Officials see red over pink dog

The Baltimore Sun

BOULDER, Colo. -- This is a sight no self-respecting hair stylist wants to see: An inch of white roots showing, the remaining color dulling to a lackluster shade.

"It is faded, isn't it?" said Joy Douglas, owner of Zing Salon, running her fingers through her toy poodle Cici's once-pink tight curls.

Nearly a month has passed since Cici had her bimonthly treatment of pureed organic beets and egg whites massaged into her white coat while she basked in the glow of a heat lamp.

With her coat dyed pink - sometimes a bubble-gum pink, other times a vivid magenta - Douglas, 33, says Cici is a wriggling, little 10-pound advertisement for breast cancer awareness, an issue dear to Douglas' heart.

But to the Humane Society of Boulder Valley, the pastel-hued, rhinestone-collar-wearing Cici is the embodiment of a law flouted.

As have a number of other communities, Boulder passed an ordinance forbidding the dyeing or coloring of rabbits, fowl or other animals. The nearly 30-year-old law aimed to prevent Easter trade in baby bunnies, chicks and ducks colored with dyes, which were often harmful and which encouraged buyers to throw away the creatures when their cuteness had worn off. Douglas - who faces a $1,000 fine and 90 days in jail - takes umbrage at the idea that she is hurting her dog.

"I've never treated my animals poorly," she said.

The attention her case has drawn has its benefits, Douglas said. Soon after the story broke, she said one man walked in and handed her $40 for her breast cancer fund; her donation jar now boasts $157.

"Not too shabby for two weeks," she said.

Now Douglas is trying to parlay her next court date, April 7, into a fundraiser. For every person who shows up at the courthouse in pink, she said, she'll donate $1 to the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation.

Prevalent in the 1970s and 1980s, the trend of coloring animals has fallen out of fashion as people have grown aware of the harm caused to the animals, said Michael Markarian, executive vice president of the Humane Society of the United States.

"This is the first time we've heard of a dog being dyed in this way," he said.

Markarian says he's not sure whether beet juice is harmful to a dog, but owners must be careful because some foods are toxic to dogs, who could ingest it as they lick their fur.

Coloring a dog seems unnecessary, he added. "These animals are not fashion accessories. They're not billboards. They're living creatures, and their natural fur and feathers are beautiful enough."

Douglas says the attention that Cici attracts helps her raise money for breast cancer organizations, although she declined to discuss the amount or whether the disease has directly touched her.

Officials from the Humane Society, which enforces the city's animal welfare laws, have signaled that they may be rethinking the ordinance's application in this situation.

Douglas' attorney has advised her to cease the color treatments for the time being.

So, for now, Cici's fur will continue to fade back to its natural white.

DeeDee Correll writes for the Los Angeles Times.

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