Why Is PETA Beefing With Pete Davidson?

Photo-Illustration: The Cut; Photos: Getty Images, Shutterstock

Dogs: cute, soft, innocent, a powerful species of sweet boys and girls to unite us all — or so I thought. Then I heard about Pete Davidson’s highly controversial Cavapoo, which has ignited a feud so out of control that Ryan Murphy has already acquired the rights to its plot. Well, maybe not, but it has culminated in a $15,000 billboard in Times Square. How exactly did we get here, and what is a Cavapoo? Let’s dive in.

It all started in May when Davidson was pictured with Chase Sui Wonders, his sacred partner of the moment, buying a 2-month-old Cavalier King Charles spaniel–poodle mix at Citipups, a pet store in Manhattan. As reported by TMZ, Davidson had seen the dog on the pet store’s Instagram account and bought it for his mother, whose 2-year-old dog (also ostensibly a Cavapoo) had died a few weeks prior. PETA, an organization famous for advocating for animal rights in a highly unconventional and attention-grabbing fashion, quickly pounced on the opportunity to tsk-tsk in the limelight. Daphna Nachminovitch, who runs a division of PETA known as Cruelty Investigations, bolted to TMZ to air the organization’s grievances — with some writerly flair, of course.

“It’s tragic,” Nachminovitch said, “that Pete didn’t seek out a borough-born mutt from a city animal shelter, because a scrappy New Yorker with charm, personality, and unconventional handsomeness could have been his perfect match.” Nachminovitch added, “Since shelters in New York and across the country are overflowing with homeless animals, PETA urges Pete to show some big heart energy by adopting, not shopping, in the future.”

Not one to take a public finger-wag lying down, Davidson turned to the most sinister of communication methods to express his ire: the voice-mail message. Picture him, stormily Googling PETA’s direct number and smashing DIAL, only to be hit with an automated voice-mail recording that enrages him further. He then lets rip the following:

Hi, my name is Pete Davidson. This message is for Daphna. Thank you so much for making comments publicly that I didn’t adopt a dog. I just want to let you know I’m severely allergic to dogs, so I have to get a specific breed. I’m only not allergic to Cavapoos. And my mom’s fucking dog, who’s 2 years old, died a week prior, and we’re all so sad, so I had to get a specific dog. So why don’t you do your research before you fuckin’ create news stories for people because you’re a boring, tired [bleeped out]? Fuck you, and suck my dick!

Ever the industrious journalistic enterprise, TMZ published the leaked message before scurrying back to PETA to get its thoughts on Davidson’s thoughts. PETA eagerly volleyed back: “If Pete had done his research, he would know that there’s no such thing as a hypoallergenic dog, that at least a quarter of dogs in shelters are purebreds, and that Petfinder has listings for homeless dogs of every breed under the sun, including the one he purchased.”

TMZ dutifully shuffled back to Davidson, who humbly confessed that he didn’t know he could “adopt a specific hypoallergenic dog.” Still, he is fuming, and at this point TMZ is (probably) salivating at its crucial role in the drama. “I haven’t seen my mom and sister cry like that in over 20 years,” Davidson said of the old dog’s death, continuing:

I was trying to cheer up my family. I was already upset that the store had filmed me without my permission or acknowledgment. Then this organization made a public example of us, making our grieving situation worse. I am upset. It was a poor choice of words. I shouldn’t have said what I said, but I am not sorry for standing up for myself and my family.

A natural place to bury this beef — to me, at least. Not so much to the Center for Organizational Research and Education, an agency that sounds exactly as shady as its name suggests. CORE apparently felt so strongly about the matter that it bought a $15,000 billboard in Times Square just to come to Davidson’s defense and to make more jokes about his so-called “energy.” “PETA CAN’T HANDLE PETE’S BDE,” the billboard says next to a photo of Davidson. Instead of the anatomical BDE on which the Davidson brand was built, CORE claimed the acronym stood for “buy-dog energy,” which we all know it doesn’t. Committing to the hugely expensive bit in a statement to reporters, a CORE spokesperson alleged that “PETA thinks dogs deserve an early grave” and suggested the group “focus on actually helping animals” instead of “harassing celebrities.”

Two logical questions to ask at this juncture might be “What the hell is CORE?” and “Are its accusations at all valid?” As for the latter, no. According to PETA, which, yes, has already reacted to this turn of events, it’s a “front group for the puppy mill industry” intent on “propagating misinformation about PETA’s rescue team.” Incidentally, it was also founded — with funding from big tobacco — to fight anti-smoking laws and has gone on to rail against everything from Mothers Against Drunk Driving to plant-based meat, all with the alleged goal of protecting consumer rights. Davidson’s unalienable right to purchase brand-new dogs, CORE feels, have been violently infringed on via a public scolding.

The drama continued to spiral as an unsettling layer of smog crept over the city on Wednesday afternoon, occupying seemingly everyone but CORE and PETA, which both refused to be distracted from their shared goal of being petty. Less than 24 hours after CORE’s masterpiece went up, it was taken down by the company that owns the billboard. The Daily Mail swooped in to mediate, quoting a CORE spokesman who claims PETA inundated the billboard’s owning company with phone calls, pressuring it to take down the sign. PETA fired back that, actually, it was its supporters who called in to express their distaste for this “attempt to distort PETA’s lifesaving work.”

Meanwhile, Davidson appears to have already moved on. He attended a movie premiere as the saga hit its peak and used his red-carpet time to talk not about the Cavapoo, but about how high he was when he bought that ferryboat. Still, points were made all around, and I wish peace to all parties involved — they clearly need it.

Why Is PETA Beefing With Pete Davidson?