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Closely watched Crufts show starts next week

The London Times reports that judges at the prestigious but beleaguered Crufts dog show next week will be keeping a sharp eye out for any unhealthy animals as part of a campaign by Britain’s Kennel Club to lift the show’s tarnished image.

The club was badly damaged when the BBC One documentary “Pedigree Dogs Exposed” was broadcast last summer, followed by the network’s decision to scrap its coverage of the show after 42 years. The program was critical of club breeding standards that it said created dogs with diseases and deformities.

The club has since issued new breed standards that place more of a priority on health, less on appearance, and it has enlisted a team of vets and monitors to be on the lookout during the show for breeds deemed to be at risk from health problems, including the basset hound, bulldog, mastiff, pug and shar-pei.

Judges, meanwhile, have been told to ban dogs if they shows signs of sickness, lameness, shortness of breath or aggression.

“We all think dog shows are under threat,” said Caroline Kisko, secretary of the Kennel Club. “There is a view among some animal welfare groups like the RSPCA that dog shows are bad … We have to get across that showing dogs is about improving the health of dogs and ensuring they have a good temperament.”

Kisko said Passionate Productions, which made the documentary, won’t be given a press pass to the event. “We see Crufts as a big celebration of dogs and we don’t want them there spoiling our day — and I don’t think breed people would be pleased to see them there.”

The show opens next Thursday, and the Kennel Club is expecting about 160,000 visitors to see 28,000 dogs over the four days.

While it won’t be aired on BBC, Crufts will be shown on a live webcast at www.cruftslive.tv.