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Crufts Show Dogs Disqualified
Canine controversy erupts into blame game
Crufts 2012 best in show Lhasa Apso
Ch. Zentarr Elizabeth, a Lhasa Apso, won the coveted Best in Show at Crufts 2012.

England’s most prestigious dog show, Crufts, is now also its most controversial. This past weekend,  several Best of Breed winners were disqualified after health inspections by an independent veterinary surgeon. Of 15 so-called “high profile” breeds (out of more than 200 breeds entered) required to undergo a veterinary exam, six breed winners  failed: the Basset Hound, Bulldog, Clumber Spaniel,  Mastiff, Neapolitan Mastiff and Pekinese. Thus ended their chances of going on to win Best in Show, the highest achievement at Crufts.

Dog fanciers around the world are in an uproar, claiming that animal rights activists and Jemima Harrison’s 2008 BBC documentary, “Pedigreed Dogs Exposed,” are infringing on their right to breed and show. 

Best in Show Daily blogger and longtime fancier Billy Wheeler wrote, in part: “Now here is the real rub. It is the vet, who may or may not have ever bred a litter in his/her life, who makes the determination as to whether the Breed winner is worthy of the award, not the judge. I’ll hold to a future post the discussion of how veterinary students are being brainwashed today, but many of you have already run across vets who are not sympathetic to our hobby.”

Honest Dog blogger Gina Spadafori—who has long lamented the prevalence of cancer that prematurely kills her favorite breed, the Flat-Coated Retriever—says it’s about time. In response to Wheeler’s above comments, she writes, “… I have attended seminars at two separate world-class veterinary conferences where boarded veterinary surgeons and internists said that these extreme structural malformations you so prize has led to dogs whose respiratory systems are so compromised that the animals need to have corrective surgery in adolescence. That’s so they can live a normal life—or in too many cases, just live to middle age.

“ … those veterinarians who ‘may or may not have ever bred a litter’ have sure as hell delivered your litters by C-section, because that’s how Bulldogs come into this world, their heads being too large to be delivered normally. If breeding for these traits isn’t animal cruelty, it’s hard to imagine what is.”

Some criticize the Kennel Club for singling out 15 breeds for the veterinary exams, claiming it would be more fair—and effective over the long term—for all entrants to undergo the health check. Others think it’s a step in the right direction and the process will evolve as needed.

Do you think the AKC should follow suit with Westminster? Why or why not?  


Julia Kamysz Lane, owner of Spot On K9 Sports and contributing editor at The Bark, is the author of multiple New Orleans travel guides, including Frommer’s New Orleans Day by Day (3rd Edition). Her work has also appeared in The New York Times Magazine, Poets and Writers and Publishers Weekly.


Karl Donvil/Crufts

CommentsPost a Comment
Please note comments are moderated. After being approved your comment will appear below.
Submitted by Lisa Wogan | March 13 2012 |

A prominent breeder in the United Kingdom, who asked to remain anonymous, wrote via email:

There has been lots of uproar about it all over here, and some people are threatening legal action!

My own view is that all the BOB [Best of Breed] winners should be vetted. We should all be only showing dogs that are healthy.

A lot of breeders are saying that the dogs put up and subsequently disqualified were the least exaggerated of the breeds and the judges did their best to select the healthiest from the dogs exhibited, but to make changes to breeds is going to take generations to achieve.

Strong views have been expressed that if there are no healthy specimens of the breed, then that breed should become extinct, and that dogs that are going to suffer from breathing, eye, skin complaints, etc., should not continue to be bred. A view I have sympathy with to a great extent, having being involved with Eng King Charles Spaniels who also have a flat face. They suffered from numerous health issues, and the breeders swept it under the carpet, which is why I left the breed, as I could not bring into the world puppies that had serious health conditions.

In some breeds these genetic faults have gone too far, they could be crossbred to improve things, but you are still going to have generations of dogs that may have some of the original health issues, so is it fair to bring pups into the world to progress a breed with faults?

