The world of dog showing is not normally known for scandal and intrigue, but this year the world-famous Crufts competition has been rocked by the news that one of its competitors, three year old Irish Setter Jagger, was poisoned at the show. Jagger died 24 hours after securing second place in his class for best dog.
Police in Belgium are believed to be investigating the death, which has left the owners “devastated”, following the discovery of poison inside cubes of meat inside Jagger’s stomach.
“It was dark red meat, it looked like beef. Inside there were small colours – white, dark green and black,” said the dog’s co-owner Aleksandra Lauwers, who had taken Jagger back to her home in Tongeren, Belgium, on Friday following his success at the show.
“The vet is convinced it is poison, possibly a few different types to make it work more slowly but efficiently. The people in the clinic also suspected it was poison,” she added.
The dog’s co-owner Jeremy Bott, from Leicester, told BBC Radio 4 “When the vet opened up his stomach, she found cubes of meat – some sort of beef-like steak – and they had been sewn up with poison inside.
“She thinks there were possibly two or three types of poison. I think she identified one as a slug killer. I would guess that the other would turn out to be a rat poison or some industrial type of poison.”
Mrs Lauwers said she believed Jagger, who shows under the name Thendara Satisfaction, was deliberately poisoned by a co-competitior. She told the Telegraph “There is no other option, it had to have happened [at Crufts]. How can you mistakenly poison a dog?”
“Jagger was such a promising dog. He was just three years old but he was well known around the world. Of course if you are successful, success doesn’t make you a whole lot of friends. I am convinced it happened at the dog show. There wasn’t any other opportunity. It looked like an act of jealousy.”
She recounted a number of “strange things” that had happened in the months before the show. “The confirmation of 1st, 2nd and 3rd place cards for the dogs went missing after he won at one show,” she said “Then at the Richmond Dog Show in London at another competition somebody let his brother Pot Noodle out of his cage and he went missing for an hour.”
But Mr Bott’s wife, Dee Milligan-Bott, is less convinced that it was a targeted attack. “I don’t believe in my heart of hearts that this was another competitor or anyone involved in the dog world,” she told Radio 5 Live.
“I can only imagine that it was a random act that somebody premeditated and wanted to cause total distress at the best dog show in the world. It’s not unknown for people to do things like this.
“He was a typical Irish setter, totally trustworthy and so loved. We are devastated.”
Mrs Lauwers described the loss of Jagger as the loss of “our love, family member and best friend to our son”.
She said that after celebrating their success at the show with the Milligan Botts in Kilby, Leicestershire on Friday morning, she and her husband had returned to Belgium with their four dogs on the train, arriving home at midnight.
“I prepared food for the dogs and I called Jagger to come over. He just collapsed and started shaking, it looked like a fit,” she said. “We called our vet immediately. He started having diarrhea and urinating on himself. It looked like a heart attack. He went into a coma a minute later and died. The vet said it looked like poison.”
Since then, reports have emerged of two more dogs being taken sick with suspected poisoning. A judge at the show, who spoke to the Telegraph on the condition of anonymity, said: “I saw one of the prize-winning dogs being sick in the ring on Friday.
“The lady who owned the dog was very upset, he is a top winning dog. His eyes were rolling and she had to take him to the vet. She thought someone had poisoned him, although she had no proof.
“Then there was another lady with a champion bitch who was sick in the morning, then she was ok when she was shown, and when she got home she was passing blood. Both ladies thought their dogs had been poisoned.”
Amy Nettleton, daughter of Mr and Mrs Milligan-Bott said: “The accessibility of shows such as Crufts… is such that the general public can wander in and out of the dogs’ benches and approach any dog, so to keep an eye on everybody who came up and spoke to the dogs is very difficult.”
Mr Bott added: “They will hopefully try with the CCTV they have in the halls at Crufts but I don’t think they will be able to find anybody,” whilst his wife said: “The Crufts committee and all championship show dog committees will have to look at security.”
Gillian Barker-Bell, the judge who placed Jagger second in his class on Thursday, said: “I can’t believe anyone could be so evil or vindictive. Dogs have been tampered with at other championship shows so this is not a first. But I have never heard of a dog actually dying. What a sick mind to do something like that.”
Sandra Chorley-Newton, the judge for Irish Setter bitches at Crufts, added: “This has shocked the whole dog community. The thought of it being another exhibitor is too awful to contemplate.”
Caroline Kisko, Kennel Club Secretary, told media: “The Kennel Club is deeply shocked and saddened to hear that Jagger the Irish Setter died some 26 hours after leaving Crufts.
“We have spoken to his owners and our heartfelt sympathies go out to them. We understand that the toxicology report is due next week and until that time we cannot know the cause of this tragic incident.”