Controversy at Crufts
Usually, during high-profile dog shows such as Crufts, cell phones are buzzing and email inboxes pinging with on-the-ground reports of who won those coveted rosettes.
But in 2012 at the most famous dog show in Britain (arguably even the world), the scuttlebutt was over who lost – more specifically, who had their wins taken away. And Mastiff and Neapolitan Mastiff fanciers around the world were stunned to hear that their representatives never made it to compete in the Working Group at Crufts.
Those who have been following the purebred scene in the United Kingdom over the last several years know that its dog fancy has been under fire in the wake of the sensationalist “Pedigree Dogs Exposed” program that aired on the BBC in 2008. The film’s reporting on health problems in certain breeds tarred the entire purebred dog world, prompting a caught-unawares Kennel Club to scramble to mount a defense.
In the aftermath of “Pedigree Dogs Exposed,” the Kennel Club has taken great pains to emphasize that British dogs are “fit for function,” an alliterative phrase that has become its byword. The British registry rewrote the standards of some breeds, including that of the Mastiff, to discourage “exaggerations” in breed type. (In the United Kingdom, the Kennel Club “owns” the breed standards, unlike in the United States, where they cannot be changed without the assent of the parent clubs.)
In addition, the Kennel Club created a list of “high profile” breeds whose health was considered compromised by breeding for extreme physical characteristics. On this list of 15 breeds are a disproportionate number of Molossers, including the Dogue de Bordeaux, the Mastiff, the Neapolitan Mastiff and the St. Bernard. (The Bulldog and Shar-Pei, classified as Molossers under the European FCI system, are also on the list.)
The Kennel Club had announced that Best of Breed winners at the 2012 Crufts show, held March 8 through 11, would undergo mandatory veterinary inspections, a practice it has since instituted at other shows across Great Britain. In addition to signs of obvious ill health, the vets checked for eye discomfort or inflammation, lameness, respiratory difficulty and skin inflammation.
Along with the Basset Hound, Bulldog, Clumber Spaniel and Pekingese, both the Mastiff and the Neapolitan Mastiff were stripped of their Best of Breed wins, though their Challenge Certificates, or CCs – the award bestowed for beating all the representatives of their gender – remained intact. Neither bitch was permitted to compete in the Working Group.
The Mastiff, Ch. Secret Charm Avec Dibest, had won Best of Breed at Crufts two years before. The Neapolitan Mastiff, Ch. Ithani, is an international champion, as well as a Slovakian, Dutch and Luxemburg champion.