The Real Obama Dog Story: Promises Broken

Bo the Portuguese water dog is cute, fluffy, and has done well growing up in the White House limelight.

But he also represents a broken campaign promise.

President Obama promised author Jana Kohl, who had been lobbying on Capitol Hill to end puppy mills, that he would adopt a dog. He even posed with her three-legged poodle rescued from an abusive breeder in a photo that was carried on the cover of American Dog magazine.


In October 2008, Michelle Obama told Entertainment Tonight that her family would be adopting a shelter dog after the election. The news was welcomed by groups that had been trying to persuade the Obamas to opt for a rescue dog after he’d mentioned they might get a goldendoodle because they’re hypoallergenic.

“Senator, no one needs to tell you that this country is proud to be a melting pot, and that there is something deeply wrong and elitist about wanting only a purebred dog,” PETA wrote Obama at the time. “Millions of Great American Mutts—the dog that should be our national dog—are set to die in our nation’s extremely overcrowded pounds and shelters for lack of good homes. Compassionate people nationwide are choosing to adopt a homeless pound puppy—a grateful refugee from a society that has not always treated the true ‘underdog’ kindly—rather than cater to special interests who do not have dogs’ interests at heart.”

The Best Friends Animal Society gathered more than 50,000 petition signatures urging the Obamas to adopt instead of buying or acquiring one from a breeder.

So shortly before the election, Michelle Obama made that vow — they would get a rescue dog.

“We hope that the Obama family really listened to our message, and we hope that Barack, Michelle, and their daughters find a loving mutt who needs a good home,” PETA responded.


Well… they didn’t get the message. Instead, they got a purebred “gift” from Uncle Teddy.

Sen. Kennedy gave the Obamas a six-month-old littermate of one of his own Portuguese water dogs. Bo had originally gone to another family but was returned to the breeder after not getting along with other dogs in the home. Not exactly a “rescue” dog.

“This is a missed opportunity to set a pet-adoption trend among Americans,” said Abbie Moore, executive director of, at the time. “With pet relinquishment up 20 to 30 percent due to the poor economy, pets in shelters can use all the help they can get.”

The Obamas felt that they could stem the disappointment over a campaign promise not met by donating to the Humane Society. Suddenly, with some new cash in pocket, the HSUS was willing to forgive Obama for taking in a “second-chance” breeder dog that had gone right back to the breeder after the first chance didn’t pan out. They called it a “gray area.”

But the Obamas aren’t the only ones on the ticket to renege on an adoption promise. Vice President Joe Biden angered shelter advocates when he got Chance, a German Shepherd puppy from a breeder whose kennel license was later revoked for dozens of violations, and promised that he would get a second dog from a shelter. So far, there’s been no second dog, just a brag from Biden in 2009 that his pooch is smarter than Bo.


“I’ve had German Shepherds since I was a kid and I’ve actually trained them and shown them in the past. So I wanted a German Shepherd, and we’re going to get a pound dog, which my wife wants, who is hopefully a Golden [Retriever],” Biden told George Stephanopoulos in December 2008.

Fifty-six percent of dogs and 71 percent of cats who end up in shelters are euthanized.

About a third of dogs in shelters are purebreds (I should know — I found my Chihuahua, Chi-Chi, sitting on my desk as I type this, nearly a year ago at a county pound where she’d been left after being used for breeding). Mutts are just as important and loveable.


Trending on PJ Media Videos

Join the conversation as a VIP Member