I haven’t had a television for more than a decade and have been too busy to watch Crufts online. Well, that’s my excuse. In reality, I don’t thing that I can bear to look at the travesties of dogs that competitors, judges and the public not only regard as acceptable but reward and perpetuate. I have passed the Kennel Club Judge’s Examinations but have no desire to participate in perpetuating the horrors of the pedigree show ring. Dogs are stunted, neotanised, gasping for breath, weighed down by skin folds, bug eyed or, as in the case of the German Shepherd Cruaghaire Catoria, actually ataxic and terrified to boot… and that’s just the conditions that are visible. Just about the only problem that my examiner would admit to when asked by another candidate about disqualifying dogs on health grounds was lameness. We we were told also that temperament should be taken into account. Well Cruaghaire Catoria was both lame and extremely nervous.
The Kennel Club has now stated that “…we made the decision not to further highlight the unsound movement of the dog whilst we discuss ways forward to improve the health of the breed.” They have blocked the video on You Tube, and instructed Channel 4, which has been airing Crufts since the BBC pulled out on welfare grounds, to edit the footage so that Cruaghaire Catoria was not seen moving.
“This bitch is so correct throughout, lovely feminine head & good expression, neck well set on to body. Very good front angulation, lovely topline & good croup, very balanced hind angles. Correct height to length ratio, super underline. In movement she is outstanding so clean coming & going & her profile movement was really excellent.. Very pleased to award her the CC & BOB.”
“…black and gold female of ideal middle size and strength, excellent general proportions, feminine expressive female with well shaped head dark eye and excellent ear carriage, normal wither into straight strong firm back, well laid croup which could be a touch longer, very good forehand with very good underline, excellent hindquarters with strong broad thighs, in top show condition, this female shows a willingness to perform in all phases, demonstrating excellent reach and drive, this was a super class of females, in my opinion this is a female who deserves the highest of accolades, a pleasure to judge. BEST BITCH AND BOB.”
Now I know what I was taught in the KC Judge’s exam and it bore no resemblance to what I saw in this bitch. I could not recognise her from the previous judges’ comments. I would like to think that no one in their right mind could fail to see that this dog was petrified, couldn’t wait to get out of the ring and was actually ataxic. Her topline was so distorted that she seemed to be crouching permanently. When she moved, the whole of her lower hind leg was placed on the ground and she scraped the top of her foot as she struggled to lift her leg high enough to take another step. This is the sort of gait that is commonly seen in dogs suffering from canine degenerative myelopathy. It is an auto-immune disease that is prevalent in German Shepherds and that causes progressive degeneration of the spinal cord resulting in weakness and eventual loss of communication between the brain and the hind legs. This bitch was passed as sound by vets.
Those breeding, judging and showing are supposed to represent the epitome in their chosen breeds so why would any of them think that it what was exhibited at Crufts this year was, in any way, shape or form, normal or acceptable? Not to mention the vet. Now I think it unlikely that this dog has degenerated since she was last judged so that, at every step of the way, a series of supposed experts have concluded that she represents some form of perfection.
Owner Susan Cuthbert has stated “Words cannot express the heart-wrenching experience that I have suffered.” Of course no acknowledgment that it is her dog who is truly suffering. Cuthbert then asks “How can you judge a dog on such a brief observation?”
Well, Ms Cuthbert, I was repeatedly told by my KC examiner that as a judge I would have fewer than two minutes to go over a dog and approximately 30 seconds to see it moving.
Personally, it took me no more than a second or so to see that this dog has an appalling topline, a severely abnormal gait and was clearly very unhappy in the ring.
The handler has further stated that the dog was overwhelmed by the noise, lights, heat and “forced photo [sic]shoots” and that this is “a situation that no owner, trainer or handler can prepare for.” One might forgive him the preposition at the end of the sentence but not that he does not realise that breeders, owners, trainers and handlers can do exactly that. If the dog was that distressed, why was she exhibited? This is supposed to be a top show dog; if her temperament is not suited to the ring, then she should not be shown and should not be bred from. If this was a one-off, she should have been withdrawn.
I took my rescue dog to Crufts a couple of years ago. He coped with the crowds, noise, heat, lights, flashing cameras (often in his face), noisy spectators and 8 hours of being patted, not always in an ideal manner. He also exhibited in the ring with Pets As Therapy. He wasn’t the slightest bit ruffled by any of it, in fact lapped it all up. So did the other PAT dogs – pets, many of them rescue dogs, who had with a minimal amount of good handling and training adapted very well to the demands of Crufts. Had my dog been at all discomfitted, I would have taken him home.
It should be remembered that Crufts was originally established with the aim of selling dog food. It now seem to be a club for the few initiates. In spite of the fact that 47,000 entries were received this year, some finalists were related or obviously known to the judges and the oft-heard complaint that the awards go to “the person on the end of the lead” may not be entirely a case of sour grapes. Even if judges are completely unbaised, awards are obviously not going only to fit, healthy and happy dogs.
The only good thing to come out of this is the outcry that it has engendered. The next good thing that should come of it is effective and immediate action by the Kennel Club to prevent all “recognised” breeds with blatent distortions and heritable problems from being bred from or shown and those that are not “recognised” to remain so. I won’t hold my breath.