Is Pres. Obama Really the Change We Can Believe In?

by Laura Allen 

President Barack ObamaYesterday, I told everyone to take a page from the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) and put a positive spin on the Obamas’ choice of a dog.

The Obamas finally, almost reluctantly, acknowledged that they were not adopting a homeless dog from a local shelter as President Obama promised when he was candidate Obama.

Instead, they accepted a 6 month old puppy originally from a commercial dog breeder who sells dogs to Sen. Ted Kennedy.

HSUS decided to make the best of it and pointed out the puppy, Bo, was given a home by the Obamas because he was not doing well in his current home.  There was a hint the old owners might well have surrendered him to a shelter and the Obamas stepped in to "rescue" Bo.

But Bo is a pure bred Portuguese water dog, a relatively rare breed, whose breeder, Martha Stern, said is not a "rescue".  She explained dogs that don’t work out are returned to her and she will sell them to someone else. There is no chance a dog like this would ever have needed rescuing. 

Bo is actually from a litter that was named "Hope and Change".  He was placed with the Washington, D.C. area family where he reportedly did not work out and then sent to Sen. Kennedy’s trainer.  He will now join the Obamas in the White House, as if this was the plan all along.

I think now that President Obama missed an opportunity not only to save a life, but also to draw national attention to the tragedy of the millions of shelter animals, dogs, cats and other pets, that are euthanized every year simply because they are homeless, unwanted, or declared "unadoptable" for some arbitrary reason.  If you have ever loved an animal, you know how heartbreaking, how gut wrenching this tragedy is. 

Shelter dogBy adopting a homeless dog as promised, President and Mrs. Obama would have drawn thousands of people to their local shelters to adopt, foster, volunteer and make the changes these animals need.

Spay/neuter could have become a household word as citizens began looking for the free or low cost services needed to lower shelter intake and euthanasia rates.

By adopting a dog from a shelter or rescue as promised, President and Mrs. Obama could have signaled a need for change in the regulation of puppy mill operations that churn out puppies like manufactured goods in deplorable conditions. 

More than 25% of these puppies end up in public shelters. 

These operations cage breeding dogs usually 24/7 in small, filthy enclosures, many times stacked one on top of the other, with little or no shelter, veterinary care, or food and fresh water, and no exercise, love or affection. The dogs are never groomed and are usually found dirty and covered with fleas, tics and other pests. Females are bred over and over until their organs fall out and they die or are killed, dumped or sold for research. These dogs live in unrelieved misery.

puppy millIf these operations are even regulated, which many are not, APHIS or a state agency or law enforcement typically turn a blind eye, dithering over their authority to shut them down, pretending these are somehow legitimate "businesses" that should be supported, ignoring that these sleazy operators make their money from animal cruelty and leave communities with unwanted dogs in their shelters, environmental and health hazards from improperly disposed of carcasses and waste, infestation, and wastewater and other sewage problems.  

These places exist because the public buys dogs from pet stores or from these commercial breeders or puppy millers over the internet or through ads.  More than 90% of dogs sold by pet stores come from operations like this.

If the Obamas had adopted a dog, maybe fewer people would purchase dogs this way and instead adopt one of the millions of animals certain to die a lonely and sometimes cruel death in a shelter.   Maybe Americans would have called for an end to these puppy mills. Maybe USDA/APHIS under President Obama’s leadership would strengthen its regulations and stop pretending animal cruelty can be a legitimate business.  Maybe some of these many bills pending in state legislatures this year to limit the breeding and improve conditions in these places would pass without being watered down till their provisions are meaningless.      

Maybe President Obama could have given us change we could believe in, change that would make a real difference for these animals.   


26 thoughts on “Is Pres. Obama Really the Change We Can Believe In?”

  1. This says it all and I agree 100%. I was so saddened and disappointed when I heard this on the news. As a shelter volunteer, I see how loving shelter dogs are and how many come through. So many! And I am never even exposed to the animals that are deemed “unadoptable”. I wish someone like Oprah would call Obama out on this.

  2. President Obama has lost
    ALL of the respect I had for him. Character is doing the right thing even when you don’t want to. Bottom line is-Barak Obama is a liar and a Sell-Out!! Shame on him!

