One of the biggest news stories in the wake of President-elect Barack Obama’s groundbreaking election win isn’t how he will tackle the economic crisis or his plan for reforming health care but rather-drum roll, please-the dog he and Michelle have promised to get for their daughters, Sasha and Malia. Here at PETA Prime, we, of course, agree that this is an important subject-after all, where the Obamas lead, thousands or even millions of Americans are bound to follow.
Fortunately, the Obamas have stated that it is their preference to adopt a mutt from an animal shelter, but the debate has taken a somewhat alarming turn into the realm of so-called “hypoallergenic” breeds. As someone with allergies, I feel first daughter-elect and allergy-sufferer Malia’s pain. But the idea that a) there really is such a thing as a breed that doesn’t cause allergies and b) that mutts are somehow worse for allergies than purebreds, as some news reports are implying, raises my hypoallergenic dander. I can just see folks dashing off to the pet store to snap up a member of one of the many breeds that are being touted as hypoallergenic and “nonshedding” and realizing too late that they’ve been sold a pig-or rather, a poodle-in a poke, while also supporting puppy mills (which supply pet stores) in the process.
Let’s get one thing straight: There is no such thing as a breed that is guaranteed not to cause allergies. Yes, individual dogs may be less likely to provoke an allergic reaction, namely those with short hair or with long hair that doesn’t have an undercoat, but every dog produces the dander that can cause allergies in sensitive people. Just as every person with allergies is different, so is every dog; a dog who might cause an allergic reaction in one person may not affect another, and vice versa.
For example, I have five cats, and I am not allergic to any of them, but I am severely allergic to one of my brother’s cats. I’m not allergic to many dogs, but I did initially have a mild reaction to my own dog (it cleared up as my immune system developed a tolerance).
The key is for the Obamas-and anyone who is contemplating adopting a dog-to spend time petting and playing with the potential adoptee at the animal shelter. Not only will this give them an opportunity to see if the dog causes an allergic reaction, it will also let them get a sense of the dog’s temperament and personality.
No matter what kind of dog the Obamas choose, they will likely be doing their daughters a favor. According to a report in the Journal of the American Medical Association, children who grow up around cats and dogs are less likely to be allergic to them-or anything else-later in life. But if the Obamas decide to adopt a homeless mutt, they will be sending a strong message to the nation that saving lives is important-and that’s nothing to sneeze at.
What do you think?