Meet the World's Ugliest Dog contenders!

It's that time of year again, folks – time to crown the World's Ugliest Dog!

The competition is held this Friday, June 22, at the Sonoma-Marin Fair in Petaluma, CA – and the dogfight to take the W.U.D. crown promises to get fierce. Challengers won't have to unseat the reigning champion, Yoda (the Chihuahua mix passed away in March of this year), but the field is still impressively unattractive. Contestants include a Mexican Hairless mix named Creature with an imposing underbite and a more-than-passing resemblance to Muppet-band drummer Animal; Peeps, rescued from a puppy mill and set to star in a movie in 2013; Handsome Hector, back for another round (and documenting the process on his blog); and the mohawked Squiggy, whose bio claims he's part Smurf.

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Best of all, you can visit the Sonoma-Marin Fair's website and vote for one of these "inner beauties" yourselves! The poll is just for funsies and only gives the winner bragging rights – the actual winner will be chosen by a judging panel on Friday – but it seems that ugly-dog supporters in the past have hacked the site to get the results they want. The site issues a number of stern warnings about not gaming the system ("The fair reserves the right to remove votes that are obvious duplications or the result of hacking. Take it up with your conscience"), but if you can't live with the fact that the UK's Ugliest Dog, Mugly, is currently leading the voting, you'd better get your dupas over there and vote. We're totally Team Josie, by the way.

The contest isn't just about mocking our asymmetrical canine friends; it's about raising awareness – about the plights of shelter and rescue pets, and the healing power of a loving human for a dog who's near death.

You can see contestants Icky and Mugly, who did a San Fran meet-and-greet yesterday, in action right here. We'll be back at the weekend with the results of the contest, but in the meantime, let us know in the comments if you've ever attended – or entered, or won! – an ugliest-dog contest, and what you think of these contests. All in good fun? Too mean? Better suited to cats? Discuss!

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