UK

Crufts German Shepherd's Owner Hits Out At 'Sloping Back' Critics, Convinces No One

15/03/2016 15:31 GMT | Updated 15/03/2016 15:34 GMT

The owner of a dog at the centre of a Crufts animal welfare row has tried to insist it is perfectly healthy.

The unnamed owner, whose German shepherd upset views of the annual dog show by appearing with "sloping back" suggesting cruel breeding techniques.

As the row escalated, the owners of the dog, which won 'Best In Breed', wrote a statement saying they were "terribly upset by all the horrendous comments" about the "beautiful" animal.

The statement read: "The comments made on television about my lovely Shepherd were unbelievable especially when one considers the brevity of the images.

"How can you judge a dog on such a brief observation? There is a clear lack of tolerance and knowledge of our German shepherd breed."

It went on to say a vet examined the dog at Crufts and found she had no conditions that could affect her welfare.

The statement added: "As if it was not upsetting enough that my bitch faltered under the heavy media coverage in the Arena on what should have been the happiest day of my show life to then be tried and convicted on social media and the press this has now become the worst nightmare of my show life."

Crufts/Channel 4

But the defence went down badly among people on Facebook, one of whom said: "As a military man and having worked with military of these dogs - it shouldn't blinking look like the one in this photo. What the hell is up with its back and the poor thing’s leg?"

One said the dog "displays the slanted back we are trying educate modern owners away from". She added: "There are traditional straight backed breeders out there who should be chosen instead to reverse this appalling 'show modification' of what was already a beautiful breed - before breeders started meddling with it.

Another said: "Cry me a river. Perhaps not surprisingly, I think most people's sympathies concern your dog, and not you."

The Kennel Club, which organises Crufts, has opened an investigation into the matter.

It said: "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."

James Yeates, the RSPCA's chief veterinary officer, told the BBC the dog's back appeared "really sloped".

He said: "The specifics are obvious to anyone looking at the clip. The back is really sloped... People I'm sure know that German shepherds often get problems with their hips and backs, especially in later life.

"If you watch her as she goes round, she looks unsettled but one would probably just say 'stressed'. She certainly doesn't look like she's enjoying it. So we've got two big concerns."

Crufts is routinely at the centre of controversy over breeding techniques that, campaigners say favour performance and appearance over the health and welfare.