  3. Even I, as a non-american, was excited and happy when I learned that Barack Obama hinted that he intended to give a home to a shelter dog. I am deeply disappointed that he didn’t live up to this expectation! As you so clearly write in your article, it would have changed the lives of thousands of shelterdogs and other animals in the pet family. A dis-heartening day for pets in America and in other countries around the world. Although I’m sure the dog he got instead also will make a good presidential pet, this is not the dog we had hoped for.
    Carina from Sweden

  4. because there was no home for it — but there WAS a home for a breeder puppy — go figure…….

    Why breed and buy when PERFECTLY GOOD shelter cats and dogs, kittens and PUPPIES have to DIE because there are not enough homes for them all???

    I am VERY VERY SAD and DISAPPOINTED in the Obamas for not keeping their promise to adopt a shelter dog!!!

    Obama has lost my confidence NOW — and in the future, he has lost my vote in the next election if he decides to run again.

  5. I am outraged by the way the President talked the talk, but couldn’t walk the walk.
    He could have been a profound role model. Instead he went the route of Ted Kennedy, of being an elitist and having a “perfect” puppy placed in his lap.

    This is a very very sad day for animal welfare and rescue…as well as a slap in the face to all of us who see the misery and sadness every day….

  6. Very well put Laura. I wish the President could read this. Unfortunately, my suspicions about the First Lady being kind of shallow and showy and the President wanting to be a Kennedy…and neither of them caring all that much about animals have been confirmed. What makes it even more puzzling is that he held “Baby,” the puppy mill survivor, yet doesn’t seem to realize (or care) about the horrible things in store as a result of his decision. Now joining the babies named Obama will be a flood of Portuguese Water Dogs being bred in backyards and puppy mills…and even more ending up in shelters when the impulsive copycats decide they no longer want to care for them.

  7. I am very disappointed in President Obama’s decision to not follow through on their original promise of adopting a shelter dog. I wonder if they have any awareness of the situation they are creating here.

  8. And oh what horrors Baby went through at that puppy mill!!

    Now consider the millions of Puppy Mill dogs who are not as lucky as Baby was (Baby got rescued — her puppy mill peers are still there suffering horribly and churning out more victims of greed)

    And Obama HELD Baby in his arms yet that did not make an impact on him!

    As a fairly religious person, I have become very much aware that: as far as the Bible states — only the HUMANS were thrown out of Paradise. IMHO the animals are living angels — we still have far to go, from what I see out there.

    Everyone reading or writing on this page who cares for animals, who rescues and tries to mend broken hearts, spirits and bodies — THANK YOU for ALL you do!! YOU are the ones who make the word Man”KIND” mean EXACTLY that!!

    Now why can’t our leaders and more people in “power” and in the public spotlight DO something to make things better for the animals?

    (In fact, if a business can pay for an ad in a sports stadium, why don’t some of them support an ad for adopting at their local shelter??? And isn’t it true that many of the people who can’t even AFFORD a decent ticket to that staidum — are still the ones who donate to their local animal shelter?!)

  9. The decision to buy a breeder dog will be responsible for thousands of deaths in “shelters”. First because buying from a breeder will now be elevated and emulated with the “pres” as a role model.Second because the concept of taking in a shelter animal will now be degraded.Third because more animals will now be bred by breeders and mills.Fourth because more animals will , as a result, be dumped in pounds and KILLED.
    For those of you who want to let Obama know he made a bad decsion and is now responsible for the deat5h of untold THOUSANDS by his bad example,
    contact the Whitehouse at:

  10. This was the most anticipated decision the country was waiting for besides getting us out of financial decline and maybe the war. 🙂 How uplifting for the public to be hopeful for that rescued dog to be chosen to live in the White House. Another Cinderella story for real people, not unlike Obama’s own true tale. It was to us like movies were to people during the Great Depression. It gave us hope for our own lives; the President cares about a needy dog he will surely care about those of us needing rescued from unemployment, debt, and foreclosure. “Hope in the face of difficulty. Hope in the face of uncertainty.” We trusted him and need to believe him. We fear a good man full of good intentions will cave to the wealthy with their expensive pedigrees. Surely not close to the worse backsliding of a President, but it has cracked the window for an element of doubt to seep in. The word ‘disappointment’ seems to fit perfectly. I haven’t given up hope, but I am very ‘disappointed’.

