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A popular Twitter account known for showering dogs with compliments and giving them arbitrary ratings has vowed to stop “white-washing” the names of people’s pets after being accused of the practice.
@dog_rates, which has nearly 7 million followers, posts photos of dogs and captions them with generous if impossible ratings, like “14/10 would protect at all costs.” It’s run by Matt Nelson, a dude in his early 20s, and like many popular pet accounts, he relies on photo submissions.
A Twitter user noticed on Monday that after a dog owner submitted a photo of his pet Kanan, @dog_rates posted a photo of the dog—but changed Kanan’s name to George. When the user questioned @dog_rates on the practice, the account blocked her and said “the name plays a massive role in how well the post does.”
On his personal account, Nelson continued defending changing the dogs’ names. He said he always asks the pets’ owners for permission and that “there’s no rhyme or reason” to the changes. But he also said he once changed a dog’s name from Pablo, a traditionally Spanish name, to Pipsy.
He’s absolutely a good boy. And there’s definitely nothing wrong with the name. I’ve been changing them since I started the account. One of our most popular posts is of a dog named Pablo that i changed to Pipsy. There’s no rhyme or reason and I always check with the owner— Corgis Saved: 1 (@matt___nelson) June 25, 2018
As the Atlantic staff writer Taylor Lorenz noted, Nelson essentially admitted the names were often changed “to sound less ethnic” and to appeal to wider audiences.
WeRateDogs has been changing dogs names (in many cases to sound less ethnic) in order to go viral pic.twitter.com/fyxBDvgbfp— Taylor Lorenz (@TaylorLorenz) June 25, 2018
Apparently overwhelmed by the backlash, Nelson said he would stop changing dogs’ names on the account.
I WON’T CHANGE ANY MORE OF THE DOG NAMES HOLY FUCK— Corgis Saved: 1 (@matt___nelson) June 25, 2018
In a follow-up tweet, Nelson said “white-washing” dogs’ names wasn’t intentional—but that “it will never happen again.”
I don’t even know how to apologize for this one. I always enjoyed changing names. It helped me figure out what people liked. As long as the owner approved, I thought it was fine. “White-washing” the names was obviously not my intention and it will never happen again— Corgis Saved: 1 (@matt___nelson) June 25, 2018
The incident comes on the tail of Racism Watchdog taking a break from Twitter last week. The owners of the account, who point out racist posts on Twitter by tweeting “WOOF WOOF,” were accused of promoting the fallacy of reverse racism.
In May 2017, Nelson apologized after @dog_rates came under fire for trying to sell “covfefe” hats.
Luckily, it seems this time Nelson quickly learned his lesson and can go back to rating good doggos—now with their proper names.
Kris Seavers is the IRL editor for the Daily Dot. Her work has appeared in Central Texas publications, including Austin Monthly and San Antonio Magazine, and on NPR.