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Dog Show 101: What's what at the Westminster Kennel Club

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Dog Show 101: What's what at the Westminster Kennel Club
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Dog Show 101: What's what at the Westminster Kennel Club

2024-05-12 04:37 Last Updated At:04:40

NEW YORK (AP) — To the casual viewer, competing at the Westminster Kennel Club dog show might look pretty simple: Get a dog. Groom it. Pose it. Lead it around a ring.

But there's a lot more involved in reaching the pinnacle of U.S. canine events, now in its 148th year. It's a year that has been challenging for the kennel club: The show chairman died last fall, and a planned judge was charged in March with possession of child sexual abuse materials.

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A handler kisses his dog while watching an agility competition during the 148th Westminster Kennel Club Dog show, Saturday, May 11, 2024, at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in New York. (AP Photo/Julia Nikhinson)

NEW YORK (AP) — To the casual viewer, competing at the Westminster Kennel Club dog show might look pretty simple: Get a dog. Groom it. Pose it. Lead it around a ring.

A woman shops with her dog during the 148th Westminster Kennel Club Dog show, Saturday, May 11, 2024, at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in New York. (AP Photo/Julia Nikhinson)

A woman shops with her dog during the 148th Westminster Kennel Club Dog show, Saturday, May 11, 2024, at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in New York. (AP Photo/Julia Nikhinson)

A handler holds his dog on a leash in the Breed Showcase area during the 148th Westminster Kennel Club Dog show, Saturday, May 11, 2024, at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in New York. (AP Photo/Julia Nikhinson)

A handler holds his dog on a leash in the Breed Showcase area during the 148th Westminster Kennel Club Dog show, Saturday, May 11, 2024, at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in New York. (AP Photo/Julia Nikhinson)

A woman puts on a dog pin during an agility competition during the 148th Westminster Kennel Club Dog show, Saturday, May 11, 2024, at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in New York. (AP Photo/Julia Nikhinson)

A woman puts on a dog pin during an agility competition during the 148th Westminster Kennel Club Dog show, Saturday, May 11, 2024, at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in New York. (AP Photo/Julia Nikhinson)

Dogs and handlers wait backstage during the 148th Westminster Kennel Club Dog show, Saturday, May 11, 2024, at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in New York. (AP Photo/Julia Nikhinson)

Dogs and handlers wait backstage during the 148th Westminster Kennel Club Dog show, Saturday, May 11, 2024, at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in New York. (AP Photo/Julia Nikhinson)

A dog sleeps in the Breed Showcase area during the 148th Westminster Kennel Club Dog show, Saturday, May 11, 2024, at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in New York. (AP Photo/Julia Nikhinson)

A dog sleeps in the Breed Showcase area during the 148th Westminster Kennel Club Dog show, Saturday, May 11, 2024, at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in New York. (AP Photo/Julia Nikhinson)

People and dogs watch the dock diving competition during the 148th Westminster Kennel Club Dog show, Saturday, May 11, 2024, at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in New York. (AP Photo/Julia Nikhinson)

People and dogs watch the dock diving competition during the 148th Westminster Kennel Club Dog show, Saturday, May 11, 2024, at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in New York. (AP Photo/Julia Nikhinson)

A dog stands in the Breed Showcase area at the 148th Westminster Kennel Club Dog show, Saturday, May 11, 2024, at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in New York. (AP Photo/Julia Nikhinson)

A dog stands in the Breed Showcase area at the 148th Westminster Kennel Club Dog show, Saturday, May 11, 2024, at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in New York. (AP Photo/Julia Nikhinson)

A dog competes in an agility competition during the 148th Westminster Kennel Club Dog show, Saturday, May 11, 2024, at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in New York. (AP Photo/Julia Nikhinson)

A dog competes in an agility competition during the 148th Westminster Kennel Club Dog show, Saturday, May 11, 2024, at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in New York. (AP Photo/Julia Nikhinson)

Shar peis stand in the Breed Showcase area during the 148th Westminster Kennel Club Dog show, Saturday, May 11, 2024, at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in New York. (AP Photo/Julia Nikhinson)

Shar peis stand in the Breed Showcase area during the 148th Westminster Kennel Club Dog show, Saturday, May 11, 2024, at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in New York. (AP Photo/Julia Nikhinson)

