Animal rescuers disappointed over First Dog choice

Mon Apr 13, 2009 3:48pm EDT
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By Ellen Wulfhorst

NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) - Animal rescuers voiced disappointment on Monday that President Barack Obama and his family chose a purebred dog from a breeder over rescuing an unwanted animal from a shelter.

Bo, the first family's new Portuguese Water Dog, is six-month-old puppy who was returned to his Texas breeder by a previous owner.

"I think all of us who work trying to place homeless animals had hoped that they would choose a shelter dog," said Steve Gruber, spokesman for the Mayor's Alliance for NYC's Animals in New York City.

"His choosing to go to a breeder is a disappointment. Choosing a shelter dog, that would have been a really powerful message to the American people," he said.

The Portuguese Water Dog was chosen in part because the breed is hypoallergenic and Malia Obama has allergies.

However such a dog could have been found on any number of Internet rescue sites or through Portuguese Water Dog rescue groups, said Antonia Kwalick, adoption coordinator for the Infinite Hope rescue group in Brooklyn, New York.

Take Pepper, a young Portuguese Water Dog up for adoption in nearby Arlington, Virginia, found online with just a few quick keys strokes on the computer, Kwalick said. The shaggy brown-eyed Pepper is described by her rescuers as an "adorable and sweet" dog who "loves kids."

"I am really disappointed," Kwalick said, calling the Obamas' decision "elitist" for "wanting a pure breed and getting it from a breeder so that it is presumed perfect."   Continued...

<p>Bo, a six-month old male Portuguese water dog, is seen in this White House photograph released April 12, 2009. REUTERS/Pete Souza-The White House/Handout</p>