Is “America’s Favorite Pet” Contest Legit?
You’ve probably seen the new contest, America’s Favorite Pet being advertised. The lucky dog and cat winner of this contest will each receive $10,000 and a spread on Modern Cat or Modern Dog magazines. As the contest enters its fifth year, we’re once again getting bombarded with the big question, “Is America’s Favorite Pet contest legit?” The answer isn’t a straight yes or no…
The internet is flooded with adorable pet photos, and “America’s Favorite Pet” contest capitalizes on that furry charm. But beyond the cute clicks, how does this competition operate, and what’s behind the curtain? Let’s delve into the world of pet popularity contests, sniffing out transparency, donations, and who benefits from all those paw-some pictures.
How the Contest Works
The contest runs annually, accepting entries for both cats and dogs. Pet owners submit photos and stories, hoping to melt enough hearts to secure the top spot. Voting happens online, with each vote costing a small fee. These fees contribute to the prize pool and, supposedly, charitable donations.
There is no entry fee to participate in the “America’s Favorite Pet” contest, but you’re only allowed to enter once per household. You can register your cat or dog for free on their website. However, voting for pets in the competition does involve a fee. As your pet gets closer to the deadline (meaning they move into the semi-finals and finals), the votes will get more expensive. But, you can buy those votes (and most people do).
Here’s a breakdown of the costs:
- Registration: Free
- Verification Vote: $1.00 per vote. This optional verification provides a bonus vote and helps prevent fraudulent voting. However, it does not count as a normal vote towards your chosen pet.
- Single Votes: $1.00 per vote. Good news – you can ask your family and friends to pay to vote! <eye roll>
- Bonus Votes: Starts at $1.00 per vote, with discounts for bulk purchases (see below).
- $0.75 per vote: Available when purchasing 5 or more votes at once.
- $0.50 per vote: Available when purchasing 20 or more votes at once.
- $0.25 per vote: Available when purchasing 100 or more votes at once.
I would report how much they made over the past few years, but the truth is, we will never know. I can guarantee it was enough to purchase a two-page ad.
The Contest Structure
The paid voting structure aside, there are several issues with the finalist structure. There are hundreds of reddit posts discussing the way the contest is structured. The bottom line is that you will always feel as though your pet is winning. But, until you’ve paid hundreds of dollars (a few dollars at a time), you will not know that it goes to the person who paid most.
Each candidate is placed in a pool of beginners. This is immediately after your nomination. We have no idea how many people are in that intial pool fo cnadidates. After a vote or two, you’ll receive a notice that you’ve been moved into the next cateogry, then the next, and the next. You’ll feel special, but you’re not. Everyone has gotten this email.
Here is a post on Reddit that discusses the details.
- These costs are subject to change at any time. Please refer to the official “America’s Favorite Pet” website for the most up-to-date information.
- The website also offers free daily votes through social media engagement and other tasks. However, the number of free votes available per person is limited.
- You can also earn free votes by completing certain tasks like sharing the contest on social media.
- Therefore, while you can submit your pet for free, if you want to increase their chances of winning, you and your friends or followers will need to pay for votes…
Is that illegal? No. It’s essentially just a way to raise money. Contestants, friends and family pay for their “free ad” in Modern Dog or Modern Cat. But, it’s not illegal. It also doesn’t mean anything if you win. The winner will be the one with the friends who have the most cash. But, there’s nothing wrong with capitalism…
Following the Money Trail: Colossal –> DT Cares –> PAWS
This contest has an unusual way of handling the donations. A simple breakdown is this:
Colossal is the digital marketing agency that created and runs the “America’s Favorite Pet” contest. According to the Colossal website, they’re “…in the business of supporting charity.”
They also state, “Colossal competitions are designed to make sure that the most of every dollar donated through one of our campaigns goes directly into the cause.”
The America’s Favorite Pet contest claims to donate a portion of proceeds to PAWS, a network of independent animal rescues. Unfortunately, as PAWS (Pets Are Worth Saving) is a network of independent animal shelters, there isn’t a single director or management team governing the entire organization. Instead, each member shelter within the PAWS network operates independently, with its own leadership and management structure…PAWS is defined on their website as:
That form of organization for charities isn’t unusual. In fact, many animal rescues pull their power into a single organization. This helps them with larger projects and increases marketing budgets so that they can help more animals.
However, there is no mention of the exact dollar amounts or even projected percentages that are donated to the PAWS network. Their website states “a portion,” and financial reports are not readily available. This lack of transparency raises questions about the true impact on animal rescue efforts. So, here’s what we have on the flow of funds:
- Contest participation:
- Pet owners submit entries (free).
- Voting for entries involves a fee per vote.
- Funds collected:
- Colossal collects all voting fees and other contest revenue.
- Donation allocation:
- Colossal retains an undisclosed portion of the collected funds to cover contest expenses and profit.
- The remaining portion is designated for donation to DTCare.
