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Westminster: The Best In Show and Group Judges

Breaking News: The Westminster Kennel Club announced two substitutions to their 2014 Judge’s Panel. Mrs. Beverly Vics of Poinciana, FL is replacing Peter Baynes, judging Bullmastiffs, Cane Corsos, Chinooks, German Pinschers, Tibetan Mastiffs; and Mrs. Jacqueline Stacy of Chapel Hill, NC is replacing Mrs. Virginia Lyne, judging the Non-Sporting Group.

An invitation to judge at the Westminster Kennel Club dog show is extended to very few AKC-licensed judges. This year, the honor is bestowed on a Panel of 44 judges from 20 states, Canada and Ireland who will officiate at the dog show world’s most famous and prestigious event, held at Madison Square Garden and Piers 92/94 in New York.

Best In Show

Ms. Betty Regina Leininger of Frisco, Texas

Ms. Betty Regina Leininger (photo courtesy of WKC)

Breeder-owner-handler, professional handler, judge, teacher and author Ms. Betty Regina Leininger has the ultimate judging assignment in the dog show world for 2014 – Best In Show at the 138th Annual Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show.

She began her experience in purebred dogs with the breeding and exhibiting of German Shepherd Dogs in her native home of Newfoundland, Canada. After a career as a paralegal, she moved to the United States in 1970 and became an AKC-licensed Professional Handler.

She managed the show career of many top-winning dogs, and guided the breeding programs of many of her showdog clients. After a highly successful career as a multi-breed handler, she became a judge in 1983. Today she is approved to judge all Working, Toy and Non-Sporting breeds, Pointers, Whippets, Junior Showmanship and Best In Show.

Ms. Leininger has judged multiple National Specialties and Top Twenty events, including the Doberman Pinscher Club of America and DPCA Top Twenty on three occasions. Her judging has taken her to numerous countries in Asia, South America, Europe, Australia, New Zealand and her native Canada.

In the late 1970s, Ms. Leininger co-authored a book entitled, Preparation and Presentation of the Show Dog, under the name of Betty R. Brucker. She has conducted handling seminars throughout the continental U.S., Hawaii, Alaska and Canada.

She co-founded the Newfoundland (All-Breed) Kennel Club in the mid-60s and has been active in many kennel clubs over the years. In 2012 Betty was nominated as “Judge of the Year,” at the annual Purina ProPlan Winkie Awards.

Ms. Leininger enjoys social ballroom and country and western dancing, playing bridge and relaxing with her Long Coat Chihuahua “Beau.” She spends summers with her 94-year-old mother in St. John’s, Newfoundland. She has one son Geoffrey.

This is Betty’s sixth assignment at Westminster. She judged the Non-Sporting group in 2004 and the Working Group in 2012.

SPORTING GROUP

Mr. Sam Houston McDonald of Chester Springs, PA

Mr Sam Houston McDonald (photo Courtesy of WKC)

Sam Houston McDonald has been involved with purebred dogs most of his life. After seeing the movie “Big Red” during his youth, nothing would satisfy him until he acquired his first Irish Setter and now, more than 46 years later, he continues to breed and exhibit them. He has bred numerous champions and owned several Group and Best in Show winners.

He is a past president of the Irish Setter Club of America, having serving on the board for 25 years. He is a member of several All-Breed Clubs, including Bryn Mawr Kennel Club, where he currently serves as President and Show Chairman. He is also serving on the boards of the Irish Setter Club of America Foundation and the Dog Judges Association of America.

Mr. McDonald has authored a number of articles for a variety of publications, including a four part series for the AKC Gazette, discussing the Sporting Group on “form as it relates to function.” His judging experience, which began in 1986, has afforded him the opportunity to judge throughout the United States and other countries. Sam currently resides on his farm in Pennsylvania, raising his Irish Setters and Irish Wolfhounds. This is his second Westminster assignment.

