Beauty is in the eye of the beholder — and that’s just the sentiment that the World’s Ugliest Dog Competition in Petaluma, California wants dog lovers to celebrate. 

Each year, the competition is held at the Sonoma-Marin Fair to recognize dogs for their unique looks and advocate for rescue organizations.

advocate for rescue organizations
Image: Provided by Sonoma-Marin Fairgrounds & Event Center

Many of the competition’s participants are rescues from puppy mills or abuse situations, so the main goal of the event is to spread awareness about these issues and prove that every dog deserves a loving home. 

The star-studded event is made complete with its several “ugly” participants; in 2019, a mixed breed named Scamp won the title of World’s Ugliest Dog with his adorably scraggly fur and tongue that sticks out sideways. 

Santa Rosa
Image: Provided by Sonoma-Marin Fairgrounds & Event Center

Among other contestants of the 2019 competition included Gertrude, a 4-pound Chihuahua with bowed legs. She was rescued by Compassion Without Borders, a Santa Rosa, California-based dog rescue, from the Fresno animal shelter. Rescuers saw her need for saving due to her age, lack of hair and “unsightly, old lady, sun-damaged skin,” according to the competition’s website. 

While dogs like Gertrude are very unlikely to be adopted from shelters due to their appearance, the competition aims to inspire people to give these dogs a chance. Just like breed discrimination occurs at shelters across the country, so does age discrimination. Many of the dogs that participate in the competition are seniors — showing that old can be beautiful, too. 

While some may see the competition as unkind, its founders have intentions that are the complete opposite. The point is not to poke fun at the dogs, but to celebrate them and all of their unique stories. 

Image: Provided by Sonoma-Marin Fairgrounds & Event Center

“For 28 years, the contest has been a testament that all dogs do not have to meet AKC pedigree standards to be man’s (or woman’s) best friend,” the website states. “The owners of all kinds of dogs are also all kinds of people, from youngsters to senior citizens, each proud of their pet despite missing fur, crossed eyes, duck waddles or mismatched ears. They proudly walk both pedigreed pooches and Heinz 57 mutts down the red carpet to the cheers and clapping of the crowd.”

The event didn’t take place last year presumably due to the COVID-19 Pandemic, but event hosts are tentatively planning for a 2021 competition to take place this fall. There is sure to be some knockout competition — and plenty of amazing rescue stories to share along the way. 

Featured Image: Provided by Sonoma-Marin Fairgrounds & Event Center

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