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





  • JAKC

    I have nearby neighbors that show Collies. Those dogs are rotated out into big chain link enclosures every day and I have never once seen them being walked by any of the family members.  I stayed at a hotel with my dog and there were dog show people letting their dogs out on tiny grass spots and right back into their crate. The whole thing just sickens me. 

    • 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.

  • I stopped watching this show last year after I realized that all it stood for was the canine society’s equivalent of the KKK and the Nazis – pure bloodlines, valuing looks over who the dog is, arbitrary breed standards… Dogs are companion animals – period. Love them no matter what they look like.

    • Omidog

      good grief. another victim of Disneyification.

      • CMH

        Because it is awful to want to save the lives of animals who are being killed due to mankind’s irresponsibility and depravity for creatures other than humans?!  Wow, we must be truly awful people, Omidog.  

        P.S. Ad hominem attacks will never help you get your point across to someone.  🙂

  • Lisacocciolillo

    What a bunch of Assholes!!!! I will never, ever, ever watch that again!!!!!!!!!


    SHAME on YOU Mr Frei, I will take my Pedigree & watch ANOTHER show you JERK!!!  SO many DOGS are put down EVERY day because people breed dogs. Then a nut like you say something STUPID!! WOW  I feel sad that I willnever be able to watch those beautiful dogs but I will not stand by & let the other BEAUTIFUL dogs suffer because of a STUPID HUMAN!! & his STUPID COMMENT & STUPID WAYS!!  THANK GOD FOR Pedigree & Adopt A Shelter Dog & SMAME ON YOU!!!!!

  • Chowlover

    These folks do not care about dogs….just THEIR dogs, and that is only as long as their dogs can serve as vehicles to inflate their egos and and bring them money.

  • If Pedigree cared so much for dogs, then why is their food unhealthy, profit over morality!!!

    • 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.
      ( )

      • 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

  • Well written article and also very accurate account of the Politics and hand to back scratching in AKC Shows. I showed Long haired Doxy’s back in the 70’s myself, in the Tidewater VA and PA Areas, it was always who you knew, and how high up in the pecking order they were. You could win in Puppy Class ( and I did !) but in the real ring, forget it. As is said before me, I won’t be watching nor supporting The Westminster any more either.

  • Manager

    I really liked the Pedigree ads – thought they were effective and done well. Too bad they’ve been pulled from the Westminster Dog Show… Maybe Purina will do the same kind of ads…

  • Beachblossom3

    Westminister says they want a dog with a smile.  How many smiles do you see on shelter dogs.  Just the ones that go home with someone.

  • guest

    WOW, this sounds a bit like PETA, and the Humane Society of the United States, which is just an organiztion that collects MONEY, and doesn’t actually even SAVE dogs, like it makes the public think! PETA’s goal is that NO ONE should even own an animal!! Do you know how many of those mixed breeds were intentionally bred stictly for a profit???  If you want to go after someone, go after the bogus, crap organization called CKC…..which, if you send them money, they will send you some “papers” for your dog, no matter what it is!!!  To make such a broad statement about everyone who participates in dog shows are A: snobs, and B: commercial breeders is insane!!  I have been VERY involved with rescue for about 20 years (and when I say very involved, that means at least 50 dogs/cats that are rescued by me alone, paid for out of my pocket, completely vetted by me alone, adopted out by me alone, and have a policy that if, for any reason they can’t keep that animal ever, it must come back to me…and these animals aren’t living outside in kennel runs, or pens, or cages while in my care, but inside with us in our home, being trained, socialized, etc…..and this is every single year at least that many rescued by me alone) and I have also participated in dog shows for at least that long. I mostly do obedience and field events, but have many friends who participate in conformation.  Most of us don’t breed at all…period – never have and never will! The key is education…..if you want to adopt a dog, great- go to a good, legit rescue organization who is not just trying to be about numbers and get hundreds of dogs adopted, but actually trying to match the right dog with the right family so it will stay in that home forever.  If you want to purchase a dog, do your research….go to the breed parent clubs, find out the pros and cons of each breed, the genetic concerns, NEVER, EVER buy a dog from someone who does no genetic testing- don’t just accept the “oh, my dogs are healthy and have never had a problem” line….not true!  I am sure the author of this article didn’t even educated himself enough to know that you can actually now participate in AKC dog sports (other than conformation) with MIXED BREED dogs! They must be spayed or neutered, but now can compete for obedience titles, agility titles, etc. ……So, I guess it’s not just a sport for the purebred snobs!!!

