Pet food firm Pedigree has dropped its sponsorship of Crufts dog show in the latest blow for the famous canine extravaganza, it was revealed today.
The decision, which will cost organisers of the world’s largest dog show a reported £1.5m (€1.9m) a year, follows claims the event promotes unhealthy breeding methods.
It ends a relationship said to have endured for 44 years. TV adverts for Pedigree dogfood carried the tag-line “Top breeders recommend it” and regularly featured prize-winning dogs from the shows.
Crufts organiser the Kennel Club has been under fire since a BBC documentary in August claimed that pedigree dogs suffer from genetic diseases as a result of breeding techniques to develop physical traits required by the Kennel Club’s breed standards.
The RSPCA and welfare charity the Dogs Trust have already severed links with the dog show in the wake of the claims.
In a statement, Pedigree owner Mars UK said: “After careful consideration, Pedigree has decided to withdraw its sponsorship of Crufts. The Pedigree brand has evolved and we are prioritising initiatives that support the broadest possible community of dog owners such as our successful programme to help homeless dogs – The Pedigree Adoption Drive – and our online service for breeders.
“We look forward to working with The Kennel Club on other projects in the future.”
The Kennel Club has insisted next year’s show in March, at the NEC in Birmingham, will go ahead as planned.
Chief executive Rosemary Smart said “Clearly we are very sad to lose Pedigree from Crufts. We have had an excellent relationship with Pedigree for many years and we wish them well and look forward to working with them in the future.
“Crufts will go ahead as planned in March 2009.”
Earlier this month the club said it was launching a complete review of the UK’s 209 pedigree dog breeds in the UK.
Club officials also released the first of some new breed standards, for the Pekingese, which has been bred to have a flat face. This can lead to breathing problems, and the Club said under the new health plan the breed will be required to have a defined muzzle.
Talks between the BBC and Crufts about the screening of next year’s show are ongoing, with a panel of scientific experts reportedly due to advise the corporation about future broadcasts. Last year nearly 15 million viewers tuned in to the show over four days.
Crufts was first held in 1891, attracting more than 150,000 visitors a year.