  11. Great article as always Laura. Thank you. -Dawn Ashby, Rescue & Public Liaison Director

    Wasn’t the “First Cat” Hillary wrote about left with a secretary or maid? I find it more difficult to swallow when the people we want so badly to trust let us down.

    Oprah? Where are you? Can you talk to the first family about puppy mills…they must have missed that episode.

  12. Laura, great artical, and you stated the truth. If Obama cared about the animals in the United States he would of done something. By not adopting a dog from a shelter, said it all. I am sitting here with my rescue, Josie and people like us know that a rescued animal is wonderful…and I also told her that the President, is just like the rest of them, as far as our…HORSES, DOGS, CATS, WILD ANIMALS…. NO CHANGE. THEY CHANGE THIER TUNE ONCE THEY ARE IN OFFICE.

  13. First, every family has the right to adopt from whomever they choose to. Not ever family makes a generous donation to the HSUS when they choose to adopt from a breeder instead of a shelter. As a matter of fact, very few families do that. The Obama family did do that, and it’s time to leave them alone. Yes ~ Obama still offers change we can believe in, in my book.

  14. when president obama decided to be given a dog instead of rescue (as promised) he created two major problems…1) first he showed america that he doesnt feel that the millions of dogs killed in shelters is a problem.2) He now picked a breed of dog who will now be over breed to supply the americans who feel that they want a dog like the obamas. Knowing that this breed of dog is not for everyone. These poor dogs will end up in rescues or worse in over crowded shelters. SHAME ON YOU OBAMA!!!

  15. Too bad it isn’t that simple. The President can certainly afford a token donation to the Humane Society, however, his thoughtless decision is contributing to the death sentence of millions of dogs who are surrendered to shelters in this country yearly. Again, puppy mills and inhuman people who breed solely for profit will be churning out Portuguese Water Dogs right and left to cater to the sheep (don’t mean to insult sheep) who have to have a dog like the Obamas. Precisely the type of people who will dump them off at shelters when the novelty wears off. Wish it were just me being cynical, but unfortunately it’s happened too many times before. Take a stroll through a “kill” shelter (any city shelter) sometime and still see if you feel this way. The President had the chance to make a huge difference and be a “President to the animals” like he said he would be, but instead he let the animals down in a big way.

  16. Obama is nothing but a liar who is driving this country quickly into the ground. He’s broken promise after promise in his very short term in office. Even this very small promise, which he could have easily kept, he did not, and instead opted to get a dog from a commercial breeder, proving once again that his word is worthless. He holds the office of President of the US and should most definitely be held accountable to his word and his actions and should NOT be just ‘left alone’. I don’t know if this country can survive four years with this guy in office.

  17. I think Obama has been left alone for far too long. The left-winged media has overlooked MANY bad moves, broken promises, and poor choices he has made, simply because of who he is – the picked Bush apart even for many things that were utterly ridiculous. But anyone dare call Obama on his blatant contradictions to his words and its “oh leave him alone”. I can’t believe this country has so many supposedly educated people that cannot see what our government is doing to this country. (the man can’t speak without a teleprompter for crying out loud – which just proves, to me anyway, that he does not believe a word that he says – someone who knows their subject, feels passionate about a topic, believes in what they are talking about, does not need a teleprompter for every single word).

  18. The President’s daughter is allergic. If they had adopted from a shelter and had to give up the dog, because of the daughter’s allergies, I think that would have been worse than what they did.

    I’d rather see the dog (any dog) in a forever home, than given up. I always believe that whenever a dog is given up, it’s the worst thing for them.

    Of course, unless they are being abused and not treated well.



