BIRMINGHAM, UNITED KINGDOM (AFP) – Tens of thousands of dogs and their owners participated in the world’s biggest dog show on Thursday, as Crufts makes a comeback after a two-year absence.
The last edition was in March 2020, just before Britain locked down as coronavirus swept the globe and before the country geared up to leave the European Union after Brexit.
More than 20,000 dogs are due to attend the four-day event competing on looks, obedience and agility at the National Exhibition Centre near Birmingham, in central England.
But Russian dog owners and their animals have been banned from attending after organisers at The Kennel Club condemned Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.
“In light of rapidly evolving circumstances, it is with a heavy heart we have taken the decision not to allow exhibitors from Russia to compete at Crufts 2022,” it said.
The decision affects about 30 Russian owners and breeders and 51 dogs that had been due to participate in the show, which was first held in 1891.
“Our friends in Ukraine, and their dogs, are fearing for their lives and we will do all that we can to support them wherever possible,” The Kennel Club added. It is donating GBP50,000 to help partner organisations in Ukraine, Poland and Hungary help breeders, owners and their dogs affected by the conflict.
Some 150,000 people attended Crufts in 2020, but this year’s organisers are expecting smaller crowds.
“Following an uncertain few years, we were anticipating lower entry numbers owing to both changes to pet travel in the aftermath of Brexit, as well as the impact of the pandemic, with many people being unable to travel, particularly those from overseas, or being unable to commit to travel at this time,” the Kennel Club told AFP.
Some 16,000 dogs from 38 countries are in the running to bag seven spots for the prestigious “Best in Show” finale, which will be decided tomorrow evening.
Of those, just over 1,800 are from overseas – well down on the more than 3,000 foreign entrants in various competitions in the show two years ago.
Since the UK’s full departure from the EU in January last year, European visitors – and their pets – are subject to more stringent entry requirements.
The winner of the 2020 Best in Show was Maisie, a wire-haired dachshund.