Best Friends Blog

The dog house at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue

Congratulations, once again, to the Obama family! They’ve welcomed a second pup into the White House. Here’s a tweet from Mrs. Obama showing a picture of the Portuguese water hound pair.

Bo, the first Obama First Dog, was a gift from the late Senator Ted Kennedy. The Obama girls, Sasha and Malia, had been asking for a dog back in 2008. Then candidate Obama said the family would bring home a dog following the election. He kept his promise and home happened to be the White House. There was much wailing and gnashing of teeth at the time because the rescue world had hoped that the nation’s canine bully pulpit might be available to an actual bully, and an adopted one at that, or at least to an adopted dog of some description. Alas, Bo was from the same breeder as Senator Kennedy’s Portuguese water dog – the same litter in fact.

Just as with Bo, the Obamas looked to a breeder to source Sunny. Disappointing, but hey, chastising the Obamas for not adopting their pets is getting kind of old. We’ve done it before, and clearly it didn’t get us anywhere. I think we all agree that the preference would have been for the Obamas to adopt their second pup from a rescue group or shelter. Of course, the benefit to the leader of the free world for adopting would be immeasurable, but at least Sunny came from a hobby breeder rather than a puppy mill operation, a pet store or via the Internet. And given the history of presidential pets – Herbert Hoover had two crocodiles that he liked to frighten selected guests with, Calvin Coolidge had a pygmy hippo, Lyndon Johnson famously lifted his beagle by the ears to get Him (that was the dog’s name) to howl, George H.W. Bush’s dog Millie actually had pups while in office, and the junior George W’s Barney pooped on camera – the Obamas aren’t doing too badly.

Apparently, the Obama girls felt that Bo was not getting enough canine socialization behind the White House gates and had been pitching President Dad for another dog last year. The president said, following his win last November, that one dog was probably enough for now, but when the girls and Mrs. Obama started organizing play dates on the White House lawn for Bo with dogs of friends and family, the writing was on the wall. That’s the way most households work – mom and kids put their collective foot down, and dad doesn’t really have much choice.

Maybe it’s the mood I’m in, maybe it’s just too hot here in mid-August to work up a rant, but rather than bash the First Family for not taking the opportunity to be role models when acquiring a new dog by adopting from a rescue or shelter, I’d like to thank President Obama today for a few different, but related reasons.

Number one: The Obama family made a donation to the Washington Humane Society as part of the Sunny transaction. If I were in a more cynical mood, I may call that hush money, but today I am going to call it a step in the right direction. The publicity around such a donation can only stand to show the country the value rescue plays. So, Mr. President, thank you.

Number two: The White House has officially come out against any form of breed-discriminatory legislation (BDL). A petition posted to the We the People site asked for the federal government to ban BDL. While this isn’t really a federal government issue, the White House has officially responded. Their response is right on target, highlighting research that shows how ineffective and costly BDL is. So again, thank you, Mr. President.

And, three: Thank you in advance for having Sunny spayed. I don’t know if she was fixed before she arrived at the White House as Bo was, but I’m just going to assume that the Obamas will do the right thing. We certainly don’t need an “oops” litter at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. The nation has enough drama without trying to explain how neutered Bo’s girlfriend had an out-of-wedlock litter!

Francis Battista
Best Friends Animal Society

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  • bardee

    Not making excuses, cause I really wish they’d adopted too…but do you think maybe they are worried that if they adopt a dog that’s been surrendered, or lost etc that the past owners will come forward and try to get the dog back, because of who adopted it…just to get some limelight? I’m a no one and when I adopted a dog from a local shelter, I constantly worried we’d come across the past owner and they’d try to take my dog! I don’t buy into the argument that they needed a purebred and therefore had to go to a breeder…I’m allergic to dogs and currently have a pure breed standard poodle, who was a rescue, he’s even papered…papers mean nothing if the breeder doesn’t take dogs back..I never gotten a dog from a breeder and have always found no shedding dogs in rescues, so that makes no sense to me…I also have a chihuahua foster dog that is turning my well behaved large dog into a menace…if anyone’s interested..haha

  • Tina Clark

    Thank you, Francis, for this level-headed post. There is so much hysteria going on about the first family not adopting from a shelter or rescue. Of course, most of us would have preferred for them to adopt, but getting a dog from a reputable breeder does not make them the devil incarnate. And to Jessie, who claims that breeders are “killers as they are causing dogs in shelters to die,” and that even anyone who obtains a dog from a breeder is directly responsible for a shelter dog’s death, that is absurd. There are several million more people planning on bringing a pet into their family, but undecided where to obtain that animal, than there are animals dying in “shelters.” When we open our eyes and accept this fact, then we understand that there is no “overpopulation” problem, and that breeders are not responsible for animals dying in “shelters.” It is only those doing the killing who are responsible.

    • Mary

      This really disappoints me to no end! There is no reason that anyone should buy a dog or cat from any breeder. There are no responsible “hobby” breeders; call it what it is, they are all breeders. Millions of animals are PTS each year because there is an over pet populations! Stop the insanity! As a person who spends ours a week volunteering for a very high kill shelter in KY, this post defending the Obama’s by Best Friends disturbs me! When will change happen? Never with this type of mindset!

