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Dog Owners Dress Up Their Posh Pooches With 'Tattoos'

By Victoria Bekiempis | April 29, 2013 8:15am | Updated on April 29, 2013 12:18pm

UPPER EAST SIDE — It's a tale of lady and the tramp stamp.

Owners of fashion-forward fidos in Manhattan's toniest neighborhood are starting to beg groomers for temporary tattoos — reflecting a burgeoning international interest in dog body art, industry insiders tell DNAinfo.com New York.

And the key player turning on tail waggers' masters to the idea is Jorge Bendersky, a celebrity dog groomer whose clientele hails mainly from the Upper East Side. The tattoos are especially popular among owners of short-haired dogs, he explained.

"In the summer, they cut the dogs' hair short, so you've got to supplement the glamour," he said. "Having no hair is no excuse not to be glamorous."

 Jorge Bendersky gives a dog a temporary tattoo.
Jorge Bendersky gives a dog a temporary tattoo.
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DNAinfo/Victoria Bekiempis

Joanie Pelzer, who doesn't typically get many opportunities to style her 8-year-old Chihuahua Hubbell's minimal mane, agreed. She knew Bendersky through friends, and said she was floored by the idea when he first pitched it to her.

Now, she's hooked and wants more.

"I thought it was nuts. I had never heard of it before," Pelzer said. "But he's totally creative and I thought, 'It's got to be interesting.'"

Pelzer picked a heart for Hubbell's hip — and was amazed to see a flurry of new fans flock to his side.

"When I'm in Central Park, tourists are constantly stopping to see him," she said. "He absolutely loves the attention.

"All he does is get his nails cut, and I comb him to get that extra hair off, so it is fun to have this little fun thing for him," she added.

The tiny designs also help dogs look red carpet ready without breaking the bank, some owners said.

Fallon O'Brien — who owns a 7-year-old Chihuahua named Fletch — said the butterfly applied by Bendersky was the perfect fit for her pup.

"I go to a lot of events, and people dress up their dogs in expensive outfits, and it was something I could do to make my dog stand out that wasn't that expensive," the 33-year-old UES resident said. "People were like, 'Where did you get that done?' and wanted to get it done for their dog and were asking what different shapes and things were available."

With the onset of doggie prom season, tattoos also help O'Brien worry less about balancing Fletch's comfort with fashion, she said.

"Sometimes, my dog and I dress in the same color if we're going to a red carpet event. During the summer, it's just too hot to have him wearing outfits like that," said Fallon, a school teacher. "The tattoo is a good option."

Added Randy Mark, a merchandiser and filmmaker whose 8-year-old Jack Russel, Jackie, was getting a tattoo Friday: "I really like outfits on my dog, but I thought a tattoo was kind of different."

To "tattoo" a dog, Bendersky and other groomers typically start off by filling in a stencil with canine-safe glue. Next, they add dog-friendly glitter and, sometimes, pre-packed designs with rhinestones.

These designs, which cost approximately $100, are most often placed on dogs' hips or tailbone, making the placement analogous to a lower back tattoo on a person.

"It's all about the tramp stamp," Bendersky said.

Demand for these techniques isn't just in New York, however. Dawn Omboy, considered to be a pioneer in the dog tattoo trend, said she has started to teach glitter appliques at creative grooming conferences as far away as Australia and Poland.

"It's grown immensely — even people in remote Iowa do it," said Omboy, a national certified master groomer who owns Klippers salon in Columbus, Ga.

Animal welfare experts said dog tattoos are not inherently dangerous — but safeguards should still be taken.

“There are numerous products on the market that are meant to ‘beautify’ pets, and safety truly depends on the individual product and whether the ingredients are potentially toxic or not," said Dr. Tina Wismer, medical director at the ASPCA’s Animal Poison Control Center, in a statement to DNAinfo.com New York. "Pets explore the world with their mouths and are likely to groom and lick any topical agent off their skin or fur."

Wismer added that pet owners should research any products used on the animals.

"While we might think it looks cute, it is important that your pet's well-being and safety come first,” she said.

Meanwhile, Bendersky himself is convinced that his canine clients like their ink.

"Dogs are like humans, and when they accessorize they get attention. A pink dog does not know it's pink, but when people are smiling and taking pictures, it gets attention," he said. "So, a dog likes to get tattoos."

Jeanine Pepler, a public relations executive who lives on the Upper East Side, had similar sentiments about sticking a rose on her 2-year-old Frenchie, Violet.

"It's silly, and it's fun," she said. "I enjoyed it. My office enjoyed it. Facebook enjoyed it."