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Dogs from around the country (maybe even the world) will convene in Petaluma, Calif., Friday for the 26th annual World's Ugliest Dog Contest.

Three judges review the dogs and look for "unusual attributes, personality and a connection with the audience," Karen Spencer, marketing director at the Sonoma-Marin Fair, where the event is held, told USA TODAY Network. The judges give their score cards to an independent party, who tabulates the winner.

Many of the contestants have been rescued by their owners from puppy mills and shelters.

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"It's been a great opportunity to talk about adopting dogs or owning dogs that aren't the perfect picture or pedigree," Spencer said.

The competition, the fair's website notes, "is not about making fun of" the dogs who enter but rather about celebrating them.

"People can still find room in their hearts for creatures that are beautiful on the inside even if they're not beautiful on the outside," Spencer said.

Many of the dogs are from California, Spencer said, but entrants do come from other states and, in 2012, a dog named Mugly from England took home the prize. Last year, a 4-year-old mutt named Walle won.

As of Wednesday, 26 dogs were entered in the contest, but that number may increase because owners can register their dogs right up to the start of the event, she said. Three hundred to 500 spectators are expected to attend, according to Spencer.

The winner will receive a trophy and $1,500. Smaller cash awards will be handed out to winners in pedigree and mutt categories.

All owners must have a note from their veterinarian to prove their dogs are healthy and "naturally ugly," according to the contest's website.

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