News & Politics

WARL Says No to Inaugural Puppy Giveaway

The Washington Animal Rescue League weighs in on the Omni Shoreham's pup package.

Lots of readers were up in arms when we reported last month that the Omni Shoreham Hotel’s inaugural package included a puppy to take home. Omni’s director of marketing, Paul Sharp, told us that he’d work with local breeders and animal-rescue groups to secure a puppy for VIP guests as part of his hotel’s $440,000 package.

Well, it looks like the Washington Animal Rescue League won’t be among those clamoring to participate. Today, WARL shared a copy of a letter that its executive director sent to Sharp, expressing the group’s “misgivings” about the puppy giveaway.

Here’s what WARL had to say:

November 25, 2008

Mr. Paul Sharp
Director of Marketing
Omni Shoreham Hotel
2500 Calvert St., NW
Washington, DC 20008

Dear Mr. Sharp:

I am writing to express the misgivings of The Washington Animal Rescue League about your offer to include the gift of a puppy in your inaugural package. Like all responsible animal rescue groups—and all responsible breeders, for that matter—the League takes great pains to ensure that the match between adopter and dog is carefully made, thoughtfully considered, and most likely to be successful for all involved. This is not a simple process, but the alternative (i.e., leaving the success of the match to chance) more often than not leads to a very bad conclusion for both the dog and his or her new guardian.

Beyond that, the act of giving a living being away as an enticement sends the wrong message. Dogs are not commodities or possessions to be acquired—and perhaps later disposed of—at a whim. They are companions with whom we deliberately enter and build life-long relationships.

We urge you, therefore, to rescind your offer of a puppy to your inaugural guests. Moreover, I believe you will find that those involved in the animal welfare community are of the same mind in this matter and would, given the opportunity, join me in voicing their reservations about your plan.

As an alternative, we would gladly provide of our state-of-the-art animal shelter to your guests, offering them the opportunity to adopt a dog (or cat), which is, after all, the route that the president-elect has said he prefers.

If you care to discuss this matter further, I can be reached at 202-375-7753 or Thank you for your consideration of this matter.

Gary Weitzman, DVM, MPH
Executive Director

When we contacted Sharp about the letter, he said he received at least 50 phone calls from people upset about the puppy aspect of the package. As a result, the Omni Shoreham has decided to rescind that part of the offer. In its place, the hotel will donate a portion of the proceeds from the inaugural package to the Washington Humane Society.

“I feel bad that it was blown out of proportion in that nobody called to get the details,” says Sharp, who notes that the hotel planned to use an evaluation process similar to what WARL outlines above. “We’ve always been a pet-friendly hotel, and we’ll continue to be in the future.”

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