FILE - A judge examines dogs competing in the bracco Italiano breed during the breed's debut at the 147th Westminster Kennel Club Dog show, Tuesday, May 9, 2023, in New York. To the casual viewer, competing at the Westminster Kennel Club dog show might look as simple as getting a dog, grooming it and leading it around a ring. But there’s a lot more involved in getting to and exhibiting in the United States’ most prestigious canine event. (AP Photo/Jennifer Peltz, File)

FILE - A judge examines dogs competing in the bracco Italiano breed during the breed's debut at the 147th Westminster Kennel Club Dog show, Tuesday, May 9, 2023, in New York. To the casual viewer, competing at the Westminster Kennel Club dog show might look as simple as getting a dog, grooming it and leading it around a ring. But there’s a lot more involved in getting to and exhibiting in the United States’ most prestigious canine event. (AP Photo/Jennifer Peltz, File)

FILE - Handler Janice Hays poses for photos with Buddy Holly, a petit basset griffon Vendéen, after he won best in show during the 147th Westminster Kennel Club Dog show, Tuesday, May 9, 2023, at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in New York. To the casual viewer, competing at the Westminster Kennel Club dog show might look as simple as getting a dog, grooming it and leading it around a ring. But there’s a lot more involved in getting to and exhibiting in the United States’ most prestigious canine event. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer, File)

FILE - Handler Janice Hays poses for photos with Buddy Holly, a petit basset griffon Vendéen, after he won best in show during the 147th Westminster Kennel Club Dog show, Tuesday, May 9, 2023, at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in New York. To the casual viewer, competing at the Westminster Kennel Club dog show might look as simple as getting a dog, grooming it and leading it around a ring. But there’s a lot more involved in getting to and exhibiting in the United States’ most prestigious canine event. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer, File)

Here are the ins and outs of Westminster, which started Saturday with an agility competition at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in New York:

Over 2,500 dogs from 200 different breeds and varieties, which are subsets of breeds, signed up to try for the best in show trophy to be awarded Tuesday night.

Hailing from every U.S. state and countries from Chile to Thailand, the lineup includes such familiar breeds as French bulldogs and Labrador retrievers, rarities such as Azawakhs and Norwegian lundehunds and a newcomer, the Lancashire heeler. Chihuahuas are this year’s best-represented breed, with 49 entered.

Two of last year's seven semifinalists are expected back: Trouble, an American Staffordshire terrier, and Monty, a giant schnauzer, who is currently the nation's top-ranked dog in The Canine Chronicle magazine's stats.

Also entered are Comet, a Shih Tzu who won the huge American Kennel Club National Championship show in December, and Stache, a Sealyham terrier who won the National Dog Show that was televised on Thanksgiving.

Then there's Zaida, an Afghan hound fresh off a win at last month's World Dog Show in Croatia. Other big-winning competitors include a German shepherd named Mercedes and an otterhound called Melody.

Westminster's agility and obedience contests Saturday involved a few hundred more dogs, including some mixed-breed ones.

All the dogs are champions, meaning they have racked up a certain amount of points in the sport's complicated system.

The process of becoming a show dog begins when breeders determine which puppies are physically and temperamentally suited for what's known as “conformation” competition.

Some owners show their own dogs. Other canines have professional handlers who crisscross the country to compete most weekends. They might gather intel about rivals' schedules and ponder judges' past picks. Some owners even run full-page ads in canine publications to salute and promote their animals.

“Conformation” dogs first face off against others of their breed, which sometimes can include dozens of others, sometimes few or even none. Each breed's winner moves on to a semifinal round of judging against others in a group of dozens of breeds. In the final round, the seven group winners compete for best in show.

Judges decide which dog best matches the ideal, or “standard,” for its breed. For example, a herding dog might need proportions allowing for tight turns, while some hounds might require thick paw pads for rough terrain.

Judges do hands-on examinations and watch the dogs in motion. Distinctions can be very subtle. Show folk often say victory can go to “the dog on the day,” meaning the one that has the performance of a lifetime.

“At Westminster, all the great dogs are in the same place for one of the only times this year," said dog expert David Frei, who hosted the Westminster telecast for decades. “Everybody wants to be there, and you’re going to have to go head-to-head with your greatest competition.”

Bragging rights and trophies are at stake. There are no cash prizes, though the agility and obedience winners each get to direct a $5,000 Westminster donation to a training club or to the American Kennel Club Humane Fund.

