Scamp the Tramp will never win a beauty contest. But he’s won an ugly one.
The bug-eyed, dreadlocked pooch took top honors Friday night at the 31st annual World’s Ugliest Dog Contest.
Owner Yvonne Morones of Santa Rosa, California, won an appearance with Scamp on the “Today” show, $1,500 in cash, another $1,500 to donate to an animal shelter — and a trophy the size of a Rottweiler.
“He’s Scamp the Champ, no longer Scamp the Tramp,” Morones told the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat after the victory. “I think the audience saw his beautiful spirit and everything he’s given back to the community.”
Scamp makes volunteer visits to schoolchildren and a local senior citizens center.
The street dog from Compton was rescued by Morones in 2014 after she spotted him on Pet Finder.
“It was on the way home that I knew I made the right choice,” she said in a contest press statement. “There we were, two strangers in a car on the way home to a new start. Bob Marley was playing ‘One Love’ and I looked over and little Scamp was bobbing his head. It was like he knew he had found his forever home.”
Scamp beat out 18 other contestants who showed off their droopy tongues, bowed legs, perpetually confused looks and other strange attributes.
The contestants got to walk the red carpet and preen for adoring fans at Sonoma-Marin Fairgrounds in the heart of Northern California wine country.
The competition, as they say, was fierce.
Second place went to Wild Thang, a Pekinese with beady eyes and a disturbing tongue, owned by Ann Lewis of Los Angeles.
Third place went to Tostito, a Chihuahua whose damaged ears and droopy tongue make him look like he just stuck his foot into an electrical socket. Tostito, owned by Molly Horgan of Falmouth, Maine, also won the Spirit Award.
This year’s People’s Choice Award went to Meatloaf, a bulldog mix with protruding teeth owned by Denae Pruner of Sacramento, California.
Before finding his forever home, Meatloaf was found “wandering alone and in rough shape,” according to his owner. His ears were improperly cropped and he had “common genetic issues due to irresponsible breeding practices, including entropion, breathing issues, and skin sensitivity.”
Pruner says Meatloaf’s main goal at the World’s Ugliest Dog contest is to “bring awareness to responsible breeding practices and get all the love and attention he can.”
Everyone knows ugliness is in the eye of the beholder and, to a dog lover, there is no such thing as an uncomely canine. Weird-looking, maybe. Appearance-challenged, perhaps. Or, as owners of ugly dogs like to say, “unique.”
Like Willie Wonka, a sweet-natured pit bull abandoned after he was discovered to have a genetic malady that left his legs so bowed he could barely walk.
With a chuckle, publicist Christy Gentry said the competition wasn’t just about being ugly.
“Judges are looking for special attributes like hanging tongues, slobber, drool (the more the better). Maybe unusual patches of skin or hair,” she explained.
Last year’s champion, an English bulldog named Zsa Zsa, with a tongue that hung nearly to the ground, endeared herself to the judges when she sneezed and drooled all over them.
Soon she was headed to New York for national TV appearances. Sadly, Zsa Zsa died about a year ago at age 9.
Another previous winner, Nana, made the cover of an album by the Grateful Dead spinoff band Ratdog.
Organizers say the contest isn’t just skin-deep. It’s also about bringing attention to the needs of rescue dogs.
Most competitors were previously abandoned or rescued from kill shelters in the U.S., found abandoned on streets or seized from unscrupulous breeders.
“What we’re really doing is we’re showcasing dogs that have been rescued and adopted and brought into loving homes,” Gentry said. “These are sort of spokesdogs for adoption.”