Friday, September 21News For London

Is competitiveness going too far at Crufts?

Three year old Irish setter Jagger died 28 hours after competing in the Crufts show. Allegedly the dog ingested beef laced with poison. Reporter: Amie Filcher Sub-editor: Steff Humm

Jagger’s owner, Dee Milligan-Bott claims he was poisoned “while on his bench” at the show.

The Telegraph later reported that a total of six dogs were allegedly poisoned at the show. The Kennel Club, organisers of Crufts says they have received no official reports of the suspected six dogs claimed to have fallen sick whilst at Crufts.

Furthermore, the dogs in question remain unnamed with unidentified owners and it is unclear whether they even attended the Crufts show.

When asking for further comment, a representative of the Kennel club tells Westminster World online: “Only in one case where a dog was seen by a Crufts vet was the ingestion of suspect material raised… the vet could not find any evidence to show that poison was the cause of the sickness and no official complaint was made to the Kennel Club or the police.”

In response to the suspected poisoning of Jagger, a statement issued to Westminster World by Caroline Kisko says: “We have had confirmation, including from independent toxicologists, that the poisons identified in the toxicology report – carbofuran and aldicarb – are fast acting. Severe clinical symptoms would usually occur within half an hour to three hours.” She continues: “Considering we are told that Jagger showed the first clinical signs usually associated with these two poisons shortly before his death in Belgium, late on Friday 6th March night, leading to the immediate call for veterinary attention, we must conclude that it is inconceivable that he could have been poisoned at Crufts on Thursday 5th March, some 28 to 36 hours earlier.”

Photo credit West Midlands Police
Photo credit West Midlands Police

Belgian vet Dr Patrick Jans, who carried out the post-mortem examination, says: “We saw there was fresh meat in the stomach and that there were small black particles that make us think about intoxication. We took the contents of the stomach and sent it to the laboratory to see what products were in there. Only when we know, can we make further analysis.”

This is not the first time controversy has surrounded Crufts. In August 2008, the BBC aired Pedigree Dogs Exposed, which criticised the show for allowing breeding standards and practices compromise the health of purebred dogs. This led to the RSPCA and PDSA withdrawing their sponsorships from the show.

Jemima Harrison who filmed the documentary argued that the breed standards overseen by the Kennel Club have caused exaggerated characteristics in some breeds that have distanced them from their ancestors.

Dog Behaviour Science supported this claim by taking a look back of the past 100 years of purebreds, the results show mutated versions of previous breeds. Along the way they have also become subjected to serious health implications.

Animal rights activist Luke Steele, 25, disrupted the ‘best in show’ announcement at Crufts this year, carrying a signed which read ‘Mutts before Crufts’ in protest.

“Dogs deserve better than to suffer and die for a ‘beauty’ pageant”, Steele says. “Crufts’ shameless promotion of ‘breedism’ is the dog or cat equivalent of racism, and pedigrees suffer from abnormally high rates of disease as a result of being bred for unnatural physical traits.”

The stakes are becoming increasingly higher at Crufts. Liz Jay, who owns a grooming parlour near York and attends Crufts annually says that the “competitive streak has been enhanced” in recent years.

Reports over the past couple of years have also suggested that the Kennel Club has been relaxing its rules, with the Daily Mail reporting in 2013 that the Kennel Club lifted the ban on performance enhancing products, such as hairspray.

Photo credit John Leslie
Photo credit John Leslie

In US dog shows there are no rules to control the use of performance enhancing productions and chalks and dyes have been reportedly used to alter the colour of dogs’ fur, according to the BBC.

Another animal death circulated in the news when Russian author Lena Lenina dyed her kitten pink for a ‘pretty in pink’ party. The kitten later died after ingesting the toxins from licking its fur.

Kisko says: “It’s inevitable you do get some people who don’t quite play the game [fairly].” However, she believes that most exhibitors do not commit to cheating and that no harm is intended for any of the dogs involved.