Westminster Dog Show Cuts Ties With Pedigree's Sad Dog Commercials

Is the “sad dog” example just an excuse to break ties with a company that promotes “adoption” over “buying”? You decide, but I ask you this. If everyone adopted instead of buying would dog shows like this be a thing of the past?

— Kenn

Prancing purebreds and pound puppies do not mix, or at least they will not during the televised broadcasts of the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show this year, after the club cut ties with Pedigree, a longtime sponsor, in part because of Pedigree’s commercials featuring sad-eyed mutts up for adoption.

“We want people to think of the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show as a celebration of the dogs in our lives,” said David Frei, the club’s director of communications and the host of the show for over two decades. The Pedigree advertisements, showing quaking and abused homeless pets, are in stark contrast to the coddled and cosseted animals that strut around Madison Square Garden during the two-day show, which begins on Monday.

Nestlé Purina PetCare, with its peppy ads featuring bounding athletic dogs that are more Goofy and less Droopy, the depressive cartoon character, replaced Pedigree, the show’s sponsor for two dozen years. The change, made last spring, was reported on Friday by The Associated Press.

“Show me an ad with a dog with a smile; don’t try to shame me,” Mr. Frei told The A.P. The kennel club had expressed its concerns to Pedigree, he said, adding, “We told them that, and they ignored us.”

Mr. Frei said the switch was also partly for economic reasons. But Melissa Martellotti, a brand communications manager for Mars Petcare US, which makes the Pedigree brand, said that Westminster had initiated the split and that dog show officials told the pet food company that its decision involved concerns about the ad campaign.

“They’ve shared with us, when we parted ways, that they felt that our advertising was focused too much on the cause of adoption and that wasn’t really a shared vision,” she said. The kennel club, she said, is “focused on the purebred mission,” including the adoption of pure breeds as opposed to mixed breeds.

Sandra DeFeo, the executive director of the Humane Society of New York, said, “If you want animals to be adopted, then you want to present it in the best possible way.” She said clients request that she omit disturbing pictures from the society’s newsletter. “It’s all about shedding a beautiful light so that that dog or that cat gets adopted, so that people really see how wonderful they are.”

The fashion photographer Richard Phibbs has recently begun shooting the images of animals that the society features on its Web site. “People need to know that animals are euthanized and that they are suffering,” Ms. DeFeo said. “But I don’t know that people can always handle that.”

Last year, nearly three and a half million viewers watched the Westminster Kennel Club show (and the commercials), which was broadcast on the USA Network and CNBC. Ms. Martellotti declined to say how much money Pedigree had paid to sponsor the show, but said the partnership had been a boon to its adoption initiatives. In 2007, Pedigree received $500,000 in pledges after its graphic ads were broadcast over the show’s two days.

“People did not look away,” she said. “They were inspired to pick up the phone and make donations.”


  1. Simone Larson says

    Funny –  I knew that some day the lines in the sand may be drawn.  One day we’re adopting animals in the US; next day someone is a hero for bringing a dog home from Afghanistan.  Too bad we can’t all just focus on the needs in the US.  Too bad we can’t just spay & neuter the adoptions.  And too bad all the ‘bad’ breed lines have been so compromised that we can’t even look at a pit bull anymore & wonder if it’s going to ‘turn’.  Kudos to the pure breeders.  Shame on the money makers.  And come on – if you want to adopt a dog – do it from the US first.  

    • WOLFSENT says

      WELL SAID! …and that’s how ppl are these days. Just like sending billions to other countries & letting our veterans live on the streets, we should ask these idiots what they’d take care of first, their family or someone else’s?

    • WOLFSENT says

      WELL SAID! …and that’s how ppl are these days. Just like sending billions to other countries & letting our veterans live on the streets, we should ask these idiots what they’d take care of first, their family or someone else’s?

    • Laurie Lat says

      do it from a shelter.  i don’t look at pit bulls that way.  its people that did that to that breed.  pure breeds have more health issues anyway.

    • Kathy says

      Just want to add some info on your statement of ”
       bringing a dog home from Afghanistan ” and why the person is a hero. They are  not a hero for bringing the bring the animal as such, but help to ease the soldiers transition back to normal life back home. All the animals that people brought back from the war were and has been the different soldiers constant companion during their tour there. So just as well after asking the soldiers to serve their country by constantly putting their life in danger, that they can bring home their constant companion at war which help to keep them sane. 

  2. Leona Ebert says

    All my dogs were adopted from a shelter but 1 and they were the best dogs. There are pure breeds that are in shelters as well as mutts and mixes it’s the owners that need to take and have their pets spayed and neutered to stop the over population of unwanted animals! I will always adopt from a shelter before going to a breeder!

    • Laurie Lat says

      25% of animals in shelters are pure breeds.  I got the cutest little Shih Tzu that was going to be pts cause of his skin.  he needed a good bath and good food.  he was only 2 and is the best companion you could ask for.  I would never buy a pet.  ever.

