Crufts Show Dogs Disqualified

Canine controversy erupts into blame game
By Julia Lane, March 2012, Updated June 2021

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.


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“ … 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?  

Photo: iStock

Julia Lane owns Spot On K9 Sports, a training facility in the Chicago area, and offers online dog-sport coaching. She is the author of several travel books, and her byline has appeared in The New York Times Magazine, Poets & Writers and elsewhere.