Did Obama Break a Pledge to Adopt a Rescue Dog?

Apr 13, 2009 7:07pm

"We’re going to adopt a dog, I think," Michelle Obama told Entertainment Tonight on September 30, 2008.
"A rescue dog," said then-Sen. Obama.

But something happened to that idea.

In his first post-election press conference on November 7, 2008, then President-elect was asked what kind of dog he was planning on buying for his girls.

"We have two criteria that have to be reconciled," the president said. "One is that Malia is allergic, so it has to be hypo-allergenic. There are a number of breeds that are hypo-allergenic. On the other hand, our preference would be to get a shelter dog. But obviously, a lot of shelter dogs are mutts, like me. So the — so, whether we’re going to be able to balance those two things, I think, is a pressing issue on the Obama household."

Over the weekend we learned that the Obama girls would be gifted with a pure-bred Portuguese Water Dog named Bo, a gift from Sen. Ted Kennedy, D-Mass.

It would seem that the president didn’t ever make a "promise" or "pledge" to adopt a shelter dog.

But it’s also true that as a candidate for the presidency he indicated that he was going to do so.

Animal rights activists are chagrined with his decision.

Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO Humane Society of the United States, issued a statement congratulating the Obamas for "taking in a second-chance dog. Bo is a Portuguese water dog who was apparently returned by the family that originally purchased him."

But Pacelle was clearly disappointed, noting that families "like the Obamas, who are interested in a particular breed of animal or have special circumstances such as allergies in their household, can turn to their local animal shelter or breed rescue group. About one-quarter of all dogs in shelters are purebreds, many surrendered by their owners like the new First Dog."

The Humane Society press release also pointed out that three million "healthy and treatable dogs and cats are put down every year in shelters across America. These animals are loving, happy and loyal dogs and cats who ended up in shelters through no fault of their own. Yet, at the same time, there are more than 10,000 puppy mills churning out dogs for the pet trade to be sold to unsuspecting buyers."

"We see faddism when it comes to pet-keeping in the movies, and we may see that scenario play out in the case with the First Family’s selection of a Portuguese water dog," added Pacelle. "There are reputable breeders of these dogs, yet sadly we expect disreputable puppy mill operators to start producing them as well, intent on cashing in on the heightened awareness of this breed."

The Obamas have said they intend to give a charitable contribution to the Washington DC chapter of the Humane Society. Bo arrives tomorrow.

– Jake Tapper and Sunlen Miller

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