  3. Shantismom says

    All six of my dogs (4 past, 2 present) have been adopted, and I love these commercials. Any institution that is related to pets should be happy to be involved with such a positive, caring endeavor as saving “used” animals. Shame on Westminster. Kudos to Pedigree!

      • Laurie Lat says

        I agree.  shame on them.  they are about money. i always thought they didn’t care about animals, now i know for sure.

        • Tammy says

          The amount of time, money, and energy spent on these pampered pooches could probably save thousands of shelter animals. What a waste of resources.

  4. says

    Maybe the reason that Westminister cut the ties is that  company uses cheap ingredients from China causing illness and sometimes death to our pets…. There was just another thing of melanin plastic filler in jerky treats!!!  suezennne

  5. WOLFSENT says

    My dogs would look depressed too, if I fed them Pedigree. They STILL use bha/bht in their food? Still use by-products, spray it down with animal fat to make it palatable. Still use corn. I mean, C’MON! The crappy dog food ALONE should be reason enough to break ties.

    • says

      Not everyone can afford the expensive food I feed my dogs. Plus, Pedigree gives millions of dollars to help with shelter dogs.
      Feed your dogs what you want, but we should never disparage the good this company does.

      • Kathy says

        I agree, i myself feed raw due to the garbage in foods..but again this is not about the food its about the good this company has done for shelter dogs

      • pamorama says

        It’s actually cheaper to feed your dog any number of options, but that’s not what Wolfsent was noting, s/he is noting that there is a whole lot of stuff in Pedigree, including animal by-products that are not concerned with a pet’s health. The good this company does is offset by the cost to the health of any dog that is fed it. That’s just how it is. Is Monsanto less culpable for all the harm it does because it sponsored a really educational ride at Disneyland or are lumber concerns fabulous because they clearcut miles of forest and then plant saplings over 1/10 of that area? Fine to congratulate Pedigree for it’s donations to shelters, but also fine to question the very suspect ingredients in some (most) of their food.

  6. WOLFSENT says

    My dogs would look depressed too, if I fed them Pedigree. They STILL use bha/bht in their food? Still use by-products, spray it down with animal fat to make it palatable. Still use corn. I mean, C’MON! The crappy dog food ALONE should be reason enough to break ties.

  7. Cdewitt2304 says

    I loved watching the dog shows and I have 3 rescue dogs.  I thought the Pedigree ads were wonderful; anyone who wants the commitment of a show dog and the expense and lifestyle that goes with it will continue to seek out well bred dogs.  Unfortunately there are too many unscrupulous puppy mill breeders out there and some one looking for a companion animal should consider adoption as many shelter dogs make the most loving and wonderful companions.

  8. says

    Westminster is  a bunch of rich asses who don’t give a rats ass about that poor stray mix that someone just dumped on the street because they can’t afford to feed them. Screw the purebreds

  9. says

    I have owned a purebred breed and I applaud Pedigree for encouraging the adoption of animals.  While I love the pure breeds, I think we need to be educating people about spaying and neutering their dogs to decrease the unwanted population and euthanasia of millions of dogs every year who would make wonderful and loving pets.  Even pure breeds end up in shelters and if I were the owner of a kennel, I would lower my breeding program and have an active return policy for anyone who was no longer able to care for any of my dogs.  If breeders took this initiative, they could show by example and adjust their breeding programs appropriately.  As long as there are unwanted dogs, I do not feel right about encouraging breeders by purchasing a dog through them.  I will try to rescue a dog instead.

  10. luvalldogs says

    Shame on you Westminster Dog Show…most ppl involved in  your show are in it for the $$$$$$$$$$$ and how much they can  make off the pups their bitch or male can produce, Huge amounts of money spent on pure bred  dogs….BTW i have  pure bred and mixed breed dogs  …. It is not the dogs i am against its the  money hungry breeders………………………….

  11. pamorama says

    Shelter dogs and rescues are fantastic options for a pet. And I fully support and participate in efforts to help these dogs find families. But I am NOT going to apologize for purchasing my two amazing animals–which I have waited a long time to be able to afford–from conscientious, reputable breeders. I wanted certain things in this set of dogs, and I was happy to be able to find two dogs that have fulfilled my hopes. I am VERY tired of this sort of divisiveness. Good breeders take very good care of their animals and study breeding and genetics so that we can enjoy the beauty of a healthy, balanced, beautiful dog. Why are the shelter/rescue folk drawing this line in the sand. Ideally all dogs come from considered, caring and professional breedings. Westminster can run or not run any ads they choose, IMO, there is plenty of airtime elsewhere.

