by Polly King
Once again Crufts, the highlight of the canine calendar, has come and gone. This year however, if not involved in dogs you might be forgiven for not knowing that!
The national press reports of the show were largely to be seen in the broadsheets; among the papers that did have an article, most concentrated on the show and show dogs, emphasising that this year the show drew the second largest entry ever. A few had photos of Bearded Collies turning up wearing boots and The Sun a clever picture of a person with a Dobermann head - or is that a dog with a human body? The picture had been taken along the line of the benches with the owner sitting back and the dog looking out of the bench. Local papers up and down the UK all had issues supporting local dog owners whose dogs had qualified.
The Basingstoke Gazette had an article highlighting several owners whose dogs had qualified including the Irish Setter Strathmead Snow Leopard and his owners. Speaking to Miss Claire Spencer, she said she had been surprised and worried that the local press had published their address even though they had asked for it not to be published, as dog theft is a significantly rising crime. With the Dog Theft Action Group advising owners to not list their details where thieves could possibly pick up on the location of a dog, this is something dog owners will need to consider more in the future.
The first big story involving dogs prior to Crufts was in the Sunday Express, this article made the front page, two inside pages and the editorial! The article set out very clearly just how much dogs are becoming the target for criminals, not just the opportunist but the more organised gangs.
Interviewing DogLost, Ken McKie of WAG and owners whose dogs had gone missing they really set the standard this year, the story was well researched and of real importance to pet owners as well as those involved in showing or working their dogs.
Both the Times and the Observer decided to trot out figures issued by insurance companies again. This year the figure stands at £22,000 to cover the cost of keeping a dog for its lifetime. The Times article compared the cost of keeping a dog with buying a Mercedes car at £21,859 saying of dog owners, it "would have put a smaller dent in their finances".
The Observer did contact the KC for verification of these figures, which were refuted by Phil Buckley and Caroline Kisko, both commenting that it is impossible to give precise figures since costs can vary from breed to breed and even in a breed it can vary from dog to dog. The item ended with excellent advice from Caroline Kisko for people wishing to own a dog: "Dog ownership is not a decision to be taken lightly and brings with it both emotional and financial responsibilities.
Therefore it is important that, when considering the purchase of a dog, prospective owners take the time and trouble to thoroughly research all of the issues, as far too many dogs end up in rescue, through no fault of their own."
The Daily Telegraph had an article on the Animal Welfare Bill, which is of concern to many people involved in both working and showing dogs, as the docking issue was to be voted on this week. While the government wants a total ban the British Association for Shooting and Conservation and the Association of Chief Police Officers are supporting the compromise proposed by Mrs Beckett that working dogs should be allowed to continue to dock tails of working dogs to prevent injuries which are harder to resolve at a later age should the dog damage its tail when working.
The Telegraph did not, as might have been expected, focus on working gundogs but also explained that the "exemption would apply to the breeds of working dog, particularly spaniels that are prone to painful tail injuries when they wag their tails while working in confined spaces. The dogs are used in shooting but also by police, the emergency services, the armed forces and customs and excise".
The Observer on Sunday March 5th decided to feature the increase in dogs used to help security companies and officials such as the police in the ‘war on terrorism’; they give examples of the work the dogs are used for and the way in which the dogs work. While this appeared as a positive article they ended it by saying that dogs will become redundant in this work, as "The bad news for dogs is that the future is in wasps. Parasitic Bracon wasps have been successfully trained in the US and Holland to do a much better job than sniffer-dogs; their antennae are much more sensitive and they take under an hour to train. In a few years, a common greeting may be: 'Sorry I'm late, darling - I got buzzed at King's Cross."
The Times had more information than any other paper national or local during Crufts week. It included in its Crufts coverage the news that the Jindo was to be at the show for the first time.
Head-lining the article as "Crufts debut of dog that was dinner for Koreans" they explain that to save the breed from extinction the Korean government had to bring in a law to save these dogs from the pot; although crossbred dogs are still allowed to be eaten the Jindo was declared a national treasure in order to save it. The Times informs us that Samsung, a major sponsor of Crufts have a centre which teaches Koreans about dog care and welfare, and that "For more than 15 years Lee Kun Hee, chairman of Samsung, the electronics group, has attempted to persuade Koreans that the jindo and other breeds should be kept as pets and not killed for food".
The Times did not stop at featuring dogs in Korea, it also featured a story on dogs in Afghanistan. The article titled ‘Fight like a dog, live like a king’ tells us how a poor Afghanistan citizen can go from a state of poverty to owning the best and latest in four wheel drive vehicles simply by keeping and training dogs to fight. When the Taliban were in control of Afghanistan dog fighting was illegal as the Koran forbids cruelty to animals.
The paper interviewed an owner of a fighting dog called Palang, who has had his ears and tail cut off so they cannot be torn off in a fight, who says he employs a full-time trainer and the dogs have a special diet. "In the morning we give them eggs and milk, for lunch and dinner we give them the head of a cow cooked in the oven," says Mr Sherzai. "People in the West say it is cruel but they send people into other countries to kill. I love my dogs and they never kill each other."
Another interviewee, Rocky Boudreay, a former Canadian Special Forces member, said: "They feed them enough, the dogs have enough fat so don’t really hurt each other. Mohammad Nazai, a mullah at one of Kabul’s main mosques, said: "It is cruel. In Islam you are forbidden to harm animals, dog fighting is anti-Islamic, it is illegal."
As Crufts is about canine welfare and a kinder form of canine rivalry, The Cambridge Evening News were showing how this rivalry extends to family rivalry as well as that between friends and kennel owners. Sylvia and Lindsay Reed of Reemif cockers had qualified two of their dogs, Reemif From Bramble Thorns and Avandora Blue Moon Over Reemif. Describing for the paper the excitement of qualifying for Crufts, Lindsay is quoted as saying "It's going to be great taking part with my mum. It really is a family achievement. Fizz and Twiggy are great friends but Fizz's best pal is my two-year-old nephew Jack. They grew up together and are devoted to each other."
Her pleasure at qualifying and it also being a family day comes clearly through, which is one of the things that makes Crufts the great show that it is.