LONDON - Britain's Crufts on Monday played down reports that several more dogs were suspected poisoned at the dog show, after the death of a prize-winning Irish Setter sent shockwaves through the breeding world.
An investigation was launched after the owners of Thendara Satisfaction, or Jagger, claimed he was fed poisoned beef at the show, a British institution that has run since 1891 and that concluded on Sunday.
Claims that as many as five more dogs were suspected to have been poisoned at Crufts were splashed across the front pages of the Tuesday editions of British newspapers.
"We must stress that these are at this stage just rumours," a Crufts spokeswoman said, adding that no vets at the event had raised concerns and no official complaints received from owners.
"There are any number of reasons why a dog may display symptoms such as sickness... As with any international competition rumours of sabotage do occasionally surface." The Daily Telegraph newspaper reported that a West Highland white terrier, an Afghan hound and a Shih Tzu became ill after the four-day event in the English city of Birmingham.
Owner Mylee Thomas said her multi-award winning Shetland sheepdog Myter Eye to Eye was poisoned along with another top dog moments before they were due to enter the competition ring.
"When I got back from the loo she had been violently sick in her cage. I got her out and she carried on being sick," Thomas told newspaper the Daily Telegraph.
"The top dog and the top b**** were both taken ill minutes before they were due to compete... It can only be to knock them out of the competition. It's rivalry, people's desire to win." Thomas said she believed the incident was not linked to the death of Jagger, who she described as "randomly targeted".
Jagger, who is co-owned by a British and Belgian team, collapsed and died after returning from Crufts to Belgium.
The dog's British co-owner told reporters that she believed that her dog was the victim of a random attack and said urged for dog shows not to become "a ground of finger-pointing and suspicion".
"I need you all to know that we can't and we won't think that this was the act of another exhibitor," Dee Milligan-Bott said on Monday.
"If we thought this we couldn't go on, and the last 30 years of breeding and showing beautiful dogs would have been a complete waste." The Kennel Club, which runs Crufts, said it was awaiting the results of a toxicology report to shed light on Jagger's death.
It has said that anyone caught attempting to sabotage the performance of a competitor would face "severe disciplinary action" that could include a ban.