Crufts is famous for more than the top dogs on the catwalk. Most years, the event is dogged by controversy and 2017 is no exception.
Hosted in Birmingham, the world’s biggest competition for show dogs welcomes thousands of breeders and dog owners from Britain, Ireland and as far away as Australia who bring their pedigree chums vying to become the Best In Show.
Crufts is not only the oldest international dog show, but also the poshest, enjoying a royal pedigree with many owners as highly bred as their pets. The president of Britain’s Kennel Club which runs the annual event is Prince Michael of Kent, and its patron is dog lover Queen Elizabeth who frequently attends the club’s field trials.
But it is also a dog-eat-dog world where, armed with scissors, clippers, dry shampoo and hair dryers, owners go to great lengths to preen their pets for stardom.
Two years ago there was an Agatha Christie style whodunnit when Jagger, a Belgian-born Irish Setter died of deliberate poisoning. It gave the tabloids a field day. ‘Murder At Crufts’ snarled the headline in The Sun while the more sedate Telegraph described the killing as “a murder mystery more outlandish than any Hollywood script.”
A post mortem later revealed that Jagger had been poisoned after he returned home.
Other scandals have included allegations of cruelty to the animals; inbreeding causing congenital defects; and dogs given sleeping pills by rival owners.
This year a new rule banning the use of decorative ribbons and bows is proving a bone of contention among overseas competitors.
Pat Maule, a toy-dog judge at the show, has infuriated shih tzu owners by announcing a ban on “hair adornments” in the ring. Her subsequent British bulldog type comment that in America bows are used “to hide faults” and are not wanted “here in the UK” has made things even worse.
American and Australian dog owners have taken to facebook to complain. Californian shih tzu breeder Kathy Garcia wrote: “I feel that the self-righteousness of the statement and the overall UK arrogance about their Shih Tzu in relation to Shih Tzu from other countries (particularly the US) rubs the rest of us wrong… such a ridiculous thing for her to say!”
Australian breeder Sharon Murray said: “For many of us putting bows in the top knot of our shih tzu is a long-held tradition especially here in Australia.”
In response, the judge said that since posting the notice she has been ‘harassed’ by a number of overseas exhibitors who were ‘hell bent on being nasty’.
Like all highly-bred species, Ms Maule doesn’t like being in the dog house.
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