Wire fox terriers have scampered away with the top prize 15 times, most recently in 2019. Poodles of various sizes have won 10 times.

Many breeds have yet to triumph, including such favorites as the Labrador retriever. But a petit basset griffon Vendéen took best in show for the first time last year, as did a bloodhound in 2022.

All winners in the recently added agility and obedience contests also have been purebreds. But there is a special agility prize every year for the top mix, called an “all American dog” in show parlance.

Westminster has long faced protests from animal rights activists who view the competition as a deplorable canine beauty contest fueling faddish puppy buying and reckless breeding. The club routinely counters that it celebrates all dogs while highlighting “preservation” of breeds with particular traits.

But this year's event comes as the U.S. dog show world faces an unexpected and searing reckoning.

Dr. Adam Stafford King, a suburban Chicago veterinarian and Havanese breeder who was set to judge some toy breeds at Westminster, was arrested in March on federal charges of distributing child sexual abuse photos and videos to an online contact. He has pleaded not guilty and is being held without bail.

His attorney, Jonathan Bedi, didn't respond to an inquiry from The Associated Press but told Chicago media in April that King has been wrongly accused.

Shortly after King's arrest, the American Kennel Club, which is essentially the governing body for Westminster and thousands of other U.S. dog competitions, revoked his judging privileges and his Westminster appointment was scrapped.

While King’s alleged crimes didn't occur at dog shows, the case helped reveal discussions that had percolated quietly for years about whether the AKC has done enough to protect children who compete and apprentice as handlers. A Business Insider investigation in April found four show-world professionals have been convicted since 2008 of crimes against children, some of them at dog events.

The AKC began requiring its field representatives and registered handlers to complete an abuse prevention program in 2021. The club recently switched to a different program and last month extended the requirement to judges, handlers and some others, covering about 20,000 people, spokesperson Brandi Hunter Munden said.

On Thursday, the club approved a policy that could make it easier to sever ties with people, particularly over conduct outside dog shows. The policy calls for discipline, which can include lifetime suspension, for anyone convicted of a crime or found to have engaged in sex offenses, harassment or any conduct endangering someone else's well-being or that undermines the club, among other misdeeds.

“Our goal is not just to protect the youth in our sport, it’s to protect every individual,” she said. “We want this sport to be safe, inclusive and family-friendly.”

A handler kisses his dog while watching an agility competition during the 148th Westminster Kennel Club Dog show, Saturday, May 11, 2024, at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in New York. (AP Photo/Julia Nikhinson)

A handler kisses his dog while watching an agility competition during the 148th Westminster Kennel Club Dog show, Saturday, May 11, 2024, at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in New York. (AP Photo/Julia Nikhinson)

A woman shops with her dog during the 148th Westminster Kennel Club Dog show, Saturday, May 11, 2024, at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in New York. (AP Photo/Julia Nikhinson)

A woman shops with her dog during the 148th Westminster Kennel Club Dog show, Saturday, May 11, 2024, at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in New York. (AP Photo/Julia Nikhinson)

A handler holds his dog on a leash in the Breed Showcase area during the 148th Westminster Kennel Club Dog show, Saturday, May 11, 2024, at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in New York. (AP Photo/Julia Nikhinson)

A handler holds his dog on a leash in the Breed Showcase area during the 148th Westminster Kennel Club Dog show, Saturday, May 11, 2024, at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in New York. (AP Photo/Julia Nikhinson)

A woman puts on a dog pin during an agility competition during the 148th Westminster Kennel Club Dog show, Saturday, May 11, 2024, at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in New York. (AP Photo/Julia Nikhinson)

A woman puts on a dog pin during an agility competition during the 148th Westminster Kennel Club Dog show, Saturday, May 11, 2024, at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in New York. (AP Photo/Julia Nikhinson)

Dogs and handlers wait backstage during the 148th Westminster Kennel Club Dog show, Saturday, May 11, 2024, at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in New York. (AP Photo/Julia Nikhinson)

Dogs and handlers wait backstage during the 148th Westminster Kennel Club Dog show, Saturday, May 11, 2024, at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in New York. (AP Photo/Julia Nikhinson)

