Warning: This post contains dog bite to the face photos that are graphic and disturbing.
It’s summertime and the nice weather and liberation of public parks from the packed calendars of sporting events during the school year means that a lot of dog sport competitions are happening outside, sometimes in conjunction with local festivals and very often co-sponsored with veterinarians and rescue groups that advertise their business, raise money, and do adoption drives. All-in-all an excellent way for good dogs to find great homes and network with the greater dog-community. These sort of events are a perfect example of the success of the No-Kill equation.
The opening event of the Frisbee dog season here in Colorado happens every May at Thortonfest which is a huge event drawing tens of thousands of people over two days for carnival games, a classic car show, battle of the bands and live music, and just about every dog sport. The Flyball, Dock Diving, and Frisbee groups host major events and the influx of so many pet-themed entertainments means that a lot of local animal businesses are there too.
A few years ago a local rescue had a “Dog Kissing Booth $1” set up at the festival and I thought at the time that it was a clever way to raise some money from people who were already over-paying for hot dogs, fried food, and beer but were not in a position to adopt one of the animals. The appeal of the event is much the same as that documented recently in this article: Pit Bull Kissing Booth Will Make You Want To Pucker Up. At first blush they really seem like a cute idea for a good cause.
What I failed to consider at the time is just how irresponsible and stupid it is to invite strangers up to put their faces up to an unfamiliar dog and kiss them to raise money. Humans understand kissing to be a benign gesture of friendship and in many cultures a common greeting. Dogs do not. It’s very difficult for humans to seriously injure each other in a failed kissing attempt, but it’s deceptively easy to be horrifically and permanently maimed by even the smallest of dogs.
The eyelids and lips are among the most delicate, sensitive, and nerve-filled tissues on the body. They are also the most loosely anchored tissues making them very vulnerable to trauma. They are also prominently positioned right there in the middle of your face where everyone can see them meaning that any physical injury is compounded by the damage done to self-esteem, body image, and the great deal of ego we place in facial beauty.
All dogs, even the smallest Chihuahuas have four large teeth that are designed to tear flesh and which are anchored at the very end of their long snouts giving them plenty of leverage to disfigure your face in one swift nip. You don’t need a large dog or a breed that has been bred for biting or fighting or protection to cause serious facial damage. A surly Jack Russel Terrier might not be able to puncture your jeans if he goes for an ankle bite, but if you give him access to your face he can do an incredible amount of damage.
That’s why on reflection these Dog Kissing Booths are such a stupid idea. The risk vs. reward calculation is, in my view, heavily skewed toward risk because an actual biting incident doesn’t have to be very common to be incredibly costly and thus outweigh the small amount of money you’re likely to raise one dollar at a time.
Also consider that if your goal is to rehabilitate the public perception of pit bulls that 10,000 people could get kissed at your “Kiss-A-Bull” booth with no incidents but ONE, just one face-bite and your entire organization would likely be put out of business from the financial liability and from the bad press. It doesn’t even have to be the dog’s fault… just one jack-ass that ignores the dog’s signals or even prompts an attack with their stupid or ignorant behavior while they’re in that dog’s face and it’s only the dog and your organization that will suffer the fallout. That dog can’t defend itself in court.
Even if it’s not the dog’s fault, which most people agree is the case in most of these bites, it’s unlikely that anyone is going to have enough successful Kiss-A-Dogo-Argentino booths to rehabilitate that breed’s image after one bit Kyle Dyer on the face when she went in for a kiss and it was captured on film. The thoughtful followup video published by the major local newspaper got a small small fraction of the views that dozens of videos of the attack received.
This calculus made me wonder, do these organizations even carry an appropriate level of liability insurance to run these booths? What insurance company would even agree to cover such an event? Even if they did, I can’t imagine that the premiums on such a policy would be less than the money raised by a booth like this.
My guess is that such organizations would not be covered under their existing liability insurance policies and even if they were that the insurance companies would likely refuse to pay for a claim and force arbitration should one arise given that these booths are advertising a dangerous activity and presenting it as something you’d want to pay for, a benefit, when it’s actually an attractive nuisance. That’s not a position any rescue which has to grub for donations would want to find themselves in.
I think public perception of these booths is similar to my experience. When presented as a fun and cute idea, they’d be supportive but when reminded of the damage that can be done they’d come to their senses. I ran a Facebook experiment because I noticed several dog world friends had made supportive comments on a dog kissing booth fundraiser post but had also noted elsewhere how dangerous it is to let infants interact without close supervision with dogs, notably around the dog’s face (another one of those “hey that’s cute… waaaaaait, that’s actually pretty dangerous” dog events). Everyone who responded to both posts changed their position to a more cautious stance.
This phenomenon is mirrored in the reactions of the unwashed masses at Reddit. When the “Pit Bull Kissing Booth” story was posted, the reactions were overwhelmingly positive and supportive of the rebranding of the pit bull image and what a clever idea it was. There was little to no discussion about the danger or heavy consequences if this went wrong, if someone sneezed, if a loud noise spooked the dog or if a certain aftershave sparked bad memories and resulted in a torn lip instead of a lick. People get bitten by their own dogs, friendly and well known dogs, in their homes, all the time. Throw in a bunch of drunk strangers, a carnival environment, and lots of over-excited dogs nearby doing dog sports and the odds are stacked against all things going well.
“Well he’s never done that before,” is something most of us in dog sports have heard at least once, and with a bite to the face, once is one times too many.
Since then, these facial injury images were all posted to Reddit following the initial love-fest for the Kissing Booth, all depicting horrific injury to people who put their faces too close to otherwise friendly and familiar dogs. Now, the most recent “hey look at this great fund-raising idea” post has drawn more negative comments than positive ones. I think that’s the sort of learning that only comes from experience or incredible foresight. Things that sound fun or smart on first blush are actually revealed to be risky at best and life altering or ending at worst when the full picture is considered.
For those reasons, I think it’s clear that Dog Kissing Booths are an incredibly irresponsible and stupid way to make money or promote your cause. Please don’t set your otherwise adoptable rescue dogs up for failure by making a dangerous stunt like a Kissing Booth. It’s just not worth it.
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