There is a lot of wringing of hands of breeders saying they have 30 years or more invested in these dogs, but they don't seem to understand that these dogs are not right!
And that the way they have been bred over the years has produced genetic problems, they just don't want to change and want to carry on as things are now.

There has been intense pressure on the Kennel Club and the new PDE [Pedigree Dogs Exposed] programme has just been on TV if the KC doesn’t act then the future of all pedigree dogs in the UK will be in jeopardy as vets and animal charities over here are saying the public should buy rescue or crossbreeds as they will healthier. Not always the case, and I feel that the good breeders who health test and do the right things, like not too close breeding can still produce good healthy dogs that are good examples of their breed. But things have to change.

I would like to see more done about puppy farms and BY breeders but there is going to be some new legislation, so we will have to wait and see.

Have a look on the Chamdogs Forum and Dog world there has been a lot of interesting discussion and debate on there. I think the publicity will stir things up, PDE did a lot to stir things up and only good has come out of it, so the withholding of BOBs will hopefully give some breed clubs and breeders a kick up the backside to do more and sooner.

Submitted by Carolyn | March 13 2012 |

Gosh, at a minimum, I would think a dog should be able to walk, run, see, hear, breathe and give birth as nature intended. Doesn't seem much to ask, does it? Sure I think the AKC should crack down! At least until those very basic criteria are met.

Submitted by Jan Berger | March 13 2012 |

I think that it's about time that breeders of purebred show dogs be held to a higher standard than what has prevailed for far too long. Namely, breed a pretty dog and health be damned. Since the majority of the puppies of any given breed are sold into pet homes, the primary thrust of any breeder should be to produce a healthy dog with a stable temperament. If it happens to please the eye, that's just icing on the cake. It would be wonderful if the AKC would follow suit but I'm not holding my breath.

Submitted by Anonymous | March 13 2012 |

HELL yes. If they are not healthy, they are not worthy of awards. Stop creating mutant sentient beings for your own entertainment. Obedience, agility and other PERFORMANCE competitions make much more sense. They can at least be shown to have a functioning brain and body. And those competitors should pass exams, too. If you are not keeping an animal healthy, you should not own it, much less compete and win.

Submitted by Kristen | March 13 2012 |

The health and livelihood of any living creature should not be a hobby. Personally, I would like to see a lot more of this, and even more extreme measures such as licensing to breed animals. This would reduce so much unnecessary suffering for the millions of animals which wind up in shelters every year- at least in America. Not to mention results in losing government money.

Submitted by Anonymous | March 14 2012 |

I do feel the AKC should also take a step in this direction! Too many dogs are being either over bred, or the breed standard is calling for genetics not natural to certain breeds which over times causes other genetic abnormalities which in turn is not giving most of these breeds a longer life expectancy but a shorter one not to mention the cancers, hip, eye, problems etc. For instance working dogs were not meant to be big boxy dogs, they were meant to small to medium sized and slender in build. These dogs were built for speed and working common sense.Some of these working dogs you see today have plenty in the looks department but would be useless to a farmer needing help on his farm. We need to go back to breeding dogs for what they were meant for and not how pretty they are, looks should never take the place over a dogs natural working ability and those goes for all breeds. Thank you!

Submitted by dogjudge | March 14 2012 |

So when a veterinary ophthalmologist has evaluated a dog and certified the dogs is clear of any idea problems, but another veterinarian, who may or may not have any ophthalmology qualifications says that the dog is unfit, who do you trust?

Many of the dogs that were disqualified were disqualified for eye reasons.

Overall, there are a LOT more heart problems in many breeds.

So what's worse. A two year old dog that has entropion or a two year old dog that drops dead from a heart problem?

This entire thing was a setup from the start.

The AKC would be committing suicide if they went down this road.