A dog sleeps in the Breed Showcase area during the 148th Westminster Kennel Club Dog show, Saturday, May 11, 2024, at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in New York. (AP Photo/Julia Nikhinson)

A dog sleeps in the Breed Showcase area during the 148th Westminster Kennel Club Dog show, Saturday, May 11, 2024, at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in New York. (AP Photo/Julia Nikhinson)

People and dogs watch the dock diving competition during the 148th Westminster Kennel Club Dog show, Saturday, May 11, 2024, at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in New York. (AP Photo/Julia Nikhinson)

People and dogs watch the dock diving competition during the 148th Westminster Kennel Club Dog show, Saturday, May 11, 2024, at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in New York. (AP Photo/Julia Nikhinson)

A dog stands in the Breed Showcase area at the 148th Westminster Kennel Club Dog show, Saturday, May 11, 2024, at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in New York. (AP Photo/Julia Nikhinson)

A dog stands in the Breed Showcase area at the 148th Westminster Kennel Club Dog show, Saturday, May 11, 2024, at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in New York. (AP Photo/Julia Nikhinson)

A dog competes in an agility competition during the 148th Westminster Kennel Club Dog show, Saturday, May 11, 2024, at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in New York. (AP Photo/Julia Nikhinson)

A dog competes in an agility competition during the 148th Westminster Kennel Club Dog show, Saturday, May 11, 2024, at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in New York. (AP Photo/Julia Nikhinson)

Shar peis stand in the Breed Showcase area during the 148th Westminster Kennel Club Dog show, Saturday, May 11, 2024, at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in New York. (AP Photo/Julia Nikhinson)

Shar peis stand in the Breed Showcase area during the 148th Westminster Kennel Club Dog show, Saturday, May 11, 2024, at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in New York. (AP Photo/Julia Nikhinson)

FILE - A judge examines dogs competing in the bracco Italiano breed during the breed's debut at the 147th Westminster Kennel Club Dog show, Tuesday, May 9, 2023, in New York. To the casual viewer, competing at the Westminster Kennel Club dog show might look as simple as getting a dog, grooming it and leading it around a ring. But there’s a lot more involved in getting to and exhibiting in the United States’ most prestigious canine event. (AP Photo/Jennifer Peltz, File)

FILE - A judge examines dogs competing in the bracco Italiano breed during the breed's debut at the 147th Westminster Kennel Club Dog show, Tuesday, May 9, 2023, in New York. To the casual viewer, competing at the Westminster Kennel Club dog show might look as simple as getting a dog, grooming it and leading it around a ring. But there’s a lot more involved in getting to and exhibiting in the United States’ most prestigious canine event. (AP Photo/Jennifer Peltz, File)

FILE - Handler Janice Hays poses for photos with Buddy Holly, a petit basset griffon Vendéen, after he won best in show during the 147th Westminster Kennel Club Dog show, Tuesday, May 9, 2023, at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in New York. To the casual viewer, competing at the Westminster Kennel Club dog show might look as simple as getting a dog, grooming it and leading it around a ring. But there’s a lot more involved in getting to and exhibiting in the United States’ most prestigious canine event. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer, File)

FILE - Handler Janice Hays poses for photos with Buddy Holly, a petit basset griffon Vendéen, after he won best in show during the 147th Westminster Kennel Club Dog show, Tuesday, May 9, 2023, at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in New York. To the casual viewer, competing at the Westminster Kennel Club dog show might look as simple as getting a dog, grooming it and leading it around a ring. But there’s a lot more involved in getting to and exhibiting in the United States’ most prestigious canine event. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer, File)

Next Article

Thousands in Kenya demonstrate against proposed new taxes

2024-06-21 11:31 Last Updated At:11:40

NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — Thousands of mostly young people demonstrated Thursday in Kenya’s capital and across the country against new tax proposals by the administration of President William Ruto in its annual budget legislation.

The protests brought Nairobi’s central business district to a standstill as horse-riding riot police threw tear-gas cannisters and opened water cannons on demonstrators who advanced towards parliament buildings, where lawmakers debated the finance bill.

The protesters, who began their demonstrations in a first round on Tuesday, are demanding that lawmakers vote against the legislation, which is expected to be burdensome for salaried Kenyans, entrepreneurs and consumers. They say Ruto has gone back on his pledge to reduce taxes and lower the cost of living.