    • Michellew29

      These shows are funded by blood money. How reputable is a person that puts money into the pockets of a group that gets the larger amount of its funding from puppy mills and not “reputable breeders” ?

    • Really? What is this wall of text? TL:DR

    • Zena

      Don’t you guys get it?  What these people would like is to not have any healthy purebred dogs at all.  Nada.  Zilch.  

      Come on people.  Really?  Oh yes, by all means, lets stop any breeding of any dog.  May take a couple of decades but soon there will certainly be no purebreds, well no dogs all all actually.   

      Oh wait, that’s right, that is the goal isn’t it?  Yep PETA is at work here in this forum.

  • I have no problem with breeding dogs as long as you are not over breeding.  That’s why the shelters are so full in the first place.  I do however have a problem with the abuse and neglect (for lack of harser words) that goes on in puppy mills.  Thank you BFAS for reporting this.  I had no idea the AKC supported puppy mills and will no longer watch the dog shows. 

  • Clcooktx

    Sorry, I won’t be watching this year. The first time in a very long time! I’m not for breeding more dogs when there are so many killed every year, but I was happy to see they promoted the adoption of shelter dogs. I understand a lot of you are good breeders, but if everyone stopped breeding dogs now there would be a lot less dogs put down. I have two pure bred dogs with papers both that ended up dumped in shelters. Thank goodness there were rescue groups to save them!! Bad, bad move Westminster!! 

  • What a disgrace for them to do that!!!!!  They should  be doing everything they can to promote a shelter dog.  Too serious for their broadcast.  BS@!  

  • eileen

    Lets face it the dogs dont give a damn about trophys ,ribbons ,money or a title its the owners.The dogs don ‘t care that the dog they are playing has a chapionship line 200 years old.Its all about the money just like everything else.

  • Anonymous

    I have two AKC Boxers and help run our club here in Hawaii. For the last three years, I have watch the AKC oppose any legislation to protect dogs with no recommended solutions to curb puppy mills and unethical breeding. It is downright shameful to see them rally our responsible breeders to oppose bills, especially when you research how much money “puppy mills” fund their enterprise. I love showing my Boxer, but am sad that they are the only registry I can use to compete with my dog. Their testimony in opposition to legislation must be exposed. It’s not just the breed standards that put appearance above health, it’s their entire enterprise. Won’t any major media outlet take this on?

  • Their page is deleting comments and blocking all posters critical of their decision to dump Pedigree, as fast as those comments are posted. 

    • CMH

      Mmm, censorship of their opposition, too?!  Wow, the WKC is really on a roll with PR, aren’t they?  

  • Please boycott the Westminster Dog Show. It is UNACCEPTABLE for them to treat shelter dogs like this. Since they have snubbed shelter dogs, we should snub their dog show and their sponsors!

    There is a Facebook page promoting the boycott: Boycott Westminster Dog Show

    • Tonia Rogan

      Thanks for the FB page info, I’m headed there next and will make sure I get the word out.

    • Pamela Post

      I looked for the facebook page and it came up no results, is it supposed to be just like you wrote it?

      • Yes, Pamela, the name is exactly as written. The page is there; maybe there was a FB glitch when you tried to look earlier…

    • Cmh96734

      Here is the link:

  • Supernaturalthng

    Won’t watch it either.  Maybe if we all ban together and shut the TV off when it comes on, they will learn a lesson.

    • There is a Facebook page promoting a boycott of the dog show: Boycott Westminster Dog Show. 

  • Ashley

    Your decision to bash all show dogs and handlers is in line with PETA. It doesn’t feel so good whe it is turned around, does it?
    I have a show dog as well as two rescue dogs. I, as well as most of the people I know in the show world, help rescues as well as showing our dogs. I love the feeling when my dog and I are in the ring. The grooming is better than therapy for me. I also love the time I spend with my rescues grooming and doing things like therapy and agility. But I guess because I show I must be some evil rescue hater snob, right?

