Best in show?

February 14th, 2011

New York’s Madison Square Garden hosts the 135th Annual Westminster Kennel Club All Breed Dog Show today and tomorrow. The most prestigious canine competition in the world, it will receive live, prime time coverage in the U.S. and here in Canada.

Raising and exhibiting purebred dogs is an immensely popular pastime — and an extremely lucrative industry. But is it in the best interest of the animals? As we noted in an earlier post, the 2008 BBC documentary PEDIGREE DOGS EXPOSED (airing tonight on The Pet Network at 9 pm ET / 10 pm PT) blames competitive dog showing for an epidemic of disability, deformity and disease among many canine breeds.

According to filmmaker Jemima Harrison, who now blogs regularly on the topic, the inbreeding that is done to preserve and enhance the physical traits required by the Kennel Club’s exacting breed standards also perpetuates a wide variety of genetic diseases. By choosing to play God with these breeds, placing cosmetic features above quality of life, we have subjected many animals to unncessary suffering.

While PEDIGREE DOGS EXPOSED places its focus on purebreds in the UK (whose health problems cost their owners an estimated 10 million pounds in vet fees every week), animal welfare advocates in North America have raised similar concerns.

Catch tonight’s broadcast, and decide for yourself. PEDIGREE DOGS EXPOSED repeats on Thursday Feb. 17 at 9 pm ET / 10 pm PT.

No business like cat show business

December 21st, 2010
 Canada’s The Pet Network presents the documentary CAT PEOPLE on Wednesday, Jan. 5 at 9 pm ET / 10 pm PT.

 

“There’s nothing more important than this.” – Cat show competitor Chris Fog.

Is there room in your life for 30 or 40 cats? Would you be willing to drive hundreds of miles every weekend, and spend thousands of dollars, to be part of the competitive cat show circuit? Does shampooing and blow-drying your prize Persian sound like a fulfilling activity?

If you answered yes to these questions, then congratulations: you’ve qualified for lifetime membership in the North American fraternity of cat people.

This most unusual community is the subject of the hour-long documentary Cat People, which goes behind the scenes at the Santa Monica Cat Club show in California, one of the most prestigious events of its kind in the United States.

More than 600 high-maintenance purebreds (and their high-maintenance owners) are on display at this annual competition – all hoping to claw their way to Best in Show.

Cat People offers a revealing look into the lives of men and women whose affection for their feline friends has turned into an all-consuming obsession — from Sibyl, a thwarted actress who keeps her limelight dreams alive by showing Siamese cats, to the unnervingly competitive Chris, who, along with his mother, has invested close to a million dollars into this pastime over the last two decades.

“This is not a hobby for me,” Chris says. “It’s what makes me tick. It’s what makes me breathe.”

As the Best in Show judging looms, a controversial ruling raises hackles, bitter rivalries surface, and nerves are strained to the breaking point. “It’s like having your child up there,” observes one anxious owner. Cat people: they’re definitely a breed apart.

Cat People repeats on Saturday, Jan. 8 at 9 pm ET / 10 pm PT.

For more on the world of pedigreed cats and cat shows, visit The Cat Fanciers’ Assocation (CFA) online.