THE HANDLER of the German Shepherd BOB at Crufts has spoken out to give an explanation about the bitch’s performance, saying that circumstances leading up to the group – and what happened in the main ring – had made the bitch ‘highly distressed’.
Craig Rice said he had not been allowed to move Cruaghaire Catoria (Tori) in a bid to calm her, and he accused judge Frank Kane of handling her roughly.
This was strongly refuted by Mr Kane, who said one only had to look at film footage to see this was not true.
“Anyone who has a dog knows that I always handle them gently and sympathetically,” she said.
Mr Rice has received support from the German Shepherd Dog League of GB, which in turn accused Channel 4 commentators of acting as judge, jury and hangmen. GSDs are usually shown outside, it said, and very few had experienced anything like Crufts BIS ring.
There has been strong criticism of the movement of Susan and Stuart Cuthbert’s Tori and how stressed she seemed in the group. But she had given a ‘foot-perfect’ performance in the breed class, Mr Rice said, against a high-quality entry.
When presented for her veterinary check at Crufts, vet Richard Best said there was no reason not to pass Tori as she showed no signs of bad health and her movement was not impaired in any way, he went on.
“This test included movement of the dog,” Mr Rice said. “After a wait of over three hours, which included numerous forced photoshoots in the best of breed collecting ring, we were finally, abruptly, told we would be entering the Arena. This is a situation that no owner, trainer or handler can prepare for. A packed auditorium with hot lights, music, loud speakers and constant cheers and clapping is not an everyday occurrence for any dog.
“Unfortunately, after a further wait inside the Arena, Tori had become quite agitated. I tried to calm her by allowing her move around a little but was repeatedly told that I must not let the dog move at all. By the time we were judged Tori was in a high level of distress and was struggling to cope with the situation, which seemed to worsen after the judge’s rough handling while checking the teeth of a clearly stressed dog.
“Tori's uncharacteristically erratic behaviour has clearly giving a bad impression of what I consider a GSD of the highest standard in both construction and health test results.”
Meanwhile, the GSD League accused the Kennel Club and Crufts presenters of creating public hysteria.
“With complete disregard for all of the many breed specialist judges, including highly-regarded judges from the breed’s country of origin who have awarded this bitch top honours at both KC and WUSV shows, the C4 coverage acted as judge, jury and hangman without any balance of reporting,” they alleged.
The bitch had performed ‘extremely well’ in her breed ring, they said, but became overwhelmed by the environment in the Arena, failing to show her true beauty or proper movement. She was not the only dog to react badly to the pressure of the situation, it said.
“Cruaghaire Catoria is a correct type to the GSD standard; she has a KC/British Veterinary Association hip score of 13 and elbow score of 0 – these scores are well below the maximum for showing at WUSV shows. The KC has no minimum standard for showing or breeding purposes. She is a fit, healthy, family dog.
“Judge Davy Hall of the Gayville’s GSD kennel has been an exhibitor and breeder of GSDs for many years, having bred, owned, trained and handled many top winning animals and champions including the current breed CC record holder.”
Tori passed her mandatory BOB vet check, the League pointed out.
“The vet certified she was fit and healthy to enter the big ring and she passed another vet check six months earlier. Indeed, no GSD has ever failed a vet health test at a championship show since they were introduced.”
GSD breeders lead the world in their attention to health testing and breeding selection, and while they must not be complacent about any exaggerations in conformation or temperament, the breed should not be victimised in this way by the KC, media and social media, the League said.
“GSD exhibitors have a viable alternative to KC shows and it is of no surprise that more and more are turning their back on traditional UK shows in favour of the WUSV style show where DNA recording, identification and health tests are pre-requisites, not afterthoughts,” it said. “All dogs are graded and critiqued so that their owners and breeders are given a clear picture of what they need to do to improve in the next generation. This is a great responsibility for the judges who are trained to a high level and have to have considerable experience as breeders before they are approved.”
The League would ‘continue to strive to consult’ with the KC on health matters and hopes that its suggestion of piloting compulsory identification of all exhibits, health testing before confirmation of champion status, and mandatory minimum health-test requirements for all breeding animals ‘will one day become a reality’.
Mr Hall was unavailable for comment.