You wanna know what’s wrong with them? Just look at the winners. They’re almost always genetically diseased, surgically altered, or otherwise afflicted with extreme veterinary conditions.
No, despite their billing, these popular human endeavors, what we call "ugly pet contests," are not necessarily so benign. Sure, some may believe they showcase the depth of the human-animal bond — as in, isn’t it amazing that anyone could ever love an animal that looks like that? — but the veterinarian in me says, hmmmm … not convinced.
For starters, I have trouble with the entire concept of an "ugly pet" contest. An ugly anything showdown should ideally find any thinking person in something of a moral quandary. But when innocents (i.e., pets) are involved, I daresay our sensitivity on the matter might be upped somewhat. After all, it’s not too much of a stretch to argue that events in which pets vie for the negative of beauty might serve only to ridicule our pets’ subservience to us. After all, we’d never consider an "ugly baby" contest.
Am I taking things a bit too far? Perhaps conceptually. Yet when you start to look at these contests from a veterinarian’s point of view … maybe you’ll relent.
Take this year’s World’s Ugliest Dog Contest. In evidence at this "pet-lover’s" event: obesity, skin disease, glaucoma, poorly managed keratoconjunctivitis sicca, severe periodontal disease … conditions that are not so nice. And when the winner has a malunion radius fracture, intervertebral disc disease causing a painfully curved spine, and some kind of ocular condition - as this year's winner did - I start to fret.
And we’re celebrating them!
OK, I’ll say it: Viewed from a pure health perspective, these ugly pet contests are rude and unnecessary.
Sure, these contests are cute, fun, serve as community fundraisers and a place for pet people to meet, and are a legitimate way to raise the profile of undesirable pets while celebrating the human-animal bond. But maybe it’s time to dig a little deeper. Because to revel in the unhealthy glory of the diseased, malformed and deprived is NOT the ideal way to achieve these worthy goals.
Dr. Patty Khuly
Pic of the day: Princess Abby Francis, World's Ugliest Dog; European Pressphoto Agency (EPA)