With lolling tongues, threadbare coats and crooked noses aplenty, the World's Ugliest Dog competition was always going to be a warts-and-all affair. But then things got even uglier.
After weeks of online polling, the championship was hit by a vote-tampering scandal that left its zealous fans in an uproar.
The trouble began when tens of thousands of votes cast over the internet for Victoria, a half-blind greyhound with "a face and body only a mother could love", vanished overnight from the competition's website.
Two days later, the same thing happened to Pee Wee Martini, a Chinese crested mix whose drunken features and Mohawk hairdo had singled him out as one of the front-runners.
When officials logged on the following week to find the vote tallies for two more canine misfits, Munchkin and Rascal, had also been turned back to zero by computer hackers, they were forced to scrap the results and declare a new election.
"The top four leaders were each missing around 35,000 votes," Vicki DeArmon, the California-based event organiser said yesterday. "Clearly, there was something very suspicious going on.
"We were getting angry e-mails from owners and fans demanding to know what had happened. People were quite steamed up. There was a lot of finger-pointing - and paw-pointing."
The online theft temporarily propelled Lucille Bald, a rat-like contestant with one jutting tooth, an unruly mane and an Elvis-style quiff, into the lead.