The number of overseas dogs due to compete at Crufts 2020 has seen a significant drop for the first time in around a decade, marking a potential sign of concern amongst dog owners about travelling in a post-Brexit world, and an indicator of the possible implications Brexit will have on future four-legged international entries to the show.
The world’s greatest dog show, due to take place at the NEC in Birmingham on 5 - 8 March – just weeks after Britain officially left the EU – has seen a dramatic year-on-year rise in the number of foreign dogs competing ever since 2002, peaking in 2018. 2002 marked the first year that dogs travelled to the show under the Pet Travel Scheme, meaning that people could take their dogs between the UK and the EU, and other designated countries, without quarantine by using a pet passport, which requires the animal to have a valid rabies vaccination and microchip. Overseas entries shot up by 269 per cent between 2001 and 2002.
However, for the first time in 18 years, the number of overseas dogs due to compete at Crufts has dropped significantly. There are 3,171 overseas dogs competing this year, compared with 3,611 dogs last year. This drop of 440 dogs (-12 per cent), accounts for 61 per cent of the total drop in entries.
Crufts, whilst a British institution, is a truly international event. The debut of an increased number of international dogs on the Crufts stage could not have been more spectacular, as a Standard Poodle from Norway, Nordic Champion Topscore Contradiction, went all the way to Best in Show in 2002. Since this date there have been another five Best in Show winners from abroad (two from the United States, one from Canada, one from Russia, and last year’s Papillon, Dylan, from Belgium).
This year, the show has almost 20,000 dogs competing for its famous silver cup – 16,525 from the UK - which means that at least 17 per cent of dogs strutting their stuff on the green carpet will be from outside the UK.
In total, 42 countries will be taking part in the world’s greatest dog event this year, from Australia to Ukraine. However, all but one of the top ten countries have taken a tumble – while Italy has kept its lead with the largest international number of entries, at 366 dogs, this is an 11 per cent drop from 2019. In second place is France at 317 entries, down by 19 per cent. Germany and the Netherlands follow in third and fourth place with 289 (-11 per cent compared to 2019) and 286 (-13 per cent versus 2019) dogs respectively, while Ireland’s 266 entries in fifth place is down -16 per cent compared to last year.
Last year’s Best in Show winner, Kathleen Roosens, from Belgium, flew in the face of the original Brexit deadline of 29th March 2019 by winning the prestigious title with Papillon, Dylan – a premier win for the four-legged French breed as well as the first for a Belgian two-legged competitor, at the beginning of the month.
Kathleen commented on the downward trend of international entries: “I think fewer Europeans entered Crufts this year purely because of Brexit – nothing else. Some people I spoke to feared they needed rabies tests and others didn’t enter because of not knowing what ‘worse case’ could be.”
Kathleen hasn’t been put off though; she is competing once again at Crufts 2020 with three dogs and in a truly international spirit - one is from the Republic of Korea, one is from Japan and one from the Czech Republic - all bred by Kathleen in Belgium.
She added: “I have been coming to Crufts ever since I was a child and it's pure magic! Having visited all major shows across the globe, for me Crufts is still the show of all shows – organised by the most welcoming team in a country with a rich culture. It's the show of the year to see and be seen, and the huge international crowd means you meet all kinds of people and dogs, who hail from all over.”
Bill Lambert, spokesperson for Kennel Club which organises Crufts, said: “Crufts is a British institution with a truly international feel and is a great celebration of dogs, regardless of where they live. Each year we see thousands of British dogs at the show, as well as a huge number from abroad.
“As with many areas of British life, the future movement of dogs across the channel in a post-Brexit world is a concern ahead of Crufts, and many dog owners – who needed to enter the show by 20th January – could have been put off by the uncertainty around pet travel. While we now know from Defra that pet travel regulations will remain the same throughout the transition period, we were only notified of this the week after entries for Crufts closed, so were unable to reassure potential competitors before they made a decision to enter.
“This could have had an impact on international entries. We continue to urge all dog owners to read the Defra advice by visiting the GOV.UK website for the latest information on how to prepare their dogs for foreign travel but in the meantime, all entered dogs and visitors are welcomed to this year’s Crufts, where they will be treated to another spectacular event.”
Crufts takes place from 5th – 8th March with over 20,000 dogs from 42 countries. Tickets are available at www.crufts.org.uk.