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Obama's dog Bo: Cute but what about promise to adopt?

By Jimmy Orr / April 13, 2009

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Just looking at him makes you want to break out in baby talk. He's so cuuuuuuute. Little happy puppy wuppy schluppy duppy.

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In case you missed the news because of other priorities on Sunday (like Easter or the Masters), the Obama family has a new member. The new First Dog, Bo.

Leak

Word of the newest family member leaked on Saturday with a mysterious new web site called FirstDogCharlie breaking the news. TMZ spotted it and linked to it, causing the rest of the Internet to play catch-up.

Now that the dust has settled, we know that Bo is a 6-month-old Portuguese water dog, a gift from Senator Ted Kennedy.

The dog should be thrilled. He'll have the run of the White House, not to mention the North Lawn, the South Lawn, a swimming pool, plenty of trees, and perhaps his own website (like Barney used to have.).

Obama's daughters Sasha and Malia are reportedly very happy too.

Grumble

Not everyone's elated though -- because although Ted Kennedy is a Washington institution, he's not an animal shelter. And the president promised to adopt the First Dog.

He originally made this promise to Dr. Jana Kohl, the author of "A Rare Breed of Love" -- a book about a three-legged rescue dog and puppy mill survivor named Baby.

So touched was he by Baby's story that then-Senator Obama agreed to appear in Kohl's book holding the dog. This photo then became the cover for American Dog magazine in January.

Big deal

And the promise is not an asterisk to those who really care about animal welfare. With an estimated three million dogs and cats euthanized every year, every dog purchased by a breeder is a death sentence for those in rescue centers, they say.

That's why Vice President Joe Biden got in hot water when he chose a breeder to get his dog. Animal rights activists were furious. This led Biden to announce that he was getting a second dog from a shelter. So far this hasn't happened.

Shade of gray

Now like anything in politics, there's a technicality. One of those "definitions of what the word 'is' is" type things.

The White House isn't Bo's first home. He originally lived with another family but didn't get along with the other dogs. So he was given back to the Kennedy clan.

"They were looking at shelters, but in the end the Kennedys learned of this litter mate of their dog who needed a home and they wanted to give the girls a gift -- and here we are!" an Obama spokeswoman told the Chicago Sun Times.

So, technically, he's a second-chance dog. This could be why the Humane Society didn't tear into the president as it did with the veep.

Reaction

"Clearly our best hope was that he (the president) would go to a shelter or a breed-rescue group," said Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States. “He didn’t do that, but he also didn’t go to a pet store or puppy mill either. It’s a gray area."

Abbie Moore of Adopt-a-Pet.com isn't as forgiving. "This is truly a missed opportunity to set a pet-adoption trend among Americans. "If Obama had adopted a pet from a shelter, it could have been the turning point for the pet-overpopulation problem in this country. With pet relinquishment up 20 to 30 percent due to the poor economy, pets in shelters can use all the help they can get."

While Dog magazine's Ryan O'Meara says this is just more of the same. "When he was resoundingly elected to office we were promised change. But, it seems, true to type the new American president is a politician at heart so should we really have expected anything different?"

To make up for it, the president will donate to the D.C. humane society.

The First Dog will be formally introduced to the public on Tuesday.

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