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The First Dog Debate: Obama, Allergies, and Adoption

Posted by at 5:29 AM | Permalink | Comments (7)


barack-obama-1sciencedebate2008 / CC

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?

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    Ricky Setticase says...

    November 28th, 2008, 8:15 pm

    I hope the “allergy” spin is not a front to move towards a pure breed recomendation from the AKC and an “approved USDA licenced” breeder. Given that 25% of shelter dogs are pure breed. I have had allergies all my life and have been around animals all my life. Never once thought about the breed of dog and never had an allergic reaction that could not be handled with simple medicine. Hope the Obamas’ stick to their morals and adopt. Otherwise it will go down as a negative in my book given all the attention to puppy mills in the last year.

    Marta Mares says...

    December 19th, 2008, 11:17 am

    I simply wonder how is it that this question of adopting a pet dog arises at this particular time….. It puzzles me the fact that the Obamas decide to adopt a pet for the family and particularly their girls now that they will move into the White House. If they enjoy the idea of a loving pet, why did not they do it before in their lifes? I grew up in a modest home and always in my family’s life and my own as an adult a dog was our best companion, without care for the breed. Later on, I had the chance to adopt and care for many abandoned poor little things and was rewarded by their unconditional love, but did not need to live in an environment such as the White Hose to do it.

    Nick says...

    January 6th, 2009, 7:46 pm

    There is a simple answer to your question Marta. When you live in the white house, you have staff members to clean up your yard for you. You can have all the fun you want with your pet without having to do any of the work.

    Patty Bowers says...

    January 8th, 2009, 12:30 pm

    Hi Nick,
    I do not think your response is really fair. First of all is your response TRUE? We do NOT know that. Perhaps with their busy working lives (Michelle was working full time also), the timing was just not right. Having heard her say how the girls will STILL be cleaning up their own rooms and having chores, I do not believe that they waited to get a dog until they had Staff to clean up after the dog. Since Michelle Obama will now not be working a full time job but accepting responsibilities when she wants, she will be around more to be a companion to the dog. This is only fair. Dogs are social animals and love the companionship of their people. A cynical, negative answer benefits no one. Lets give the Obamas a chance and trust that their timing for having a dog was well thought out and right for THEM.
    Sincerely,
    Patty Bowers

    Wren says...

    January 20th, 2009, 9:52 am

    From what I understand, and from extensive research, it is possible to obtain a dog with low to no shedding, which combined with dander is the “stuff” that irritate allergies.

    Their consideration of a Labradoodle is interesting, and I’m going to assume that the Obamas have addressed the investigation of the Labradoodle and other types of dogs (whether pure bred or mixed) the same way they’ve addressed all other areas of their life…with thorough research.

    There ARE two distinctively different Labradoodles, and this is important for people to learn. The dogs being bred in the U.S. with Labs and Poodles are simply hybrids and “mixed breeds,” but called “Labradoodles” anyway. HOWEVER, there has been a very slow and deliberate, responsibly orchestrated and conscientiously developed breeding program for SERVICE DOGS in Australia for close to thirty years. They are called the ASD Australian Labradoodle, and they developed out of crosses, backcrosses and infusions with labradors, poodles, the water spaniel and the Irish Wheaten Terrier. They have only been bred one ASD Australian Labradoodle to another for quite some time now and are consistent in type now. In fact, the breed is not all that far away from being accepted by the AKC for registration with that organization. The mixed hybrids being bred rampant in the U.S. by folks calling themselves breeders but simply putting a Lab with a Poodle, or one of those offspring with another poodle or lab, are not anything like the Australian Labradoodle and one cannot be sure what one is getting when they opt for this “strain” of real mutt or hybrid.

    All pure breeds originated out of careful breeding for special characteristics from SEVERAL existing pure breeds. So, just because the two primary founders and breeders in Australia have done that, it does not mean the dogs are simple “mutts” and advertised falsely. What is being advertised falsely are the actual hybrids and slapped-together mixed breeds so prevalent throughout the USA today. If the Obamas pick a Labradoodle, these problems will only increase. So, while I am a BIG fan of the ASD Australian Labradoodle, and even think the mixed breed mutts of the U.S. are cute, I am hoping they pick a different dog OR, at the very best, choose an authentic ASD Australian Labradoodle and set the record straight with the public. They’re smart people and can do the research pretty easily.

    Wren Owens

    Glo Allingham says...

    April 13th, 2009, 4:02 pm

    Where is Peta’s outcry for the Obama’s not getting a shelter dog?
    It’s interesting that there are always exceptions when politics is at stake.

    Christy Summerfield says...

    August 15th, 2009, 12:03 pm

    I wish the Obamas had adopted a dog from a shelter or at least from a rescue site. At least they made a sizable donation to a shelter, or a shelter association. I believe they ended up getting their dog from Teddy Kennedy who has a breeding pair. And I agree with the comment on the comment asking why the Obamas didn’t get a dog years ago. It’s never a good idea to get a puppy or any dog when no one’s home all day. And they spent nearly two years campaigning. That kind of stress isn’t a good situation to bring a new pet into. I think their timing was right. I bet in the White House the dog is surrounded by loving people all day long. And I’m sure there’s no shortage of people who want to play. So, I’d say this is one lucky, happy dog.

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