  • RevereLP

    Obama stated that he would have preferred to adopt a shelter dog, but sought out a non-shedding breed because his daughter has allergies. My impression, when they got Bo, was that the Obama family would have gladly rescued a non-shedding dog had the dying Senator Kennedy not intervened. Bo was originally purchased as a puppy but then returned to the breeder after a few months so to that end, while he was not exactly a rescue, neither was he an 8 week old breeder-bought poster pup.

    The new addition, Sunny, seems to have come from the same sort of circumstances. She’s about a year old, and she’s also a completely black dog (statistically black animals are the least-likely to be chosen from shelters) so I also see this situation as very positive, especially paired with the donation to the Washington Humane Society.

  • Sherry

    Nobody asked them to adopt a Pit or a bully breed, but they bragged they were going to adopt because I remember getting a BF magazine telling about it and I wrote BF telling them there should be no politics in their magazine and to be sure and let me know when Obama’s adopted. HA! HA!
    They say a lot that they never follow through on.

  • finette

    Wow, these comments are all over the place. That’s when you know you’ve written something with nuance. 🙂

    I am not seeing the snark? As for the shelter/rescue issue: I am a huge rescue advocate. I volunteer regularly with a group that promotes adoption, spay/neuter, and responsible pet ownership. I will certainly never have a non-shelter/rescue dog in my lifetime, and in fact I think that most people should opt for mutts rather than purebreds, unless they legitimately need a working dog with specific skills or attributes.

    BUT. Malia (I think) has dog allergies, so they need hypoallergenic dogs and the PWD fits the bill. Sure, they could have tried a rescue for PWDs or something more common like poodles…but you might be surprised how many rescues end up being returned for reasons beyond the family’s control. Imagine the PR nightmare if that happened in this case. With Sunny I’m sure they had ample opportunity to make sure she got along with them and with Bo before she even arrived at the White House.

    I’m glad to hear about the donation and the statement on BDL.

    • pamazar

      If they had adopted a rescue with issues, then Bo’s trainer/dog walker who supposedly earns $$$$$ should be able to help the dog don’t you think? And If they can afford to pay that kind of money for a trainer, they can afford to pay Cesar Millan to rehabilitate the dog. Cesar would probably do it for free!

      And I doubt they would return a problematic dog to the shelter, I’m pretty sure they would have found another home for it.

      Bo and Sunny are cuties, but my Corgi rules!

  • Angela

    The Obama’s clearly enjoy this breed. They have purchased their dogs from reputable breeders. If you remember correctly – they did get these dogs because they are hypoallergenic. You should be happy they didn’t buy a Goldendoodle or a Labradoodle or some other stupid designer ‘doodle,’ breed because that would have been even worse! I support the rescue of all breeds, but to expect the president to adopt a Pit Bull or other bully breed just because they are ‘misunderstood,’ and are currently highly prevalent in kill – shelters does NOT make sense. Making a breed popular (in a positive way OR a negative way) is NEVER beneficial to the breed. If they would have adopted a mutt of questionable origin, I would have been much happier for them than if they would have indulged in the Pit Bull controversy. Some people feel more comfortable with a certain breed. It would have been nice if they would have adopted a nice mutt, but they didn’t.

    • Angela

      ALSO – It is FANTASTIC that they announced that the white house is against BDL! That is an absolute victory and will help bully breeds find loving homes. One of the biggest hurdles, and the reason why I personally couldn’t adopt a pittie (I will some day.) is because I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to find housing that would accept me. It’s hard enough with a breed that isn’t discriminated against and this is a HUGE step in the right direction. I cannot WAIT to see that stupid “anti-breed-list” GO AWAY.

  • jessie

    There is no reason EVER to buy from a breeder when 5-6 million cats and dogs die in shelters. I would have expected better from BF. You should be educating that no one should be buying from any kind of breeder while pets are dying. When you buy from a breeder, a dog in a shelter dies. Anyone who chooses to buy from a breeder should be forced go to a shelter and kill perfectly healthy and happy cats and dogs by putting them in a gassing box, as that is exactly what they are doing when they buy. There are all types of dogs available in rescues/shelters.

    • TM

      I am a shelter volunteer, I foster, and i’ve adopted, and will continue to adopt, but I will also be getting a dog from a breeder within the next 3 years. You have to be JOKING, if you think that we should stop breeding all together. Do you know how many breeds would be gone from the world if you did that!? It is everybody’s right to get a dog from a breeder if they choose. Responsible breeders don’t add to the problem. Responsible breeders breed for a purpose, health test their dogs, don’t breed more than 3 times a year (IF that), sell puppies on a spay/neuter contract if they are pet quality, and will take back a dog they sell at any time in it’s life. I am sorry, but you can’t find EVERY breed in a shelter. Yes, i’ve come across many uncommon breeds, but my next dog I want to know the background, the parents I know will be health tested, and ill get to raise it how I want. I want a Beauceron by the way, which is very hard to find in shelters/rescues. What we NEED to focus on are the backyard breeders, puppy mills, and pet stores.

