Crufts Is Dog-Eat-Dog Affair

By Kate Holton

LONDON (Reuters) - Fresh scandal hit the competitive world of dog shows Wednesday when the owners of a dog tipped to win a prize at Crufts said it had been doped by a jealous rival.

Owners Clive and Nancy Evans said their Dobermann "Kerri" was fed drugged meat minutes before she entered the ring at Britain's premier dog show, leaving her dazed and confused. It is not the first time accusations of sabotage have tarnished the image of the world's largest dog competition, a quintessential part of British canine culture and rivalry. A poison-pen campaign against a Crufts' judge led to her resignation before this year's show opened in the central city of Birmingham last week.

In the past, owners have accused their rivals of trying to poison dogs, one pedigree pooch was attacked with acid, and last year's winner "Danny," a Pekinese, endured a vicious whispering campaign -- did he, or did he not, have a face lift? Danny was eventually cleared. "It will just reinforce the general public's image that all dog-showers are mad," Beverley Cuddy, a writer for "Dogs Today" magazine, told Reuters.

Kerri had been waiting to enter the ring in the Open Bitch class when -- say her owners -- someone fed her a piece of meat laced with a sedative. Her eyes glazed over, her legs began to wobble and her distraught owners were forced to withdraw her. Britain's pedigree dog regulator The Kennel Club said it was investigating the matter but stressed there could be a far more innocent explanation -- show nerves. But concern has spread.

"The thought of someone at a dog show walking around with a piece of drugged meat is just, well, very peculiar," Cuddy said. "It's premeditated and a cold-blooded thing to do." Over 24,000 loyal canine competitors traveled from all over the world for the four-day event, making it the third largest since the show began more than a century ago.