Ugly Dog Contest dubious event, at best
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By Mickey Zeldes  June 27, 2014 12:00 am

The Ugliest Dog Contest at the Sonoma-Marin Fair certainly has put Petaluma on the map. It has garnered international attention and brought in contestants from around the world. I’m not sure if that is something of which to be particularly proud, though. If we were doing a contest like this with people, it would have human rights advocates en mass to protest. Why do we have no shame in making fun of, and even highlighting, these canines for their unfortunate birth defects, signs of aging and other abnormalities? It worries me that people will go too far in some way to get a contestant who might win this dubious honor.

It’s a little scary when the newspaper proclaims the winner as “demonic enough to actually freak out the judges.” The Chihuahua/Shih Tzu mix from North Carolina had “teeth protruding like a sea monster, a tail likened to a stick of lipstick and eyelids that never close,” making Peanut “the stuff nightmares are made of.” I’m glad that he has a parent that can see beyond the scary looking face and was willing to adopt him from a shelter (not many people would, that’s for sure!), and I guess if she can make something positive out of his unfortunate looks, then good for her. But screams of horror and snorts of disgust are not people’s usual reaction to dogs.

It was my first time being at the contest, and the good news is that it pulled in quite a crowd, which was a benefit to the dogs we brought from our shelter. They got tons of attention and a few interested inquiries about the adoption process.

We were there to participate in the Beauty and the Beast Parade, which pairs shelter dogs with young women from the Miss Sonoma County Outstanding Teen pageant for a walk down the red carpet during the intermissions. The purpose is to promote shelter adoptions and highlight the accomplishments of these talented, intelligent and beautiful teens. It was so nice to see how much these young ladies loved the dogs and the pains they took to carefully carry or lead the dogs through the crowd onto the stage and show them off to their best advantage.

We were really proud of the four dogs we brought with us, as they were real troopers. There must have been a crowd of several hundred people, children and other dogs plus all the noise of the fair going on, and these dogs greeted everyone with a wag and a lick. Certainly not every dog would have been as comfortable with the chaos as Churro, Mia, Mocha and Rosie.

For photos of the dogs with their handlers check out our Facebook page at I know that Mia and Rosie have already been snapped up, but if you want a really great dog who is willing to have her tummy rubbed for four straight hours by kids of all ages, you really need to come in and meet with Mocha, and don’t forget little Churro, a needy little Chihuahua mix that loves to be held. They were there to give balance to the perception of dogs – they are not ugly at all!


Upcoming events: 

Kidz ‘n Critters Summer Camp is happening. There are still a few slots left for kids going into grades 2-7. Check out more information online at or by stopping by the shelter.


No More Lost Pets: Free microchips and pet ID tags for residents of Rohnert Park and Cotati are available. Stop by the shelter during our open hours with your pet to get one. The shelter is open Wednesday 1-6:30 p.m., Thursday, Friday and Saturday 1-5:30 p.m. and Sun 1-4:30 p.m.


Mickey Zeldes is the supervisor at the Rohnert Park Animal Shelter. She can be contacted at

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