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Something is Wrong in the Dog Pound


I am a fan of pro football. I love sitting down on a Sunday with my family, which includes our dog, and watching pro football. I do not enjoy dogs being used as mascots for football (or any other sporting) games. And now something is wrong in the dog pound.

I am glad I am not a Cleveland Browns fan.  It is with great sadness that the Browns revealed their new mascot, since they are dubbed “The Dawg Pound,” will be a real live Bullmastiff who will traipse along the sidelines for game days.



Here’s why:  America has a love affair with dogs.  A dog on the sidelines with the stature and masculine appeal of the Bullmastiff yet cute enough for ladies to swoon about him, means fans are engaged. Engaged fans means ticket sales means what us dog lovers of the highest order fear most: Everyone and their brother rushing out the likes of a wide receiver to get a Bullmastiff of their own.

On her Instagram page, Rachel Nichols, Host of CNN’s Unguarded with Rachel Nichols, revealed this photo on July 14, featuring the Browns’ new canine mascot, aka Swagger:

Cleveland Browns mascot
Photo courtesy Instagram page of Rachel Nichols and NFL repost.


The NFL and most sporting franchises have a long history with mascots. Franchises that use a dog in their limelight aren’t doing the breed — whether pedigree or mutt — any favors. Bullmastiffs now face:

  • Unscrupulous puppy mill mass producing them for greed and profit;
  • Excessive numbers of the breed relinquished to shelters when reality sets in;
  • Bullmastiffs for sale like cotton candy at the country fair;

Bullmastiffs aren’t wind up dolls who can be turned off when the mood strikes. A dog is for keeps, and a dog is for life. Bullmastiffs are amazing dogs but they also:

  • Drool
  • Are prone to heat exhaustion
  • Can reach a weight of 130 pounds
  • Can develop valvular disorders of the heart
  • And read more here about the health of a Bullmastiff 

Am I an extremist? Not really. A realist? Definitely, hence the name of this blog.

Think that I’m exaggerating? There won’t just be one dog used, as that too, would be cruel and unusual. Just ask the folks who treasure the Bulldog what’s become of the breed thanks to Ugga.

Ugga is the Bulldog mascot for the University of Georgia’s sporting events, most notably the football team. In his 2011 expose for the New York Times, writer BENOIT DENIZET-LEWIS, exposes the rise, fall, and sadness that is the line of bulldogs who serve to honor the franchise. Eye opening is an understatement: We’re talking tweaking the standard of the Bulldog to the point he is unhealthy, folks.


Ugga is not one dog, but a franchise in and of himself. I wrote a piece about canine mascots years ago when I was a puppy journalist. With time, I’ve matured and I know better. As the saying goes, I now do better.

At a recent event in Virginia, I bumped into the Washington Redskins human mascot. He is a rare breed. Zema Williams, aka Chief Zee, has been donning a head dress and pumping up the fans at Redskins games for 35 years. Our paths crossed at a dog-related event where Chief Zee was posing for pictures and signing autographs. His time as mascot is about to end as well.

Redskins chief
Hail to the Chief, with me

In a report for the Washington Post, Mike Wise writes, “He is physically ailing. The commercial world and the team appear to be backing away as the recent fervor over the name controversy continues. His one-man, self-anointed tribe is nearing extinction.”

People don’t want to see a human dressed up as a mascot unless that human is in costume.

Chomps is one of the Cleveland Browns costumed mascots. Chomps will have company on the sidelines this season and that company is man’s best friend. Live and in the flesh and fur.

With every touchdown and every field goal, my heart will break a little more. For every Bullmastiff who will lose because of a dog seen traipsing along the field at Browns games.

Want to score big for the dogs of the world? Keep the costumes flowing and don’t let the dogs out.

QUESTION: What are your thoughts on this topic? Is a live dog a good idea for a football franchise? 



  1. Ellen says

    Wow, what an incredible article. You write with such conviction and fervor, I wish those that need to read this article, DO! You could be saving many bull mastiffs from the dangers the bulldog and other breeds experienced over the years because of the popularity’s breed at the time. Thank you for the heads up and warning. My hope is your readers will take heed!

  2. Caren Gittleman says

    Wow…as a life-long Cleveland Browns fan (who now lives in Detroit, ironically, the Browns are playing here this weekend), I am mixed. I see your point, never thought about that with BullMastiffs….and I do agree with you. Will he be at every game? Even in bad weather? Will he be present the entire game? I am frankly worried about fan behavior, the fans in Cleveland can be rather zealous (to say the least), throwing things, etc. That concerns me the most, that the dog will be hurt. I tend to lean towards your view, I am more concerned for the safety of the dog than anything. Fabulous post!

    • Carol Bryant says

      I knew you were a big football fan and wasn’t sure which team. Take a peek at that Ugga article, Caren, and you will be amazed.

