The winner of this year’s “World’s Ugliest Dog” competition in Petaluma, California is an 8-year-old adopted pekingese named Wild Thang.

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The competition, which has been held at the Sonoma-Marin Fair for nearly 50 years, “celebrates the imperfections that make all dogs special and unique.” While it crowns the “ugliest” pup, the contest says it is “not about making fun of ‘ugly’ dogs,” but “showing the world that these dogs are really beautiful.” Most of the dog competitors are rescues, and the contest hopes to give them a chance at “the limelight” while raising awareness to adopt, not shop.

In fact, the 2024 winner Wild Thang was adopted after contracting distemper as a puppy from a rescue foster. This left him “permanent damage” that stunted his teeth from growing, caused “his tongue to stay out,” and also gave him leg mobility issues.

Wild Thang’s owner Ann Lewis told TODAY, “Even ugly is beautiful.” She also said her very-social 8-year-old dog loved participating in the competition— and even meeting fans at the airport. “We got bombarded. He was just loving it,” she recalled. “He was wagging his tail. He was happy. He was getting head shots with people.”

Lewis was especially happy that Wild Thang won after competing for five years. “He got second three years in a row,” she explained. California State Treasurer Fiona Ma, who co-judged the event, added: “[Wild Thang was] kind of like the bridesmaid and never the bride, [it] really tugged at our heartstrings. He deserved to win.”

And while the pekingese— who loves ice cream and ice— won top spot, other dogs placed in the competition, too. A 14-year-old pug named Rome, who uses a wheelchair to get around, won second place and the People’s Choice award. “Rome is an amazing pet,” his owner said. “He is pretty much everybody’s favorite.”

While the winner received a $5,000 prize, second-place received $3,000, and third-place nabbed $2,000 winnings.

The contest hopes to show that a dog’s “pedigree does not define the pet” and speak to “the adoration of all animals and the benefits of adopting.”