Submitted by Anonymous | March 15 2012 |

Finally some sense and the interest of the dogs put first! Why would anyone be selfish enough to breed animals that will spend their lives suffering instead of being healthy and active, just so that the breeder can display them as objects that comply with current fashion trend? We would never accept annyone purposefully rendering their child sick and handicapped to have them look a certain way; why is this allowed for animals??

Submitted by JG | March 15 2012 |

No. No. No. NO. The AKC should NOT institute these exams at Westminster or any other show. Look at the results of the KC's capitulation to hate based fear-mongering: people's lives are being destroyed, and breeds which have existed for hundreds of years or more are being targeted for extinction in England.

Appeasement results in destruction and loss. Don't go there, AKC.

The article above talks about airway passages being restricted - did the author even look at videos or photos of the DQ'd Bulldog? She is a beautiful example of the iconic British breed, and she *does not* have that problem.

Why was the Clumber, a very rare British breed DQ'd? For an old, healed eye injury. How interesting that a Clumber breeder was named the KC's 2011 Breeder of the Year at the very start of the show.

Think: what does a tiny healed scratch on an eye which is visible only with a torch/flashlight have to do with giving birth? Or breathing? Or overall health? What does this whole fiasco say about the qualifications of that veterinarian, whose website says he specializes in CATS?

Think: what kind of vet would volunteer to give up a day's income at their clinic to participate in Crufts? None of their names has been publicized except that of a vet whose paperwork was released by one dog's owner. If those vets were working for prestige, or to increase the overall health of British show dogs .. why are their names being kept hidden? How were they actually paid? What was THEIR agenda?

In addition to the known feline specialist, another is apparently an equine specialist - a horse doctor. Just *one* vet seems to be a small dog specialist of some sort. Crufts expects the world to believe that in all of England, of all the veterinarians who volunteered for one of the world's most prestigious shows .. there was only ONE qualified canine specialist?

These healthy animals were all rejected for eyes that are considered *normal* according to the British standard for their breed. Not breathing problems, not potential whelping problems, nothing which affects length of life. Said breed standards are all owned and were recently modified by the KC, by the way. Basically: the British Kennel Club and Crufts -

1. deliberately slapped expert judges known around the world as ignoramuses,
2. deliberately slapped members of the KC's Accredited Breeders program, whose members health test all dogs before breeding, as incompetents, and
3. deliberately slapped owners / handlers of the DQ'd six dogs as at best foolish for showing 'sick dogs.'

The first three dogs were later examined by board certified veterinary ophthalmologists after leaving Crufts, and golly: their eyes were *cleared* of any genetic disease, just as they had been when their owners health tested them previous to the show. I've seen posts by animal rights extremists saying 'the dog owners paid off the eye vets' for those clearances ... so now, in addition to the slapping by the KC and Crufts of well known and well regarded breeders, judges and dog owners:

4. the reputation of several veterinary ophthalmic specialists is now being slapped because they dared to state that in their truly expert opinions, those dogs are indeed healthy.

What a sad experience for England. What a sad example and warning for the world, because its' Kennel Club gave in to fear (False Evidence Appearing Real)- fear generated by groups which hate all dog breeding, dog shows, the use of dogs for any purpose, and the very existence of dogs and animal ownership. Churchill would be rolling over in his grave.

Submitted by Anonymous | March 16 2012 |

AKC is already having some difficulities. So no they should not even venture there. Besides most of the vets in California-would have everything spayed/neutered! It is difficult now to find good ears, tails, etc for docking-vets- even your breed of choice prefers that- To bad for England-perhaps they need to adjust some of their rulings!! I believe we pay decent money to some of our judges-who are also breeders and handlers-I do not want a vet judging my dogs!!!

