Crufts Dog Show was initially the brainchild of founder, Charles Cruft, who first held the event at the Royal Agricultural Hall in Islington, London in 1891. The show covered 36 breeds and had a total of 2,437 entries. Over the next 120 years, the event grew to be one of the largest and most prestigious dog shows in the world. Now owned and run by The Kennel Club, the show features over 250 breeds and sees breeders and visitors come from all over the world to enjoy the three day dog extravaganza.
However, the show suffered a setback when in August 2008, a BBC programme, Pedigree Dogs Exposed, made serious allegations that major shows such as Crufts promoted the unhealthy breeding of pedigree dogs. They claimed that dogs were being bred to unsafe extremes and from too small a gene pool, and that individual dogs and breeds in general were suffering major health problems as a result.
The Kennel Club, which currently runs Crufts, was at the centre of these allegations, as critics then claimed that the organisation did not have the proper standards in place to encourage healthy breeding that would look after the well-being of dogs. After numerous examples sprang forward of sickly show entrants who had won prizes, such as a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel whose skull was too small for its brain, the pressure was on the Kennel Club to change their policies.
The effects of these allegations were severe. Soon after Pedigree Dogs Exposed was aired, the RSPCA cut its links with the event and the BBC stated that it would not provide coverage of the show, forcing the Kennel Club to find other means of promoting and airing the event.
Of course, Crufts had to make a move to dispel these allegations and prove to the world that it was doing something to help dogs all over the planet. In 2009, the Health Zone was introduced to the show where experts gave advice about proper breeding methods and encouraged the birth of healthy, happy puppies. Judges were also given the power to remove unhealthy dogs from the show, excluding them from the competition.
This year, the focus was undoubtedly on happy, healthy dogs. TKC showcased the new Mate Select service in which dog breeders can check certain genetic compatibility of dogs online in order to identify the risk of inbreeding or genetic problems. There were also many displays and stands to educate the public on responsible dog ownership and breed information. Eager to refocus their attention on positive changes, The Kennel Club has gone above and beyond simply rectifying the conditions of dogs at their show and have invested resources into campaigns and services to improve dogs' welfare in general, such as Compulsory Micro Chipping, online health tests and much more.
As for the future, it has been announced that, from next year, the winners of Best of Breed in 15 high profile breeds will have to be tested by a vet before their awards are confirmed.
It is sad that a few bad apples have had such a negative impact on this great event, but like many of the breeds featured, Crufts has a determined spirit that shines through and after experiencing it first hand I have no doubt that the people and dogs who come to Crufts year after year will continue to make it one of the best dog events in the world.
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