THE KENNEL Club was forced to swing into damage-limiting action after the German Shepherd best of breed at Crufts attracted widespread criticism.
KC footage of Stuart and Susan Cuthbert’s Cruaghaire Catoria (Tori) moving was edited out of Saturday evening’s Channel 4 coverage of the group; every other breed was televised. But footage could be found easily on the internet, and it drew scathing and dismayed comments.
And 24 hours later the matter was discussed at length by the Channel 4 panel – KC veterinary advisor Nick Blayney, KC secretary Caroline Kisko and Crufts commentator Jessica Holm – with judge David Hall taking the brunt of the criticism.
Mrs Kisko said judges who were not doing what the KC asked would have to be ‘sorted out’, and that she hoped next year’s GSD judge would be ‘doing a very different job’.
Mr Blayney said he was ‘quite frankly appalled that a dog like that should be put up as a good specimen of the breed’, and that Mr Hall had ‘widely disregarded’ Breed Watch advice to judges on the GSD.
But Tori has won extensively over the last three years, including taking three bests of breed, one with her first CC at Working and Pastoral Breeds Association of Scotland last year. And she passed her category three veterinary check; the vet’s form said she was suffering from no visible condition which could adversely affect her health or welfare.
The TV panel said that in addition to her ‘poor movement’ Tori seemed ‘hyperactive’.
She was not placed by group judge Frank Kane.
Mr Hall was unavailable for comment and Mr and Mrs Cuthbert declined to do so.
Dogworld.tv video coverage of German Shepherd Best of Breed from Crufts 2016:
Film omitted on the Saturday was shown on the Sunday programme and, questioned by Clare Balding, Dr Holm said Tori’s front and back end seemed to be ‘doing completely different things’. The back was sloping, she said, there was weakness in the rear end and the hind legs were slipping. The bitch’s back legs were underneath her, she went on, something the breed Standard considered a fault.
“It’s heart-breaking,” she said. “The German Shepherd is a gorgeous, breed but this one was so hyperactive the judge could not get hands on the dog, and it was handled so it could not move properly so I don’t know if it could or not.
“Its performance gives us cause for concern; it did not look like a healthy, free-moving dog.”
Mr Blayney said Tori looked lame.
“I’m quite disheartened as a huge amount of work has been going on in the background to try to stop dogs like this been rewarded, and somehow this one slipped through,” he said.
“We will look at what more we could have done, but we have produced the Breed Watch project to alert judges of the problems emerging in certain breeds – and that has been widely disregarded here. Everything that was wrong with this dog is recognised in Breed Watch as something to steer against.”
Ms Balding asked Mrs Kisko why Tori had been given best of breed.
“I can’t speak for the judge but it worried us as much as everyone else,” she said, adding that many of the category three breeds – previously called high profile – had shown considerable improvements in recent times.
“So it is very disheartening to see one breed so peculiarly out of step with others,” she said. “We need to review the process and see what support we are giving to breeds to keep the improvements going.
“But we need to sort out certain judges who are disregarding what asking them to do.”
What was the ultimate sanction the KC could impose, Ms Balding asked. Remove CCs, Mrs Kisko replied, so no dogs can become champions.
“That is an extreme step but something the KC will consider if necessary,” she said.
Could GSDs be barred from Crufts next year, Ms Balding asked.
“We would certainly hope not to go there,” Mrs Kisko replied, adding that this was ‘one dog among a whole breed’.
“And I’m sure there are plenty of healthy GSDs out there,” she said. “We’ve just seen one that no one likes and we are all concerned about. We hope the judge of that breed next year will be doing a very different job.”
Dr Holm said that ‘the important thing’ was that the matter was being discussed openly on a public forum.
“It’s not being swept under the carpet, nor pretending that that dog not moving soundly in the ring last night.
“That’s such a huge move forward and it feels like something very important.”
In a written statement Mrs Kisko said: “Concern for the health of GSDs is reflected in the fact that the breed is classed as ‘category three’ under the KC’s Breed Watch scheme. Many of the category three breeds have seen vast health improvements but we know that some breeds still have further to go.
“We will be looking at what support we are giving to particular breeds to ensure continued improvement, and we will continue to review judges who may appear to disregard the health instructions they are given since they play a significant part in achieving change in the health of any breed. However, we will always seek the views of the judge in matters of this nature before drawing conclusions.
“The KC Charitable Trust has recently funded a study by the University of Surrey looking into the conformation and movement of German Shepherds, as part of our commitment to improving the health of this breed.”