  12. Viv Graves says

    I have rescued for many years and worked at a “shelter’.  I love all dogs- no matter what their ancestry. Purebreds end up there- some as owner was ignorant, some as owner lost job and home, some as strays- the same of course with the magnificent mutts. It isn’t the dogs fault- even the wild ones who were cute puppies, never trained, then they got to big and didn’t behave, dug, were destructive. I have rehabbed many of these to who have gone on to live, love and be happy  being a well mannered  member of the family. Have also rehabbed many a backyard bred, and puppy-mill dog. All the dogs deserved the second chance- PLEASE ADOPT- from a rescue or a shelter-SPAY, NEUTER is a must- it helps stop the killing of adoptable dogs.
     IF you plan to show, then by all means get a “show” dog from a reputable breeder (one that does NOT breed lots of different breeds and does not have many litters a year) Do your homework!

  13. Quipfox says

    I have a purebred that is NOT a show dog, but a breed that I simply love.  When I was ready to get a dog again I looked at reputable breeders, as well as the rescue for that particular breed.  I was open to an older dog as well as a puppy.  I ache for dogs out of puppy mills, kill “shelters”, no-kill shelters, homes of hoarders, etc.. I’m not against any dog and I think it’s sad that someone who purports him/herself as an animal lover ever speaks against a dog because of where the dog comes from.  I agree with others who support spay/neuter initiatives.  My own purebred dog is spayed because I am not a breeder.  We can all point fingers at others all day long as being part of the problem of overpopulation while dogs are neglected, abused, and euthanized, and put in harms way elsewhere.  I’m also not against soldiers who found love, comfort, or safety because of a dog in a war zone and repays the dog by wanting to bring the dog home to be safer too.  IF you LOVE dogs you do what you can for any dog in need rather than disparage them.  It doesn’t matter if you use time, money, knowledge, education or whatever you have to help… as long as you help.  No dog should have to have a life unloved, and no human should either.  I don’t have to agree with Westminster to understand what they are trying to say about the focus of their show.  Perhaps this news will actually increase the attention for dogs needing adoption more than an “ad”.  If you really strongly believe in adoption and can do so… buy a bag(s) of quality dog food, take it to a local shelter and volunteer a few hours helping out…. then tell the kids in your life how you helped and how you hope people learn to spay and neuter their pets not intended to be bred.  You can do this even if you can’t have a dog where you live.

  14. Smog515 says

    For the ignoramuses at the top of this post, shelters, MANY of them KILL shelters, are FULL of pure breeds that have been abandoned by the owners, just the same as mutts.  So a promotion that encourages adoption doesn’t necessarily mean that pure breeds are being left out.  I myself adopted a pure American Cocker and a pure Siberian Husky from my county’s animal control.  There were pure German Shepherds, beautiful Labs, Goldens…don’t ever think that you can only get pure breeds from a breeder; people that don’t know what they’re getting into with a particular breed will DUMP them just the same…look at the stats the author of Marley showed in his book about Labs.  IT’S ABOUT SAVING LIVES YOU IDIOTS!

  15. says

    Unfortunately many SHOW DOGS are discarted because of the problems their breeding brings, and most show dogs ARE ABUSED.   I have read many articles on the MANY DRUGS these animals are given and are subjected to SPECIAL treatments to get better or glosier hair, despite of the mental well being of the dogs,  They are mutilated and oftentimes forgotten until it is time to show them.  SAD LIFE OF  PERHAPS HALF OF SHOW DOGS AND CATS because I do know that some are really taken care off.  Come on, many show dogs are not shown not taken care by the owners, they have handlers with whom they develop better relationships.

  16. Pacifica Pq says

    Dogs really do not care if they are Canadian, American or Afganistanian. They are not uber-focused on what breed they are.
      What they care about is to be loyal to their humans, whatever nationality they may be,they need to feel understood,respected,fed and watered.  And they need a bit of space to call their own and a human to be their pack leader to give them credibility in society.

  17. says

    I have had two shelter dogs and wouldn’t trade them for the world. Shelter dogs need someone to love them and I for one would have more if I could afford to care for them. I just cannot afford more than one. I think Westminster should be ashamed of their attitude just because a dog comes from a shelter. Shame on you Westminster……..

  18. Drieben says

    I adopted a dachshund from a shelter 8 years ago . He was 2 then one of the best things I ever did. He is like our child he has been through a lot since I had him but he has been worth the time and the money . God put us here to be caretakers of these animals pure breed or mutts.

  19. Susanmccallum says

    Just adopted a dog no matter where the dog is from a dog needing a home is a dog needing a home, no matter where he is from.if your love is for dogs who cares where the dogs are from. Dogs from the us and Canada has more of a chance to be adopted tha

    n somewhere like Afghanistan don’t you think. So I thank God for someone who would care enough for dogs in Afghanistan to want to give them the love they so need.Thank you so very much for giving them a home . May God bless you.

  20. Alisdogs says

    There is NOTHING wrong with mixed breeds! Show me a PERSON with “pure” blood lines!The Pedegree commercial is NOT promoting sadness, it promotes strength & certainly does not take anything away from the dog breed standards. Grow up people! If your dog isn’t judging the other dogs, why are YOU??? besides, there’s a lot of pure breeds in the “pounds” too! Did ya see the beautiful “Weim”???

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