Thursday, December 8, 2011 , Updated 5:32 p.m., December 8, 2011
UPDATED: Children’s Medical Center fund-raiser unlawfully auctions off puppies
It's illegal in Dallas to auction off animals as a prize.
DALLAS A charity/fundraising event for the Children's Medical Center wrongfully auctioned off three puppies as prizes, a practice that became illegal in Dallas in 2008.
According to Jeanne Prejean at My Sweet Charity, the gala event at the Fairmont Dallas hotel featured Cyndi Lauper and included attendees such as Sheriff Lupe Valdez, County Commissioner Elba Garcia, and lawyers from Friedman & Feiger, the law firm whose foundation organized it.
Three puppies -- a teacup Maltese, a Yorkie, and a Maltese-Doodle -- were used as fund-raising auction fodder. Prejean quoted a staffer holding one of the puppies as saying, "Poor little thing is shaking badly," and a bystander who commented, "Those puppies shouldn’t be here. They’re making me feel uncomfortable."
Neither the organizers nor the Children's Medical Center returned calls, but Chris Watts, who co-owns Petropolitan and who is a member of the Dallas Animals Commission, said that he'd spoken to organizer Janelle Friedman, and that animal advocates hoped they could use the incident as an opportunity to get the word out about the fact that using animals as fund-raisers is a no-no.
"I have been in touch with the coordinator of the event, and she's mortified," Watts said. "Every auction she goes to, they have live animals. It's a very unfortunate thing that people are naïve to the laws. The fines are so small compared to what they raise that they're willing to pay the fine."
Watts also talked to the breeder involved who he said is responsible for about 75% of the animals that are used in auctions.
"The breeder is technically not in the city limits of Dallas, so their stance is 'I'm not breaking any laws because I'm not auctioning dogs off' and she's going to continue with that mindset, because she's trying to promote her business," he said.
The ordinance states that an animal cannot be used as a prize. The problem with auctioning off animals is that it represents an impulse buy rather than a conscious decision to acquire a pet, with the result being a higher chance of the animal ultimately being turned in to a shelter.
This is the second charity event in the past month that has violated the law and auctioned live animals, said Jonnie England of the Metroplex Animal Coalition.
"I would love to see a major educational effort directed to nonprofits to inform them of this law," she said.
UPDATE: Children's Medical Center spokeswoman Betsy MacKay says that no one involved with the event had any intention of doing anything inappropriate.
"Children’s Medical Center was the beneficiary, but we didn't have anything to do with the production of the event," MacKay said. "However, we are incredibly grateful for the funds that were raised. This was a labor of love by Janelle and Larry Friedman, and we are grateful because this is how we keep our doors open, serving thousands of children who need us. It was done in complete ignorance, but we want to do it in ways that are entirely appropriate and respectful."
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