It’s pretty easy to hoax people. We all want to be deceived, but only up to a point. Some hoaxes are fun and pleasant, others malicious and unpleasant. We’d like a way to tell the difference (Robert Carroll).

Dec 10, 2011

Cat House for Dogs

If somebody will create the list of the top pranksters of modern time, Joey Skaggs should probably be considered to be one of the best, if not the very best. A performance artist, Skaggs is responsible for the 1976 Village Voice article "Cathouse for Dogs" which introduced a new business into the community, a Doggie Brothel. For $50 a pop your pooch can be sexually gratified. Skaggs is also responsible for the Hippie Bus Tour of Queens, Fame Exchange with John and Yoko, Celebrity Sperm Bank, Gypsies against Stereotypical Propaganda, Windsurfing from Hawaii to California, Fish Condos, Bad Guys Talent Management Agency, Brooklyn Bridge Lottery, Maqdananda: the Psychic Attorney, and the notorious Rudy Doody happening in Washington Square Park. In this post, we will present his the most famous prank “Cathouse for Dogs”, while some of his other pranks will be reviewed in the future publications.

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"Cat House for Dogs," said an ad in the Village Voice, "featuring a savory selection of hot bitches..." Along with this ad, a press release was sent to the media saying that if your dog graduated from obedience school, if it was his birthday, or if he was just horny, for $50 you could get your dog sexually gratified. This was not a breeding service, but purely a sexual pleasure service.

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The phone rang off the hook as hundreds of people called to talk to New York's first and only dog pimp. Surprisingly, not only were the calls from bonifide customers willing to pay $50, but there were just as many calls from people who wanted to have sex with dogs or watch dogs have sex with other people. Dog pimp, Skaggs, recorded all of these incoming phone calls.

When contacted by the news media, Skaggs got together 25 actors and 15 dogs and staged an elaborate performance in a SoHo loft -- a night in a bordello for dogs. The performance featured models posing with female dogs in look-a-like outfits, and actors posing with the male dogs waiting to view the bitches. Friend Tony Barsha played a bogus veterinarian on site who, when interviewed, explained that the female dogs were injected with a drug called Estro-dial to artificially induce a state of heat. If a bitch was already in a natural state of heat, she would be given a contraceptive called Ova-ban, so there would be no fear of fatherhood.

A lecture was given on dog copulation techniques and customers filled out questionnaires about their male dog's age, medical history, and bitch preferences and hostesses served cocktails. A staff photographer was there to take a token photo of each dog getting it on, and a dog groomer to primp the dogs before and after sex.

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The video crew members, representing Midnight Blue, New York's first late night cable TV sex show, thinking they had shot every kind of sexual perversion known to man, were totally grossed out by the site of female dogs humped by male dogs for money. To be sure their viewing audience "got it," they got down on all fours and shot the humping dogs from a dog's eye view. Of course there was no actual copulation at any time. As anyone who's ever owned a dog knows, any horny male dog will hump space once his mojo kicks in.

The performance was covered on television and in the press. This added to the public clamor and outrage. The SoHo Weekly News covered the story twice. During the second interview, a week after the first article had appeared, the writer suspected it was a hoax. But it was such a good story, he complied with Skaggs' request to continue the ruse.

When WABC TV called, saying they wanted to do a documentary on the Cathouse, Skaggs refused to take them to the facility, saying he had gone underground due to harassment, but instead provided them with the previously shot video of the Cathouse for Dogs (this done after Skaggs clued in Alex Bennett, Midnight Blue producer, who gleefully went along with the hoax).

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The WABC TV piece aired, painting proprietor Skaggs as a sleaze-bag dog pimp exploiting innocent dogs for money. This helped to enflame more authorities, including the ASPCA, the Bureau of Animal Affairs, the NYPD vice squad, the Mayor's office, and various religious and humane organizations, who were thus compelled to send out a drag net to bring down the dog whoremaster of Greenwich Village. Finally, a subpoena from the Attorney General's office, complete with $2.00 for cab fare, was delivered to Skaggs' door.

On April 1, 1976, in answer to the subpoena, Skaggs called a press conference at the Attorney General's office. He announced it was a conceptual performance piece, that the whole thing was a hoax. He was forced to give and swear to a deposition and the case was dropped.

WABC TV never retracted the story, leaving millions to believe that somewhere in New York City there still exists a bordello for dogs. When asked about this later, the WABC TV producer insisted that Skaggs had said it was a hoax to avoid prosecution, and expressed bitterness because the documentary, which had been nominated for an Emmy Award, had been knocked out of the running.

The dog bordello was the subject of much debate in the media for a long time thereafter. The myth continues to this day. In a book called The Total Dog Book, by Louis L. Vine, D.V.M., (Chapel Hill, North Carolina) there's still a section that says that somewhere in Greenwich Village there is a cathouse for dogs.

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While Skaggs’ brothel for dogs was a deliberate prank, it inspired more practical, while not very successful, attempts to establish such business. For example, Karl-Friedrich Lentze's dream has been killed by Berlin city council. Lentze is a German artist who decided to start a business, brothel for dogs, in 2003. This could have been the start of a new era for animal sexual liberation, but the Berlin city council has denied Lentze's application for a business permit.

“Most dogs in this city get only a five-minute walk on a lead each day,” Karl Lentze told reporters in Berlin. “That’s not long enough to sniff another canine, let alone indulge in a bit of fun.  Our dog brothel will allow them to release their frustrations and will suit the fast-paced modern life of their owners too. For £30 they will be able to leave their pet at our brothel for the afternoon so it can have sex with one of our bitches on heat, while they make their own calls.”

The council has decreed that dog sex is for the purpose of reproduction only, and encouraging recreational sex would just make the animals harder to manage.

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