The new taxes would include a 2.75% levy on income for the national medical insurance plan, as well as increased taxes on vegetable oil and fuel, which would increase the cost of production and trickle down to the consumer.

Proposals to introduce a 16% value-added tax on bread and a new annual tax on motor vehicles were removed from the legislation Tuesday after a meeting between Ruto and ruling party members.

But those who demonstrated Thursday said the amendments did not go far enough and that they want legislators to totally reject the budget legislation.

“Our parents have been taxed dry, yet there’s no development to show for it. We reject any additional taxes and will stay on the streets for as long as it takes,” Ashley Mwai said.

The 19-year-old who has never voted said the new taxes have made her get involved in politics for the first time for the sake of her parents who do not have the energy to join protests.

“As much as I’m not earning an income yet, additional taxes will increase the prices of food and transport, making life unbearable for us young people,” Mwai said.

Businessman Walter Mwangi, 34, said he’s struggling to earn a living because taxes are already crippling his consultancy business. "We are sick and tired,” Mwangi said.

Lawmakers were debating and voting Thursday on the legislation in its second reading. It is due for its third and final reading next week. Meanwhile, demonstrators tried to breach a security cordon to access parliament buildings, carrying anti-government placards and chanting against Ruto.

The president was attending a university event in the southeastern town of Garissa where anti-government protesters lined the street leading to the event venue.

Young people also demonstrated in the president's home turf of Eldoret town, where they told journalists they had been duped into voting for Ruto.

Ruto said earlier in the week that the protests were a constitutional right, but that government institutions must carry out their mandate.

“We are a democratic country. Those who want to demonstrate it is their right, no problem. But decisions have to be made by institutions," Ruto said Wednesday.

"We will make decisions as an executive, take it to the legislature, people of Kenya will speak to it through public participation, others will subject it to court processes and that is how democracy works and I am a great believer in democracy,” he said.

Tuesday's protests saw more than 200 people arrested and later released.

The right to protest is enshrined in the Kenyan constitution and organizers have to notify police who often give a go-ahead unless there are security concerns. Previous anti-government protests in Nairobi have often been met by police force with protesters in the past shot at by the police.

A protester uses a fire extinguisher during a protest over proposed tax hikes in a finance bill that is due to be tabled in parliament in Nairobi, Kenya, Thursday, June 20, 2024. (AP Photo/ Andrew Kasuku)

A protester uses a fire extinguisher during a protest over proposed tax hikes in a finance bill that is due to be tabled in parliament in Nairobi, Kenya, Thursday, June 20, 2024. (AP Photo/ Andrew Kasuku)

Demonstrators run from police during a protest over proposed tax hikes in a finance bill that is due to be tabled in parliament in Nairobi, Kenya, Thursday, June 20, 2024. AP Photo/ Andrew Kasuku)

Demonstrators run from police during a protest over proposed tax hikes in a finance bill that is due to be tabled in parliament in Nairobi, Kenya, Thursday, June 20, 2024. AP Photo/ Andrew Kasuku)

Police officers fire tear gas canisters during a protest over proposed tax hikes in a finance bill that is due to be tabled in parliament in Nairobi, Kenya, Thursday, June 20, 2024. (AP Photo/ Andrew Kasuku)

Police officers fire tear gas canisters during a protest over proposed tax hikes in a finance bill that is due to be tabled in parliament in Nairobi, Kenya, Thursday, June 20, 2024. (AP Photo/ Andrew Kasuku)

Demonstrators run from police during a protest over proposed tax hikes in a finance bill that is due to be tabled in parliament in Nairobi, Kenya, Thursday, June 20, 2024. (AP Photo/ Andrew Kasuku)

Demonstrators run from police during a protest over proposed tax hikes in a finance bill that is due to be tabled in parliament in Nairobi, Kenya, Thursday, June 20, 2024. (AP Photo/ Andrew Kasuku)

A protesters throws back a teargas canister at police officers during a protest over proposed tax hikes in a finance bill that is due to be tabled in parliament in Nairobi, Kenya, Thursday, June 20, 2024. (AP Photo/ Andrew Kasuku)

A protesters throws back a teargas canister at police officers during a protest over proposed tax hikes in a finance bill that is due to be tabled in parliament in Nairobi, Kenya, Thursday, June 20, 2024. (AP Photo/ Andrew Kasuku)

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