IN AN unusual move, Westminster Kennel Club has appointed to choose best in show next year a judge who has never previously awarded BIS at an all-breed show.
Making the top award at the US’ best known dog show, which takes place on February 16 and 17, will be the Bull Terrier expert The Hon David Merriam.
In a statement, a WKC spokesman said: "Judge Merriam’s selection fits perfectly into his list of accomplishments and service in his lifetime dedicated to the sport of dogs.
"He began showing dogs as a teenager, with his primary breed the Bull Terrier. Staying active in the sport as he attended law school, he went on to more than a half century of success in showing, breeding and judging.
"He retired from the bench as a California State Trials Judge in 1993 and became active in governance of the sport. He served for 20 years on the American Kennel Club board, including five as chairman and eight as vice-chairman. He has been active in a number of other clubs, including the Bull Terrier Club of America and the Montgomery County Kennel Club.
"Judge Merriam has won many honours for his accomplishments in dogs, including the Langdon Skarda Man of the Year Award, Dogdom’s Man of the Year Award, and the Bull Terrier Club of America’s Lifetime Achievement Award.
"He has officiated at Westminster seven times in the past, including the terrier group in 1982.
"Although licensed to do so, Judge Merriam has never accepted an all-breed best in show judging assignment before this invitation from the WKC.”
Judge Merriam, who has owned the breed for 60 years, has judged Bull Terriers several times in the UK. He has run the rule over Bull Terriers and Miniatures twice at Crufts, most recently last year.
The AKC approves him to judge the entire terrier group, Toy Manchester Terriers, miscellaneous breeds and BIS.
He will head a panel of 33 judges from 14 states, Canada and Finland at the show at Madison Square Garden and Piers 92/94 in New York.
Group judges are Ken Murray, sporting; Betty-Anne Stenmark, hound; Theresa Hundt, working; Dr John Reeve-Newson of Canada, terrier; Elliott Weiss, toy; Shirley Limoges of Canada, non-sporting; and Klaus Anselm, herding.
Last year’s BIS judge Michael Dougherty will judge the junior showmanship finals.
Two breeds will be eligible for Westminster for the first time in 2015: the Wirehaired Vizsla in the sporting group and the Coton de Tulear in the non-sporting group, making a total of 192 breeds and varieties in competition.
For the second year the Masters Agility Championship will be held on the Saturday preceding the show. One of the judges, Graham Partridge, comes from the UK and was Agility Championship judge at Crufts last year; the other is Alan Arthur.
An innovation next year is that the American Kennel Club Meet The Breeds event, similar to Britain’s Discover Dogs, will be hosted by Westminster in conjunction with the agility championship on the Saturday, on an adjacent pier. Previously this has been a separate event, not connected with any dog show.