02/11/2013 02:20 pm ET Updated Apr 13, 2013

Shelter Dogs Deserve 'Best in Show'

While many dog lovers will soon be watching pampered pooches strut their stuff on the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show stage, the ASPCA has this reminder: Dogs in shelters might not have a distinguished pedigree, but they are equally deserving of pomp and circumstance.

From coast to coast, shelters in the ASPCA's Partner Communities and everywhere in between have hundreds of champion purebreds and mutts alike waiting for loving homes. The accompanying photos of these "Best In Shows" -- from Alabama to Washington and New York to California, and everywhere in between -- are worth taking a look at.

Remember, there are many reasons to make adoption your first option when considering a Best-In-Show companion. Here are our Top Five:

5. No two dogs are alike. Why blend in with the crowd? When you adopt a mixed-breed, chances are he is one-of-a-kind and uniquely yours. Everyone loves a good story, and the amazing story of how you rescued your dog and guessing the breeds he's comprised of is guaranteed to please.

4. Give your wallet a break. Adoption fees are substantially lower than the purchase price of pedigreed pups. And, most shelter dogs are already spayed/neutered, vaccinated, and micro-chipped. Studies also show that mixed-breeds have less health problems than purebreds, saving you even more money down the road.

3. Compete with the best of them. Some may think that pageants are for purebreds only, but mixed breeds compete in agility and other sporting contests, and their unique sizes and temperaments may even give them an edge.

2. Jack of all trades. Mixed breeds aren't limited to only one 'herding' or 'working' category; they can do it all! Mutts are made up of the best of both worlds, and if their parents were also mixed, there's no limit to the amazing characteristics one dog can possess.

1. Save a life! There are millions of dogs in this country without a loving family. When you adopt, you not only save a life, but you give a much-needed home to a dog that might never have had one. There is nothing like the feeling of rescuing an animal.

"Best in Show" Shelter Dogs

This week, while purebreds are winning blue ribbons from the judges, let's celebrate mixed breed shelter dogs, who will win blue ribbons from your heart. For more information on the ASPCA's partner communities, and to access their shelters' web sites to see all of the wonderful blue-ribbon dogs (and cats) in their shelters, click here:

For a peek at the animals available at the ASPCA's adoption center, as well as our partner organizations in NYC, click here:

Ed Sayres