The number of overseas dogs due to compete at Crufts this year has dropped for the first time around a decade – marking a potential sign of concern amongst dog owners about travelling in a post-Brexit world, and an early indicator of the possible implications Brexit will have on future international entries to the show.
The world’s greatest dog show, due to take place at the NEC in Birmingham on 7-10 March – just weeks ahead of the Brexit deadline on the 29 March – has seen a dramatic year-on-year rise in the number of foreign dogs competing ever since 2002, with the exception of a small dip in 2010. 2002 marked the first year that dogs travelled to the show under the Pet Travel Scheme. This meant that people could take their dogs from the UK to the EU and other designated countries, and back again, 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 percent between 2001 and 2002.
However, for the first time since 2002 with the exception of a small drop in 2010, the number of overseas dogs due to compete at Crufts has dropped. There are 3,611 overseas dogs competing this year, compared with 3,623 dogs last year. This is only a minor shift, but could be a sign of concern amongst international entrants, unsure of what Brexit will bring.
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 four Best in Show winners from abroad (two from America, one from Canada, one from Russia).
This year, the show has more than 20,000 dogs competing for its famous silver cup – 16,784 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. Prior to the introduction of the relaxed quarantine rules under the Pet Travel Scheme, Crufts saw just 93 international entries.
In total, 44 countries will be taking part in the world’s greatest dog even this year, from Australia to Ukraine. Italy has taken the lead for the first time, overtaking France, with the largest number of entries, at 413 dogs. Maintaining a steady third and fourth place are the Netherlands and Germany with 327 and 325 dogs respectively, while Ireland on 315 has replaced Russia to claim fifth place.
Currently, nobody is sure what precise impact Brexit will have on dogs entering and leaving the UK, but if the UK leaves the EU without a deal the rules regarding travel with a dog to EU countries will change. How much impact this will have will depend upon whether the UK is treated as a listed or unlisted third country. Dog owners are being warned by Defra to begin planning for travel four months in advance.
Caroline Kisko, Secretary of the Kennel Club which organizes 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 for us and many dog owners. This year’s event should be unaffected but the first drop in international figures since 2002, could be a sign of uncertainty amongst some international dog owners.
“We 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.”