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Published: Thursday, 1/15/2009

In U.S. poll on First Dog, mutts are pick of the litter

ASSOCIATED PRESS

WASHINGTON - Mr. President-elect, the votes are in: American pet owners prefer a mutt in the White House.

By more than a 2-1 margin, pet owners said the Obamas should choose a mutt for their first dog over a purebred, according to an Associated Press-Petside.com poll released yesterday.

People who don't have pets mostly don't care either way.

"Let's get philosophical about it: We're kind of a country of mutts," said Steve Minor, 54, of Knightdale, N.C. "I think he'd set an example if he got a dog from a shelter that needed a home."

Barack Obama said over the weekend that the family is choosing between a Labradoodle - a cross between a poodle and a Labrador - and a Portuguese water dog, the kind owned by Sen. Edward Kennedy (D., Mass.).

Mr. Obama has indicated the family likes the idea of rescuing a shelter dog, but Malia, 10, is allergic and most shelter dogs are, as Mr. Obama put it, "mutts like me." The Labradoodle and the Portuguese water dog are low-shedding breeds.

The survey by Roper Public Affairs & Media also found more than half of pet owners and 43 percent of all Americans said it was important to them that the Obamas adopt their dog from an animal shelter.

Michelle Zabrucki of Tampa considers buying a purebred dog akin to wearing $200 jeans.

"The purebred dogs, it's become like a status symbol and it's ridiculous, especially with all the dogs they destroy every year," she said. "The strays are just as wonderful and just as loving and they don't cost $800 apiece."

Pet owners showed a stronger preference for mutts than did all adults, 33 percent of whom said they'd prefer a mutt. Twenty-three percent of all adults preferred a purebred and 38 percent said it didn't matter.

About 6 in 10 Americans own pets.

The preference for a mutt cut across party lines, though Democrats feel more strongly about it than Republicans.

Among all Democrats, 38 percent say the dog should be a mutt, compared with 32 percent of all Republicans. Republicans are more likely to say they don't care, 42 percent, than Democrats, 33 percent.

Many past presidential pooches have been purebreds, including incumbent Scottish terriers Barney and Miss Beazley.

But Mr. Obama's hero, Abraham Lincoln, had a mixed-breed dog named Fido who didn't go to the White House. Lyndon Johnson also had a mutt, Yuki, named for the Japanese word for snow.

"Johnson's daughter Luci found the dog at a gas station in Texas on Thanksgiving Day in 1966. Yuki became Johnson's favorite pet," Cathy Trost, the Newseum's exhibits chief, said.

Of course, purebreds have their backers, and not just because knowing the breed makes it easier to predict how the dogs will affect Malia's allergies.

"If it was me, I would get a purebred. I think they're just better dogs," said Anthony Madrigal, 19, of Schererville, Ind. The AP-Petside.com poll was conducted by GfK Roper Public Affairs & Media from Dec. 3-8 and involved landline and cell-phone interviews with 1,000 adults and an oversample of 1,129 pet owners. The margin of sampling error is plus or minus 3.1 percentage points for all adults and plus or minus 2.9 percentage points for pet owners.

Petside.com's site has information and advertisements about pets and pet products.



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