HOUND GROUP

Mr. Douglas Johnson of Bloomington, IN

Mr. Douglas Johnson (photo Courtesy of WKC)

Douglas Johnson received his first Clumber Spaniel as a 15th birthday present from his parents which has led to a lifetime dedication to the sport of purebred dogs. Breeding under the world-famous Clussexx banner, he has produced over 100 champion Clumber Spaniels, Sussex Spaniels, Welsh Springer Spaniels, English Toy Spaniels and Pekingese. He has a passion for breeding dogs and continues to run a top breeding program today. His dogs have won more than 100 Best In Show awards and 12 National Specialties across three breeds.

Mr. Johnson has produced two Westminster Best in Show winners and is the only breeder to have bred Westminster BIS winners in two different breeds: in1996, the Clumber Spaniel Ch. Clussexx Country Sunrise (Brady), and in 2009 the Sussex Spaniel, Ch Clussexx Three D Grinchy Glee (Stump). Stump is the oldest dog (10) to ever win the coveted Westminster Best in Show award.

Mr. Johnson was awarded the American Kennel Club’s Sporting Breeder of the Year award in 2005. He is a member of the Santa Barbara Kennel Club and the Bloomington (IN) Kennel Club, and is a lifetime member of the Clumber Spaniel Club of America.

This is his third Westminster assignment.

WORKING GROUP

Mr. Clay Coady of Paradise Valley, AZ

Mr. Clay Coady (photo courtesy of WKC)

Clay Coady competed in his first dog show at the age of 12, with his first purebred dog, a Samoyed named Snow. He didn’t win, but it ignited a passion for the sport that still burns to this day. His career in dogs was blessed by the good fortune to work with the very best of people and dogs. In his teens he worked for legends Ben Brown and, later, Larry Downey. In his 20s, he set out on a successful professional handling career and before it was over, he would handle some of the top-winning dogs of their time for some wonderful clients, finishing and specializing dogs in every group.

Mr. Coady retired from handling in 1999 to focus on his business interests including boarding kennels, veterinary clinics and pet supply businesses in the Phoenix area. He and his son, Ryan, also own nine 5 Guys Burgers & Fries franchises in Oregon. He has been judging since 2001, and presently is approved to judge breeds in every group as well as the Sporting, Working and Terrier Groups, and Best in Show. This is his third Westminster assignment.

TERRIER GROUP

Mr. Bruce Schwartz of Los Angeles, CA

Mr. Bruce Schwartz (photo Courtesy of WKC)

Bruce Schwartz began exhibiting Miniature Schnauzers in 1966. But it is as a breeder-exhibitor of Welsh Terriers that Mr. Schwartz is best known. His Ch. Anasazi Billy the Kid was the top-winning Welsh of all time and was the winner of 100 all-breed Bests In Show.

In total, Bruhil dogs have won nearly 150 all-breed Bests in Show and numerous national and regional specialties and Terrier Group shows.  Two of the greatest Bruhil wins were BIS at the Montgomery County Kennel Club and the 100th-anniversary show of the Welsh Terrier Club of America where the entry exceeded 100.

An AKC judge since 1984, Mr. Schwartz is approved to judge all Terriers and ten Working breeds. He has judged at national specialties, the World Show, and Sweden’s Welsh Terrier specialty. He is active in the Welsh Terrier Club of America (treasurer, president, board member, Rescue, judges’ education), American Fox Terrier Club (AKC Delegate, show coordinator, board member) and Montgomery County Kennel Club (current president).

This is his second Westminster assignment.

TOY GROUP

Ms. Keke Kahn of Sarasota, FL

Ms. Keke Kahn (photo Courtesy of WKC)

Keke Kahn has been in dogs her entire life, with a Boston Terrier, an ASCOB Cocker Spaniel, two German Shepherds – all trained in obedience – and a Pekingese helping her through her childhood years.

As a young grownup she discovered Lhasa Apsos, which became her life’s passion. She bred and showed 58 champions under her Potala prefix, including six All-breed Best In Show winners and back-to-back Bests in Show by her homebred bitch at Lhasa Apso National Specialties.

Mrs. Kahn started judging in 1972 and today is one of a handful of judges licensed for all breeds. This is her sixth judging assignment at the Garden. She previously judged the Toy Group in 2002 and 1987.