Submitted by Anonymous | March 16 2012 |

Just an extra comment-NOT all breed ring dogs spend their lives in a kennel!! In fact alot of the breeders within my breed-have their dogs tittled in both the breed ring and obeidence rings. Unless you actually are experienced in a conformation ring- I would suggest you visit a top show and actually see what happens at a breed show! I have seen agility dogs and obeidence dogs mis-treated horribly! As in being hanged or beaten into submission! So do not tell me that performance dogs are treated better-because in alot of cases they are not! Your top conformation dogs lead a life of good food, usually family interaction, well-groomed. No they are not dogs to be left alone in the back yard-with their food thown in a dirty bowl and their hair matted from lack of grooming!!Or left without water because the kids forgot to fill the water bowl-so do NOT tell me that conformation dogs are all treated poorly-that is simlpy not the truth and I am heavily into dogs and their health!!!

Submitted by 700Trees | March 21 2013 |

Just to address your comment that you've seen agility dogs being treated horribly - every agility judge states during the briefing that if the handler mistreats the agility dog then the handler is disqualified from the competition, and if the mistreatment is bad enough the handler is written up in a complaint to the agility organization, possibly banning that handler forever. Also, when practicing dog agility, if the handler gets rough with the dog, then the dog will not enjoy the agility games and will refuse to run the obstacles. Positive encouragement is the keyword with agility training.

Submitted by SJ Hoppkins | March 18 2012 |

Why dog owners are so resistive to vet exams before a show fails to make any sense at all. If the breed clubs don't support good breeding standards, basically don't reign in breeders who are destroying the breed gene pool, then eliminate the breed from the show or the standards. Shocking idea I know. But in the absence of common sense, the Kennel Clubs of any country have to step in or the government will. Secondly, and even more shocking, are owners who show dogs already diagnosed with genetic abnormalities or worse, communicable diseases, i.e., kennel cough. How much longer can breeders expect to remain exempt from health exams at shows, when they fail to act responsibly?

Submitted by Anonymous | March 21 2012 |

The changes would be better if the vet inspections were undertaken before the judging so that judges could only see the healthy dogs.

also the dogs should have been disqualified in accordance with their breed standard. It's hypocritical of them to allow to breed to one standard and inspect differently. I refer to the Haw in the clumber.

I'm under the impression that the bulldog was pulled up on an old eye injury. Not an inherrent health issue but a healed injury. That's never right many of these dogs are family pets and are therefore at risk of injury in their normal daily lives.

Also, any dog can require a c-section. Many breeders want natural births to be the norm. But some bitches aren't built to deliver naturally or go into distress and require medical intervention.

My own bitch delivered her first litter naturally but her 2nd litter was larger and she was struggling to cope - at the vets advice a c-section was undertaken. Does that make me a bad breeder? Not in my eyes. My bitch is my primary concern and she needed help.

Submitted by Anonymous | March 30 2012 |

Crufts' action is a step in the right direction. Purebred dogs (which I adore & have 5) need genetic diversity to be healthy! Big can of worms, although it needs to be oppened.

Submitted by Boxers Urkabustaiz | April 12 2012 |

Yes, I think AKC and FCI should follow suit, as the extreme features are a problem in USA and Europe too. I think these vet checks will act as a powerful incentive to award and breed less extreme dogs. That will be a benefit to the dogs and to the future puppy buyers.

Submitted by Anonymous | July 5 2012 |

Dog shows are not the place to conduct health exams, target breeds, or use veterinarians and examination protocols that are not consistent or even approved to detect disease. Using large animal veterinarians, or those with a political agenda that compromises their judgment beyond health is not in the best interest of dogs, dog breeders, he pet buying public, or any dog show.

Submitted by Anonymous | July 9 2012 |

As a show breeder (as well as a competitor in agility, field trials and earth dog) AND the wife of a veterinarian, I say kudos to the Crufts Dog Show! The state of many breeds is appalling. I try to test my dogs for problems prevalent in the breed and then act responsibly. I don't even sell any pups to show homes. I want the dogs that I don't keep or show to be neutered and to live in loving pet homes.

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