Saturday, June 28, 2008

Goldston: 'Ugliest dog' contest has freak-show feel this year

By Linda Goldston
Mercury News

I had a terrible reaction to the World's Ugliest Dog Contest this year, an annual event at the Sonoma-Marin Fair in Petaluma.

Like many people, I smiled at the photos of past winners, usually hairless Chinese crested dogs. One of those dogs won the Mercury News' first Dog-Person Look-A-Like Contest.

But when I heard about the ugly dog winner this year, I knew the contest had gone too far. There's something wrong with naming a disabled dog - in this case, a dog named Gus from Florida - as the winner of such a competition.

Gus is a Chinese crested who has no hair. One of his legs was amputated because of cancer and he lost an eye in a fight with a tomcat. His owners brought him all the way from Florida for the contest and took home the top prize of $500.

The little guy apparently was rescued from a bad home and his current owners are devoted to him, but I think there are better ways of showing it.

We humans came up with freak shows years ago to display people who looked different through no fault of their own. We stopped having those and maybe it's time to take disabilities out of the equation for winners of ugly dog contests. I know the owners love their dogs; I'm not as sure of the crowd on hand when they're judged.

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