If you’re a fan of dog photos on the Internet, you might have come across the Twitter account WeRateDogs. The creator, Matt Nelson, posts photos people send him of their dogs and “rates” them. Every dog gets at least 10/10 because all dogs are amazing. However, Nelson ran into some controversy recently after a user sent him a photo of a puppy named “Kanan.” When Nelson posted his rating, he changed the name to “George.” The user questioned his reasoning since Kanan is an Arabic name while George is, to be blunt, pretty white.
Nelson responded by blocking her when she called him out. Through his personal account, he explained that he frequently changes the names of dogs after asking the owner. It wasn’t intentionally “white-washing,” he said, he likes to change names when they’re too common or because he thinks people will connect more closely with the new name. Nelson has used “George” a lot in the past and he likes using it with puppies because it sounds like a grumpy old man’s name.
White-washing is a big topic right now, so it didn’t take long for the internet to push back on Nelson. 15 minutes after posting his explanation, Nelson said he wouldn’t change names anymore. I have no doubt that Nelson didn’t intend to offend anyone. WeRateDogs wants to be a bright spot in an internet full of hatred, but nothing is truly safe once it hits the web.
Taking another angle of this issue, it seems odd that Nelson has been renaming dogs when owners have carefully chosen them. Yes, he gets the owner’s permission, but who’s going to say no to having their dogs featured on an account with over 3.5 million followers? To avoid further controversy, WeRateDogs sticking to the original names is probably for the best.