We’ve Come A Long Way Baby

If you would have told me four years ago that the Walt Disney Company would make a sequel to the 1996 live-action version of “101 Dalmatians,” I probably wouldn’t have been surprised. If you had told me that the film would contain a responsible pet ownership message, my reaction would have been something like “no way!”

So, it was especially gratifying for me to be in the audience last Monday evening for the world premiere of Disney’s “102 Dalmatians” and to see just that kind of message appear on the screen. When you see the movie, don’t jump up and run out as soon as the final scene fades. Right after the principal technical credits, and before the cast credits roll, you will see the following statement:

“The producer, Walt Disney Company, American Humane Association, and the Dalmatian Club of America want every pet to have a loving and permanent home. If you are adopting a pet, be sure you are ready for a lifetime commitment and research your choice carefully.”

There is no question that the attention paid to “101 Dalmatians” and the phenomenal amount of marketing tie-ins surrounding the movie-soft drink cans, snack food bags, candy bars, fast food, even clothing, sporting Dalmatian images-contributed to increased awareness of the breed. And, it contributed to people getting puppies who were not prepared to make that lifetime commitment. But, this situation had existed even before the 1996 film and will continue to exist. Sadly for those of us who love our pets, there are many people who are not as devoted as we are and who can easily give up an animal for all the reasons that break our hearts-when it’s no longer little and “cute” or when it no longer fits their lifestyle or when it becomes too much work or expense.

So, one of the most important messages we can relay about Dalmatians and dogs in general is just what the statement at the end of the film says, select the breed carefully and make a commitment for a lifetime. I’d add one other important step: consult a conscientious breeder before making your final selection. A responsible breeder is one who has devoted time, energy and money into studying their breed of choice and their primary concern is the stability, health and welfare of their dogs financial profit.

A statement at the end of a movie isn’t going to change people’s actions overnight. This is, after all, still an immediate gratification society. But, if it will help to make people stop and consider their actions before getting a puppy, it’s certainly a step in the right direction. Another small step for Dalmatian-kind is the link between Disney’s “102 Dalmatians'” web site (www.disney.com/102) and the Dalmatian Club of America web site (www.thedca.org) where people can learn more about real Dalmatians and their “care and feeding”. And, Dalmatian and responsible pet ownership information is to be included in media kits for the film.

The American Kennel Club is featuring the Dalmatian as “Breed of the Month” on it’s web site, www.akc.org and this is a good place to find information on all breeds (there is a Chinese Crested, a Mastiff and a Borzoi featured in the new movie along with the Dals) The AKC is producing an article on “102 Ways To Be A Responsible Dog Owner” as well.

So, go see “102 Dalmatians” this holiday season. It presents Dalmatians as those of us who love them know they are-smart, resourceful and above all, devoted members of the family. Just don’t get one yourself unless you’re ready for a best friend-for a lifetime.




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