  3. Cathy Armato says

    Like Caren my concern is also for the safety of the dog mascots at games. A loud raucous sporting event is no place for a dog of any breed. With respect to the breed frenzy you discuss, I guess the same can be said about Disney. Following every Disney doggie movie is the mad rush to run out and purchase the particular breed of dog represented in the latest movie. Unfortunately, irresponsible ownership is always there no matter what compels people to obtain a pet. I’ll check out the Ugga article. Thanks for another thought provoking post Carol!
    Love & Biscuits,
    Cathy, Isis & Phoebe,

  4. Vlad & Barkly's Dee says

    We dread to see what’s going to happen to this majestic breed. We love our strong breeds in this household, and we love our rare breeds. Along with extensively researching the breeder, rare breeds give us a better chance that the dogs haven’t been quite so over-bred as to become quite as unhealthy as some other breeds have done. Bullmastiffs were ranked 42 in the AKC in 2013, and that’s popular enough that a lot of damage has already been done. This is a breed that the casual owner doesn’t need, because the humans haven’t been trained properly to handle it. So along with a surge in unhealthy breeding occurring, we’ll see a huge surge of them in the dog pounds that aren’t such happy places as Cleveland’s “dog pound.” They’ll be hard to get adopted because they’ll probably have some training issues that will be very hard to deal with, and most owners don’t want to have to go through all that. Bravo for speaking up about it so well! All I could say to my husband when I heard about Swagger was, “Oh God. Here we go.”

  5. Rebekah says

    Butler Blue I, II, and III all have health problems, and a ridiculous number of English Bulldog “breeders” have popped up in Indiana, selling these poorly bred pups to anyone with $1000. Unsuspecting buyers than have to either learn to deal with yeasty folds, dogs that overheat easily, or surrender them to shelters. It is so unfortunate.

  6. Brutus Duffy says

    It’s the same with Tv and movie dogs. Remember 101 Dalmatians and Beethoven? No matter if it’s media or sports, people will be stupid. What we really need is more coverage on shelter and rescue dogs.

    • seabrooksr says

      The Dalmatian overpopulation due to 101 Dalmatians was largely a myth. There was a lot of anecdotal “evidence” but no real hard data. In fact, the AKC registration of dalmatians remained pretty much the same for about ten years despite the movie. Dalmatians did become popular, briefly, however. This popularity did a very good job of educating the public why Dalmatians are not “everyman” dogs. By the time the live action film came out, registrations were already on a serious decline. Dalmatian registrations are now at an all-time low.

      I’m not sure you can point to any one media source and say “this is bad for the dogs and the breed”. The problem is in the consumer who chooses “Brand Dog”, without considering either their needs or the dogs.

      • Carol Bryant says

        I disagree. As a Cocker mom and Cocker rescuer, whenever Lady and the Tramp gets re-released for the umpteenth time, there is a surge in Cockers on the market and a surge in them at rescues months later. I completely disagree but respect your opinion.

        • seabrooksr says

          Studies I have read seem to indicate that the percentage of purebred dogs who enter the shelter system is roughly ~25%. Of course, my source is mainly HSUS, who makes up a lot of their statistics. It’s also tough to get numbers from breed-specific rescues, because a good rescue will increase their numbers over the years as they become more well-known, develop more resources, and reach more of the public.
          Most people who get dogs take good care of them. There are roughly 83 million owned dogs and a booming pet industry to prove it. A relatively small portion of dogs enter the shelter system. Only about one quarter of these could be dogs that are products of “media fads”, but likely less because being purebred doesn’t mean your owner will never lose a job, have to move, develop allergies or have a baby.
          And even if the media plays a significant factor, it likely only affects which breed is most prominent in that 25%. Should we ban all dog-centric media because it might influence that small portion of the population that purchases in haste, and repents in haste as well? Or should we try to educate these people that a dog is not a purse or a pair of shoes, and requires a lifetime commitment?
          And a little popularity might just be the best thing for the Bullmastiff. Popularity comes hand in hand with Public Scrutiny these days. Public pressure has become an enormous force for change in Dalmations, Cavaliers, even Bulldogs. At the very least, public knowledge of health issues in dogs has led to a much more wary consumer.

          • Carol Bryant says

            Twenty years in the pet industry has taught me a lot. Visiting shelters, seeing the ramifications of greedy franchises using dogs for profit, being a part of puppy mill raids, and more. I totally disagree with you but again, respect your opinion. How about the Browns featuring a new adoptable mutt a week? Oh wait, that would not bring them money.

  7. Sharon S. says

    I agree this is a bad idea. The city shelter in my town is filled with Chihuahua’s because everyone wanted to copy Paris Hilton’s purse dog. People need to pick a dog based on their lifestyle and not because they see it on a football field. Good post.

  8. PuppyLoveNY says

    No good! Reminds me of when Paris Hilton started toting around a little Chihuahua and then boom, enormous increase in Chihuahuas found in shelters. Such a shame.

  9. Cathy Lape says

    I was a at the Browns game this past Sunday and
    Infuriated with how this dog is treated. Held
    On a 3 foot lead, apparently by it’s owner/handler, it was provided NO SHADE, held back from reaching water and antagonized by drunks the entire time. I have filed a complaint with the Brown’s organization and have followed up with several phone calls. I threatened starting a petition at which point they asked that I give them “time to look at the situation”. And FYI, the “dog house” by this poor dog is a TOY, I was told this by Brown’s representatives, it is not meant to provide safety or shade as there is no way to enter it!!! I asked that the Browns organization educate themselves with regard to a dog’s sensitive hearing/ears as well as being submitted to hours of terror. I promised them I will not give up on this dog!!

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