Westminster dog death: Owner sniffs foul play

At Westminster, dog deaths are unheard of. But this year a 3-year-old Samoyed died four days after the competition. The owner now says she thinks the Westminster dog death was a deliberate poisoning. 

Associated Press
Four days after the 137th Westminster Kennel Club dog show, a dog died. The dog's death, its owner now says, was deliberate. Here, handlers wait to compete at the dog show, Feb. 11.

A dog owner says she thinks there's a chance her prized pet was deliberately poisoned while competing at the Westminster Kennel Club show, causing it to die several days later.

"It is in the realm of possibility," Lynette Blue told The Associated Press on Thursday.

Blue co-owns a 3-year-old Samoyed named Cruz, and said he probably swallowed poison at Westminster earlier this month. Four days after competing, the dog died, on Feb. 16, while at a show in Colorado.

Blue has worked since the 1970s with Samoyeds, a sturdy, medium-sized breed. She said that while there was no evidence foul play was involved, certain symptoms were consistent with dogs that ingest rat or mouse poison. That was the reason she said she decided against a necropsy — an autopsy for animals.

"The timeline adds up. There's no other scenario we can come up with other than poison," she said.

Asked if she thought it was intentional, she said: "I don't think we'll ever know."

The dog's death was first reported by The New York Times.

Cruz's handler, Robert Chaffin, told the Times he thought extreme animal rights activists may have been to blame. Members of some animal groups have criticized shows featuring purebred dogs in the past.

In 2010, two members of the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals stood in the middle of the Westminster best-in-show ring at Madison Square Garden and held protest signs.

But PETA co-founder and president Ingrid Newkirk said "it makes no sense whatsoever" that an animal rights activist would harm an animal.

"It's a fantasy, it's a fallacy," she told the AP by phone Thursday night. "How dare you point a finger and cast aspersions when you haven't a clue."

The veterinarian who treated Cruz, Molly Comiskey, told the Times: "Dogs are dogs. It's not anyone's fault. They eat stuff; they get into things; they make bad decisions."

The 137th Westminster drew 2,721 purebred entries. Cruz, one of 33 Samoyeds list in the show, did not win any ribbons in the best of breed judging.

RELATED: Top dogs breeds in the US since 1880 — does your pooch make the list?

"We have never, to our knowledge, had an incident at our show where a dog has become ill or was harmed as a result of being poisoned," the kennel club said in a statement.

"After conversation with the co-owner of the dog in question, it was established that the dog left Georgia on Monday and flew to New York, he was exhibited at our show on Tuesday, and flew to Denver on Wednesday morning where he subsequently became ill on Saturday. Unfortunately, no autopsy was performed, so there are a lot of unanswered questions," the statement said.

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