NON-SPORTING GROUP

Mrs. Jacqueline L Stacy of Chapel Hill, NC

Mrs. Jacqueline L Stacy (photo Courtesy of AKC)

Jacqueline L. Stacy, of Chapel Hill, North Carolina, began exhibiting dogs in 1958. Her father, a German Shepherd Dog fancier, allowed her to choose her own breed. Mrs. Stacy chose Pomeranians and eventually bred and showed over 50 champions. Under the Tamarin Affenpinscher prefix, Mrs. Stacy and her husband and fellow judge, Terry Stacy, have produced over 70 champions, owning or breeding seven national-specialty winners, eight all-breed Best in Show winners, the top-winning American-bred Affen in breed history, and 2008’s number-one toy dog.
As a licensed professional handler, Mrs. Stacy showed the Maltese Ch. Keoli’s Small Kraft Warning to first in the Toy Group at the 1984 AKC Centennial Show.

Mrs. Stacy has been a member of the American Pomeranian Club for better than 25 years, serving on their board as director, treasurer, standard-revision committee member, and judges’ mentor. She will judge their national specialty in 2013.

A longtime member of the American Maltese Association, Mrs. Stacy judged the club’s 2008 national. She served as the newsletter editor, vice president, and president of the Affenpinscher Club of America and spearheaded the creation of the club’s first Illustrated Standard. Mrs. Stacy serves as a breed mentor.

HERDING GROUP

Mr. Walter Sommerfelt of Lenoir City, TN

Mr. Walter Sommerfelt (photo Courtesy of WKC)

Walter Sommerfelt has been involved in the sport of purebred dogs since acquiring his first Old English Sheepdog in 1972. He is a former professional handler as well as a breeder, and exhibitor of breeds in all seven groups, most notably Vizslas, OES, Pointers, Bearded Collies and Weimaraners. Judging since 1985, he is approved for All Sporting, Working, and Herding breeds and groups, Junior Showmanship and Best in Show and has had the honor of judging on four different continents.

Mr. Sommerfelt was the founder and chairman for the St. Jude Showcase of Dogs from 1993 until 2009, a unique event showcasing the world of purebred dogs, while at the same time raising hundreds of thousands of dollars for the world-renowned St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, TN.

Along with his wife Carol, he has bred over 75 AKC Champions including Group, Best in Show and Specialty Winners, dual Champions and multiple performance titled dogs.
During the past 40 years Mr. Sommerfelt has been active in a number of dog clubs and is currently the President of the Tennessee Valley Kennel Club. He is also a career agent and financial planning specialist with Nationwide Insurance. The Sommerfelts’ have two grown children, both former Junior Handlers and they are still active breeders and exhibitors of the Vizsla breed.

This is his second Westminster assignment.

JUNIOR SHOWMANSHIP FINALS

Mr. Peter Kubacsz of Jackson, NJ

Mr. Peter Kubacsz (photo Courtesy of WKC)

Peter Kubacz has been involved in the dog world all of his life, traveling on the road with his parents since he was a baby. At the age of 10, he acquired his first Irish Setter and began to show in Junior Showmanship and Conformation classes.

He was Top Junior Handler in 1999 and placed 2nd at Westminster that year. He qualified for Westminster every year of his Juniors career, making it to the finals three times. He also represented America at the World Show in Helsinki in 1998 and at Crufts in 2002. In 2000, he became the youngest person to handle the winner of Best of Breed at the Irish Setter National Specialty at the age of 16.

Graduating from Monmouth University in 2006, Mr. Kubacz currently runs his family’s boarding kennel. Showing mostly Sporting and Hound breeds, he has won several Best in Shows on Irish Wolfhounds and Irish Setters during his professional handling career. He continues to breed Irish Setters with his mother and father under the Ramblin’ Red banner, and has piloted several dogs to their championships and #1 rankings. This is his first Westminster assignment.

Information provided by the Westminster Kennel Club.

Click here for  Westminster Judging Program

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