What an exhausting, frustrating and emotional four days Crufts was – for the people who stayed home! As we remained glued to our computers, watching YouTube videos of the breeders and owners whose dogs were stripped of their Best of Breed awards and denied a place in Group competition; reading outraged posts from fanciers and press releases from The Powers That Be, it was certainly the most surreal event I’ve experienced in more than 40 years of exhibiting dogs and attending shows. What a train wreck!
Our “British Connection” columnist Simon Parsons and others warned us it would be a memorable Crufts. At Westminster a few weeks before I chatted with overseas friends like Mike Gadsby, Jason Lynn and Lisa Croft-Elliott. Everyone speculated about how The Kennel Club testing of Best of Breed winners in the 15 “high-profile” breeds would play out.
Ironically no one objected to health testing, including the owners of the six dogs whose Best of Breed wins were withheld. We are told these multi champions have been health tested to the hilt. So to then have these dogs made an example of; to have these breeds demonized; to have committed, world-class breeders and owners humiliated and well-respected judges second-guessed in such a high-handed manner was simply wrong.
It would have been admirable to see The Kennel Club acknowledge the hard work of its breeders and clubs who have faced health issues head-on. Such a missed opportunity. Instead, the purebred dog community felt betrayed in the most public of venues: arguably the world’s most important dog show, and televised, of course.
Fanciers around the world called for a boycott. What a show of solidarity it would have been if, after the events of the first day, the remaining exhibitors had packed up and left. A televised dog show with no dogs left to judge or present to the viewing audience.
Perhaps an impractical suggestion. However, while that didn’t happen it seems the draconian actions of The Kennel Club – the veterinarians who overturned Best of Breed decisions are still refusing comment – served as a rallying cry. The Canine Alliance was quickly formed, with more than 3,000 breeders, exhibitors and judges worldwide offering their support on Facebook.
American dog fanciers viewing the daily events unfold at Crufts appreciated the official statement made by AKC President Dennis Sprung from the show that nothing like this would ever happen here on his watch. That couldn’t have been a pleasant duty when you’re a visiting dignitary in a foreign country, but it was a courageous response that did not go unnoticed internationally.
What happens now? Will world outrage at this PR gaffe of monstrous proportions convince The Kennel Club to respond with reason rather than arrogance? Will there be civil, positive dialogue between The Kennel Club and the Canine Alliance? Will the disqualified Best of Breed awards be reinstated? No doubt there will be many more questions raised in the weeks and months to come, as we continue to process the shocking events of Crufts 2012.