On February 6, a little over a week before the Westminster Dog Show, a blogger associated with People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) wrote that the organization would protest outside the U.S.’s most famous dog show. The plan was for protesters to dress in white robes and hoods to draw comparisons between breeders and Ku Klux Klan.
Last year, PETA similarly picketed the show and held up signs featuring pictures of a forlorn shelter dog with the slogan “Breeders Kills Shelter Dogs’ Chances.”
PETA followed through on this year’s plans to protest while dressed as Klan members in front of New York’s Madison Square Garden, where the show is traditionally held. A banner reading “Welcome AKC Members” with AKC crossed out and KKK written in its place hung from the group’s table, reports NBC Sports. Picketers handed out pamphlets titled “The KKK and the AKC: BFF?” reports the Los Angeles Times.
The handout reads in part:
Like the Klan, dog breeders who subscribe to AKC standards are all about the sanctity of “pure bloodlines.” So what if beagles have epileptic seizures, Dalmatians are deaf, and pugs can barely breathe because of how they are purposely bred to look a certain way? Looks are everything! … We like the way the AKC thinks. At the KKK, we advocate the idea of a “master race,” and the AKC promotes genetic manipulation to create a “master pedigree.”
In addition to the “master race” and “master pedigree” comparison, PETA insinuates that pedigreed dogs take away the chances of shelter and rescue dogs getting adopted. The handout continues, “AKC officials don’t rub out these ‘inferiors’ directly, but they know that every ‘purebred’ puppy bought from a breeder means ‘lights out’ for another mutt at the animal shelter. And the AKC doesn’t have to lift a finger!”
In a statement picked up by several news outlets, David Frei, spokesman for Westminster and USA Network, the TV outlet televising the show, said:
I can’t speak for everyone, but the vast majority of the people exhibiting and handling and showing Westminster are more interested in the health of dogs than anything else … We want to produce the next generation of healthy and happy dogs, not just for the show ring but for the couches at home.
The protests didn’t stay strictly outside. Moments before judge Elliott Weiss crowned a Scottish Terrier named Sadie Best in Show, a pair of women walked into the ring and held signs reading “Mutts Rule” and “Breeders Kill Shelter Dogs’ Chances” above their heads, reports the Associated Press via Yahoo News.
“During that time they always have the lights off and the spotlight focused on the dog,” she said. “All of a sudden, this girl enters the floor. You couldn’t really see her at first but clearly there was a disruption because the lights came back.”
The woman calmly walked to the center of the floor and held up a sign that had “Mutts Rule” and the PETA logo on it.
“When everyone realized that’s what was going on the whole place started booing,” Moustaki said.
A security guard walked briskly toward the woman to escort her off the green carpet, and as he did so another woman strode into the ring and held up the “Breeders Kill Shelter Dogs’ Chances” sign. She, too, was escorted away by security.
The protest was not seen by viewers of the televised broadcast.
“I thought, ‘All the people at home are going to think that people are booing the Doberman,’” said Moustaki.
The protesters, Dana Sylvester and Hope Round, were charged with criminal trespass, the AP reported.
On its website, PETA wrote of the incident, “People who are deliberately breeding animals even when U.S. animal shelters must put 3 to 4 million dogs and cats to death every year are callous, profit-hungry, cruel shoo-ins for worst in show.”
PETA also announced plans to run an ad in Sadie’s hometown of Mackinac Island, Michigan, that depicts a family being handed a body bag filled with a shelter dog’s corpse after purchasing a pedigreed dog.
Sadie is the eighth Scottie to win Best in Show since Westminster’s inception in 1877.