      • Beverly White Malone

        We have several rescue pets (a dog and 3 cats) I believe in supporting the no kill shelters and adopting these rescued animals. But like you my plans for the future include a specific breed and a puppy that I will want from a breeder so that I know history, health, etc.! There is plenty of room for everyone!

      • maxiemom

        People like this don’t care about breeds disappearing. You simply can’t reason with them, so don’t try.

    • maxiemom

      No, there aren’t ‘all types’ of dogs available. Some breeds are going extinct now, and I, for one, don’t want to see them disappear. No one who REALLY loves dogs should.

  • Leslie Johnson

    You are more positive and mentally healthy that I. The Obamas could have adopted a great dog from a rescue AND made a big donation. (And, yes, I voted for him.)

  • Dervish

    My only problem with them getting a dog from a breeder AGAIN is that Obama said he was going to adopt a shelter dog and didn’t. At the time I thought why didn’t he adopt another dog so he could keep his promise. And alas he gets another dog and again buys her from a breeder.

    • maxiemom

      Actually, he said he’d TRY to find a shelter dog but the dog had to fit in because of his daughter’s allergies.

      Also, since Bo was a GIFT, whining about the so-called choice is ludicrous and downright disgusting.

      And BTW, if you don’t have a child with allergies to dogs, then shut it. I DO. My son had allergy shots for over 5 years, and though we’ve had an Aussie, a border collie, and a Lhasa Apso (the only one he wouldn’t be allergic to), the shots don’t get rid of all the problems related to those allergies. Also, not everyone wants to have their child stuck with needles once or twice a week for YEARS.

  • TM

    Not a big fan of this article at all. Like someone else suggested, being snarky is not the way to go. Why should we critique them for going to a breeder? I am deeply involved with rescue but I do plan on getting a couple dogs from RESPONSIBLE breeders. How about explaining that responsible breeders are not the enemy…nobody will ever stop breeding dogs, so it’s up to us to bring up laws that will eventually rid us of pet stores/puppy mils/backyard breeders/irresponsible pet owners, and leave us with responsible breeders. Lets not lump ALL breeders as “bad” or “not as bad as a puppy mill, but still bad.” I love Best Friends and I usually enjoy the articles but this one is just ridiculous and poorly put together. Try again.

    • jessie

      You are not “deeply involved with rescue” if you plan on getting a “couple dogs” from breeders. Cut the lies. All breeders are more than bad, they are killers as they are causing dogs in shelters to die.

      • TM

        Actually I am DEEPLY INVOLVED with rescue. I am 17 years old. I’ve been volunteering since I was 11 years old. I’ve been fostering since I was 13 years old. I spend EVERY weekend at the shelter and i’ve adopted numerous dogs and a cat thus far. I’m sorry you are so ignorant that you can’t see we NEED responsible breeders. I’m sorry, but when you adopt from a shelter you can not predict health, temperament, etc. you don’t know the parents, the background, anything. For ONCE i’d like to know I will get a healthy dog, ill get to meet the parents, the breeder, etc. I also want to raise my new puppy how I want. It’s near impossible to find a Beauceron in a shelter or rescue. I am sorry that you think a ton of dog breeds should go extinct and think that people should not have any freedom in what they get. I am all for banishing puppy mills, pet stores, and putting laws in place that will help prevent idiots from breeding, but let’s not forget that responsible breeders are NOT the enemy.

  • Cynthia Neal

    SNARKY, Francis. Best Friends can do better than this. Rethink being snarky. Not going to win any friends or influence any of us who have both rescue and bought from a breeder dogs. Cheap shots are exactly that – CHEAP.

    • jessie

      There is no reason EVER to buy from a breeder when 5-6 million cats and dogs die in shelters. Shame on you for buying when you could have adopted. When you bought from the breeders, dogs in a shelter died. You should be forced to go a shelter and kill dogs yourself so you can see exactly how they fight to live and scream in pain as they realize the are being killed. You are just as responsible for their death as those that actually tuned on the gas chamber. Shame on you. There are all types of dogs available in rescues/shelters.

  • Michele

    I love this post. It’s exactly how I feel. I work in a shelter and of coarse we would all love a shelter dog to be adopted, but I’m happy for the Obama family they handled this new addition in the right way. Bashing is old and unproductive. Congratulations to them all.

  • Ashley

    I’m kinda surprised they got another dog because I’ve read that Bo spends most of his time with his trainer (you know the one who earns $100,000 per year “training” the dog), rather than the family. When my parents visited the White House last year for a tour (when they still had tours), they saw Bo with his trainer. My mom remarked that he was very well-tranined and I should hope so considering the trainer makes so much money!

    I do have to ask, why was is “bad” that one of George W Bush’s dogs “pooped on camera”? They are dogs, they don’t care who’s watching! When they gotta go, they gotta go! Better outside on camera than in the Oval office! 😉

  • Crystal Beasley

    Francis, I loved this blog post! Great insight on this issue, as always.