  19. Great article, Laura, as expected. You said everything that I was feeling. In addition to the problems with Puppy Mills, Backyard Breeders and so-called legitimate breeders there is another problem that gets little or no press in this country. Abandoning an animal to a shelter is one thing. Abandoning them in the back yard when people move or even worse, dumping them in the middle of nowhere to fend for themselves and usually dieing a long, slow death is becoming a huge problem in this country. Whether it be because of a foreclosure or a city or town forcing a limit on animals, or because the animal is no longer wanted for whatever reason, abandonment is becoming more commonplace. This is an issue that is hardly ever addressed and people seem to just pretend that it doesn’t happen. Being in animal rescue I see it happening more and more and I’m so frustrated because there just doesn’t seem to be an answer.

  20. I was very disappointed, but not surprised, that the Obamas did not adopt a shelter dog. It saddens me that many dogs are being euthanized as I write this because our president did not think these dogs were worthy?

    Something else that concerns me is why they have never had a dog before? Is this dog just for publicity? That’s no reason to get a dog. Will “Bo” end up in a pound after Obama leaves the White House?

  21. This article is why I like being a member of animal law coaltion. You don’t see reporting like this anywhere else, and certainly nothing comes out faster than the reportng of this non profit.

  22. The Obamas apparently chose a dog who is relatively hypoallergenic, in deference to the allergies of one of their daughters. Everyone has a reason for choosing a particular breed or type of pet over others – this is their reason. However, they could have chosen a Portuguese Water Dog from a shelter, which would have encouraged millions of Obama-wanna-bes to do the same, whether to choose a Water Dog or other type. Perhaps they would be open to having a second dog – one of the Portuguese Water Dogs still advertised currently on Petfinder, or another currently in an animal control or private rescue situation. Two dogs could play together and keep one another company while the girls are at school, and Lord knows there are plenty of staff people and plenty of floor space at the White House – space and time should not be an issue. Would anyone like to research, create a list of available dogs, and send it the Obamas with this suggestion?

  23. Obama only made this promise to get VOTES and is worked. In my opinion, he should never have promised a rescue dog from the beginning. This was his first
    mistake, but lets not start counting all those campaign promises that are not happening, there is still more to come. He knows politics.

    The concern I had with a rescue (because I do rescue), is this dog will be in the Magnifying GLASS by the news for the next four years. Anything and everything will be reported on Bo. If anything goes wrong, the breeder out of Texas will take the blame. When will all the information come out on her?

    If this was a rescue dog and we all know they could have some type of issue/s (behavior, marking, agression, medical etc) this would make NEWS and what impact would this have on all rescues? Would people be afraid to adopt a rescue? Lets turn lemons into lemonade on this breed. Rescuers that have this breed could see their adoptions increase and get these rescues into homes.

    Obama’s have never owned a dog before and bringing Bo out now was all about timing I feel if the truth be known, this isn’t the first time the girls have seen BO, not with it being at the Kennedys. Lets get real here. Clinton did it after the Monica Lewisnsky made news that he really is a family man. History proves this theory.

    Will this high energy dog become a rescue? At least if it doesn’t work out, the breeder will take the Bo back and will not end up in a shelter. In my opinion it was the wrong breed for two little girls, and unexperienced pet owners. How will this whole dog issue play out?

    Just my opinion


  24. Our president has set a wonderful example, he put the children first. He chose a dog that is hypo allergenic. He did not do the so called politically correct thing, and risk his children’s health. I admire a person w ho can put his family first.

    There is too much risk in getting a dog with unknown background from a shelter. Wouldn’t that have been horrible to get a dog from a shelter and have to take it back due to the allergies?

    Many shelters have no idea what breed dogs are- they guess at it or they pick a popular breed to call a dog, in order to sell it.

    Mr President, I respect you for caring for your beautiful little girls. And I welcome Bo!

  25. Shelters have a better understanding of their animals than you give them credit for.

    NO shelter will adopt out an animal unless they are SURE (can you say “Pre-adoption Interview”???) this is the right dog or cat for the adopter.

    There are also rescue groups that DO have purebred dogs – in fact there was a rescue group IN the DC area that DID have a Spaniel puppy JUST like the one the Obamas now have – at the SAME time the Obamas were acquiring their puppy that came from the breeder.

    Save a LIFE — adopt a pet.

    Don’t breed and buy when 8 – 10 million perfectly healthy and adoptable animals in shelters have to DIE!!!

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