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Great Dane fans fear popularity boost -- and abandoned pets -- as a result of new 'Marmaduke' film

May 24, 2010 |  4:00 pm

GreatdaneFearing a "101 Dalmatians"-style upswing in Great Dane purchases in the wake of the upcoming release of the film "Marmaduke," the American Kennel Club and the Great Dane Club of America are urging potential pet owners to do their research before bringing home an adorable, big-pawed Dane puppy.

"Marmaduke," based on the well-known comic strip of the same name, stars Owen Wilson as the galumphing Great Dane. Costars include George Lopez (who voices a cat), Black Eyed Peas singer Fergie (who plays Marmaduke's collie love interest) and William H. Macy.

The film, which combines live action and computer-generated imagery, "sees Marmaduke navigate a volatile Mutts vs. Pedigrees turf war, woo the purebred of his dreams and overcome a fall from grace," the Hollywood Reporter announced last year.

"Everything is bigger when you own a Great Dane," Great Dane Club of America president Dave Miller said in a statement. "They eat a lot of food and take up a lot of space in your home and car. We recommend that families meet several full-grown adult Great Danes to make sure they understand how large this breed really is" before bringing one home.

Marmaduke Pet rescuers often comment on the so-called "101 Dalmatians syndrome" that follows the release of a popular film or television show starring an animal. When viewers see a cute and charming animal actor, the theory goes, they are more likely to bring a pet of the same breed or species home -- only to find out that the real-life animal doesn't fit in with their lifestyle. End result: The pet is dumped at an animal shelter.

In recent years, rescue groups and animal welfare organizations have worked to combat "101 Dalmatians syndrome" in advance. In advance of the release of "Marley & Me," the popular film based on the bestselling book about a lovable but ill-behaved Labrador retriever, the American Humane Assn. staged a campaign to educate moviegoers about choosing a dog breed based upon its role in a film. Guinea pig rescuer organizations staged a similar public relations blitz before last year's "G-Force," which featured heroic computer-generated guinea pigs, hit theaters.

When "Beverly Hills Chihuahua" was released in 2008, its website and end credits even included text that described pet ownership as a serious commitment for the lifetime of the animal that requires advance research. That fact, and the fact that its plot included a storyline about pet adoption, haven't stopped "Beverly Hills Chihuahua" from getting part of the blame from rescuers for California animal shelters' over-abundance of surrendered Chihuahuas.

Even without a "Marmaduke"-related boost in popularity, Great Danes were the 21st most common breed as determined by the AKC's national registration statistics in 2009.

"Marmaduke" is scheduled for wide release June 4.

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Abandoned movie dogs -- Chihuahuas and Dalmatians -- and the voiceless foreclosure victims

-- Lindsay Barnett

Top photo: A Great Dane jumps up on his owner during the 2010 Crufts dog show in Birmingham, England. Credit: Dan Kitwood / Getty Images

Bottom photo: A production shot from "Marmaduke." Credit: Joseph Lederer / 20th Century Fox

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