- Donation disbursement:
- DTCare receives the donated money from Colossal, minus any deducted fees or expenses.
- DTCare may then donate the received funds to PAWS.org. However, the exact amount and specific timing of any such donation are unclear.
Wait, Who Is DTCares?
That was our question as well. So, let’s look at DT Care. Colossal (the contest organizer) ultimately determines the amount donated to DT Care. DT CAre then decides how much to donate to PAWS. It plays a valid role in the donation flow.
According to their website, “DTCare Prioritizes Long-Term, Life-Impacting Projects for Positive Generational Change”. They also state, right on the home page, that, “DTCare intends to leave the world a better place than we found it by elevating and empowering disadvantaged communities across the globe through creating unique opportunities for employment, education, job training, local awareness, capacity building, and celebrating diversity within the communities we affect.”
They have a great track record via CharityNavigator, which states: This charity’s score is 99%, earning it a Four-Star rating. If this organization aligns with your passions and values, you can give with confidence. This overall score is calculated from multiple beacon scores, weighted as follows: 80% Accountability & Finance, 10% Leadership & Adaptability, 10% Culture & Community
“DTCare and Colossal are joining forces to support charitable causes that save lives and make a lasting impact right here in the USA. The DTCare/Colossal fundraising model involves three essential parts: a nationally registered 501(c)(3) organization that facilitates receipt and distribution of donations (DTCare), a nationally registered professional fundraiser that solicits those donations (Colossal), and a designated US Charity that receives the bulk of the funds raised.”
What concerns us is the lack of transparency. The percentage of funds DTCare retains before potentially donating to PAWS.org is not publicly disclosed. The contractual terms governing any donations between DTCare and PAWS.org are unavailable. The financial statements or reports of DTCare, LLC, are not readily accessible publicly.
The lack of transparency regarding donation amounts and processes raises concerns about the actual impact of contest funds on animal welfare efforts. Considering the lack of clarity, directly contributing to reputable animal rescue organizations might be a more transparent and impactful way to support animal welfare.
- Donation transparency: The exact percentage of funds Colossal donates to DTCare and whether DTCare actually donates everything to PAWS are not publicly disclosed.
- Timeline and conditions: It’s unclear when or how DTCare transfers any potential donations to PAWS.
While Colossal organizes the contest and DTCare is listed as the beneficiary, the lack of transparency makes it difficult to definitively say that every vote directly translates to a donation to PAWS.org.
Remember, responsible online behavior encourages critical evaluation of contests and organizations before participating. Be mindful of the information available and the potential lack of full transparency regarding financial flows.
Raising Money Through Contests- The Role of Colossal
Let’s face it – Colossal has found a very unique niche in the industry. Contest charity is a “relatively” new business model, but by no means unique. It’s a model that is focused on tugging the consumer heart strings while collecting user data and engagement through fee-based voting. Nothing new there, and, in fact, it’s proven to be very successful for many groups. There is nothing illegal about it. In fact, they organize and run a number of competitions that follow the same structure. This includes:
- America’s Favorite Home Chef
- America’s Favorite Teacher
- Bar Boss
- The Greatest Baker
- America’s Favorite Pet
- Fab over 40
- Karaoke Knockout
- Tony Hawk’s Skatepark Hero
- Supreme Sneakerhead
- Super Mom
- Carla Hall’s Favorite Chef
- Inked Originals
- Big Game Hero
- Cosplay Star
We kind of wish we had thought of it. But, even if we had, we probably wouldn’t put it into play. There are lots of reasons for that (which we won’t get into). Lets discuss how much they donate and how they do it, because we have concerns…
- Transparency: The exact donation amount and financial breakdown are crucial for trust and accountability.
- Exploitation of Cute Content: Are pets being used solely for clicks and profit, potentially overshadowing true animal welfare concerns?
- Alternative Options: Consider supporting dedicated animal rescue organizations directly, where donations have a clearer impact.
So, Is “America’s Favorite Pet” Contest Legit?
Listen, we’ve got no problem with contests like these pay to play models.
We do have some issues with the lack of transparency. We also take issue with raising funds for an animal rescue who, as far as we can see, hasn’t done a lot for animals or the people out there doing the actual work to save animals (by all means, feel free to send me supporting documentation if you disagree).
But, if it were up to us, you would be making a donation to one of the small, paws-on-the-ground animal rescues who are out there every day helping dogs who have been stranded in the desert, risking their lives to get animals off the street, or spending 48 hours straight spaying and neutering feral cats by the hundreds. These are the people who are doing the work. Why not support them? You can always buy a two-page spread in a magazine to show off your cat or dog. In fact, you would probably save money doing so once the contest is over and done.
We think you can do better by supporting local animal rescues and organizations. We just don’t want you to your vanity vote dollars are going to a good cause. If you feel like your pet is absolutely America’s favorite pet? Then by all means, pay away. But, remember to set a little aside for the animals who really need it.