April 13, 2009 / 5:54 PM / 8 years ago

Animal rescuers disappointed over First Dog choice

3 Min Read

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

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."

"It would have been good for the girls to actually walk into a shelter to see how many animals need homes. They should have set a better example," she said.

In the blogosphere, opinions were mixed. While some bloggers were critical, others noted that Bo already had been returned by one owner and needed a home.

Others noted first-time dog owners might fare poorly with a rescue dog, and others felt the decision was a private matter. Also, the Obamas will reportedly make a donation to an animal shelter.

Some rescuers voiced concern of a possible surge in the number of people wanting Portuguese Water Dogs who could find themselves unable to care for the high-energy canines. Those dogs could land in shelters, where millions of unwanted dogs and cats are euthanized every year, they said.

"It's a cycle that should stop," said Kwalick.

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