indeed a class act on behalf of shelter adoption!!

  • Lwillner

    Hooray for Pedigree for not selling out to AKC big business.  Obviously, the kennel club is not “celebrating all dogs” as I haven’t seen an AKC show class for rescue or shelter dogs.  Wake up David Frei!

  • BetsyBassetLady

    Betsy Youmans.  I realy don’t know what site I am writing on, but have just read all of these comments below. I feel like I have been getting educated. I am appalled to learn that AKC registers Puppy Mill dogs…….. prob. don’t have a way to distinguish from a responsible breeder. Very sad. I still am for responsible breeders as I feel they do try to help their breed. Some of us really prefer just one breed, not to say that we haven’t adopted others & loved others, including mixed breeds. I feel most dog show people take excellent care of their dogs. But I hope that they will campaign for showing dogs in shelters & about rescue & adoption. I still, & always have, loved dog shows. It is where I have fallen in love with other breeds that I didn’t know. Loved NYC Westminster yrs ago when sat downstairs and “talked” with the dogs & their owners. This led to us adopting Basset Hounds, and then founding S.W. FL Basset Hound Rescue & Social Club. Our Club has rescued over 200 Bassets (some Bagels!) from mainly one county in FL this past 12 yrs. We rescued 4 ourselves, and cannot imagine life without at least 1 loving Basset…. they give us at least as much love as we give them. Let’s help others to learn about adoption, but that can be breed dogs too……. they are abandoned just as often. 

  • Katyladygolfer

    I boycotted the Westminster show on TV this year because they broke their relationship withe Pedigree Dog Food. I still buy Pedigree and will support their cause at every turn. I will not utilize the brands that advertise on the Westminster TV program.