Uneven length fur, teeth that jut out from an unseemly little nose, and wide, fearful-looking eyes made Peanut the winner of the World's Ugliest Dog contest this year.
Hailing from North Carolina, the two-year old dog has a personality that doesn't match what is on the outside. Like most dogs, he is energetic and loving and probably has no idea that his looks may cause second glances in an unenviable way.
Peanut's owner Holly Chandler, the recipient of the $1,500 contest prize, told Associated Press that she is "trying to use [Peanut] as a poster child for what can happen to animals who are abused." Peanut, as a puppy, was burned badly and left with patches of bare skin on his body in various places.
The judges of the contest held in Petaluma, California every year rated contestants on attributes, personality, and ugliness. According to the contest's website, this "internationally observed event celebrates homely hounds and the humans who love them."
Despite the derogatory title and the nature of judging, the contest really aims to raise public awareness for adoptions. Many of the past contestants were rescue dogs from shelters and mills. The purpose of the event is to show that, despite unfortunately physical appearances and, in the case of many of the dogs, unfortunate pasts, they dogs give love as strongly as they need love. One only needs to watch the contest and see the pride on the dog owners' faces to know that the whole event is about rehabilitated, adored animals.
The contest runners say, on their website, that "the annual World's Ugliest Dog Contest is not about making fun of "ugly" dogs, but having fun with some wonderful characters and showing the world that these dogs are really beautiful!"
The contest takes place every June in the Sonoma-Marin Fair and is apparently quite the hit. The winners of the contests become celebrities in their own right, and the owners certainly reap benefits. According to Vicki DeArmon, author of "World's Ugliest Dogs", the Sonoma-Marin Fair has a partnership with the Sonoma Humane Society and strives for increased education about dog rescue opportunities. With the audience the contest receives every year, it seems that awareness will not be difficult to achieve. Luckily most people know that dogs, even when they are ugly, are ridiculously cute. Yes, even Peanut.
Photos of some of the "ugly" contestants can be seen on the fair's website.