    • Michellew29

      I didn’t mean to like this, i meant to reply. If you are putting money into the pockets of the AKC then you are financially contributing to the continued torture of puppy mill dogs.

      • I know several people with dogs at westminister and never heard of them getting their dog from puppy mills!!!

        • Michellew29

          Do they not pay to get into these shows? Do they not pay to register their own dogs and litters? They are putting money into the pockets of people who get the majority of their funding from puppy mills just to say their dog is the best of the best.

    • “The grooming is better than therapy for me.”
      Why is this about you? Why isn’t about the dog?

  • Virginiaautrey

    Westminster you have your nose stuck to far in the air !!!! How could you be so cold hearted. I will not be watching any more. I will pray for all the Shelter dogs. Karma will bite you in the a**.

  • Alisaspicer

    I don’t like the Westminster Dog Show.  Never did.  I’m glad that many people want to have show dogs & give them a good home.  But, I’d rather have a dog that can get dirty & play & not be held to someone else’s standard of what makes that dog look like a winner.  I LOVE mutts.  They have a lot of heart and just want to be loved by their person.

  • Therese

    One more reason I won’t be watching, not that I ever did.  I found the whole show ring so superficial, as I had been a volunteer dog-walker for my local shelter from 1995 to 2000.  I just can’t see it, when there are so many homeless pets who are homeless thru no fault of their own.  The whole show thing just bored me to tears.

  • Michellew29

    I had a silky terrier that I bought 20 years ago from a pet store that came from a long line of champions, The champion bloodline stopped at his great grandparents and then it was nothing but inbreeding up to his generation. I bought him before I knew what a puppy mill was. I only found out about puppy mills when I started researching his back ground because of all his medical issues. Puppy mills are horrific places that do unimaginable cruel things to dogs simply for a profit. 80% of dogs registered with the AKC annually are pumped out of puppy mills. The rest come from so called reputable breeders. Puppy mills are the bread and butter of the AKC and the AKC is fully aware of the horrors that go on in puppy mills yet they still take the money from every single puppy and every single litter and use it to sponsor all these dog shows and events. If these reputable breeders really cared about the well being of their breeds they would not be bed partners with the AKC. So while your watching the dog show remember all the purebred dogs in these mills that literally give their lives so these shows can be put on to begin with. And say a prayer for the ones that are still in mills missing eyes and teeth, have their jaws rotting off of their faces, females riddled with tumors and still feeding puppies, starving and freezing scared to death because of the abuses they have endured and dogs who have had pipes shoved down their throats so no one can hear their cries! Enjoy!

    • Tonia Rogan

      Well put, Michelle. That is the sad truth and I wish everyone knew of these horrors! And to those of you posting about having a show dog, I don’t think that anybody here is calling you snobs. I think that this is directed mainly at the AKC itself…however, whether or not your show dog came from one of these terrible places or from a loving, caring breeder – I don’t see how therapeutic it could possibly be to support ANYTHING even remotely associated with puppy mills. You truly are, in a sense, supporting them yourself by turning a blind eye to these defenseless dogs.

      • Diane

        Here, here! I couldn’t have put it better myself!

    • Diane

      Well said…so many people choose to shut their eyes to the reality of what really goes on behind the scenes. 

  • Chell1272

    not that i really watched, i <3 a mutt–but i wont now

    • KelGirl1077

      I have two dogs that I got from a responsible breeder 9 years ago…the last 2 breeder dogs I will ever own. 

      I was asked to help promote dogs at a local dog shelter (a kill shelter).  There are so many purebred dogs that go into that facility and never leave.  That shelter is no different than most in the US.  I am thrilled to see that there are places like Pedigree that support shelter dogs whether they are pure or not.  I  have adopted both a purebred Dal and a mixed pit/shar pei.  They are both wonderful dogs and have fit in so nicely with my family…and they were both on a kill list at the shelter that had them.  Unfortunately, there are so many pure dogs that never find their homes…just ask 2 year old Eddie (pictured).  Well, I would tell you to ask him, but you can’t because he wasn’t adopted in time even though he is a pure Jack Russell!

      Breeding is a business and so many “responsibly” bred dogs end up just like Eddie…Sad really. 

  • Sheila Adams

    I will not be watching the show this year because of this..