By Kerri Fivecoat-Campbell | Pet360.com
Cruelty to animals isn't a joke and according to some animal lovers, fake dead, bloodied latex dogs shouldn't be used as a prop for someone's Halloween costume either.
A social media campaign launched by animal welfare activists apparently forced Walmart.com, Sears.com and Amazon.com to pull an item labeled "Dead Dog Prop" from their websites. Walmart.com's description of the product, which cannot be accessed now, reads:
"You have seen bloody road kill, this is bloody road kill, Foam filled latex prop of a skinned dog with a large tire track squished through its mid torso, Chain attached for dragging purposes, Box Dimensions (in Inches), Length : 36, 00, Width : 21, 00, Height : 10, 00 SKU: MC740043"
A Walmart spokesperson issued the following statement this morning, "We were very unhappy to see that this item got onto our site through one of our Marketplace retailers. We quickly began the process of removing it from the site and it is no longer available. We are following up with the Marketplace retailer to ensure this doesn't happen again, and we apologize that the item ever appeared."
Sears issued a similar statement, saying, "The item is a third-party Sears Marketplace product that does not abide with our guidelines and has been removed."
Amazon.com pulled the item from its online store this morning, but did not respond to Pet360.com's request for a statement.
Some smaller retailers and Halloween costume and prop shops are still carrying the product. Scott Morris, owner of Morris Costumes, a 50-year-old costume and prop wholesaler in Charlotte, N.C. says that although his company has been receiving calls all day about the prop, he plans on continuing to sell the new product and doesn't see a problem with selling such a product in a business used to dealing in fantasy.
"I want to know why some people say this is promoting cruelty to animals, that's like saying selling latex limbs or bloody latex humans are promoting murder," says Morris. "It sounds to me like someone needs to get a life. This doesn't have anything to do with animal cruelty."
Morris says he's an animal lover and has had dogs all of his life. He also owns 70 acres on which he doesn't allow hunting.
"It's one thing to make fake vomit, but there is nothing funny about the death of an animal or a human being," says Peter Shankman, a social media and marketing expert in New York City.
"Human beings always feel empathetic toward animals that can't fend for themselves. This is especially true of animals they frequently come into contact with, dogs and cats for example," says Mike Johansson, lecturer in the Department of Communication at Rochester Institute of Technology. "A dead, apparently skinned dog is horrific to look at and nothing to make light of. The people distributing and selling this prop might be seen as being totally insensitive to this reality."
This prop depicting a bloody, skinned dog with a tire track is reminiscent of cases involving real dogs dragged behind vehicles. A quick search found three cases where this has happened in recent months.
In a Missouri case, the ex-wife of a man was found guilty of misdemeanor animal cruelty when she tied her dog to her ex-husband's truck. He didn't know the dog was behind the vehicle for over one mile. The pit mix survived, but has endured multiple surgeries and will likely have lasting issues from its injuries.
A man in Georgia was not charged in the dragging death of his neighbor's dog, claiming he wasn't aware the dog was tied to the vehicle and three men, including one juvenile, were recently charged with felony animal cruelty in North Carolina for dragging a dog to its death.
Francis Battista, co-founder, Best Friends Animal Society, told Pet360 in a written statement, "The offensiveness of the Dead Dog Prop is that pets are in fact the victim of Halloween pranks and unlike the ghouls, ghosts, vampires, zombies and famous or infamous historical characters, cruelty and abuse to dogs and cats is a sad and all too common reality, not to mention the millions that are killed in our nations shelters. The portrayal of sick indifference to animals is not fun or funny."
The Humane Society of the United States released a statement saying the prop is in "poor taste" and urges people who see the prop for sale and who is offended by it to "contact the retailer directly to politely share their concerns."
Update: Distortions Unlimited, the Colorado company that manufactures the Dead Dog Prop posted the following to their Facebook page yesterday afternoon:
We just want to take a moment to comment on the feedback that we have received about a prop of ours that depicts a dead dog. We make products for primarily for haunted houses so we have to walk that thin line between horror yet OK and over the top. This is a tricky thing to do at times and it appears like we crossed the line with the dog. We were not trying to be insensitive of offend anyone although it appears like we did. We are sorry and the product has been discontinued immediately.
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