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Birmingham (United Kingdom) (AFP) – Tens of thousands of dogs and their owners are expected to return to the world’s biggest dog show on Thursday, as Crufts returns after a two-year absence.
The last edition took place in March 2020, just before Britain went into lockdown as the coronavirus swept the world and before the country prepared to leave the European Union after Brexit.
More than 20,000 dogs are due to attend the four-day event competing in appearance, obedience and agility at the National Exhibition Center near Birmingham in central England.
But Russian dog owners and their pets were banned from attending after Kennel Club organizers condemned Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.
“Given the rapidly changing circumstances, it is with heavy hearts that we have made the decision not to allow exhibitors from Russia to compete at Crufts 2022,” he said.
The decision affects about 30 Russian owners and breeders and 51 dogs who were to take part in the exhibition, which was first held in 1891.
“Our friends in Ukraine and their dogs are in fear for their lives and we will do everything we can to support them where possible,” the Kennel Club added.
He is donating £50,000 (60,000 euros, $66,000) to help partner organizations in Ukraine, Poland and Hungary help breeders, owners and their dogs affected by the conflict.
Some 150,000 people attended Crufts in 2020, but this year organizers are expecting smaller crowds.
“After a few uncertain years, we were expecting a decline in entries due to both the changes to pet travel following Brexit, as well as the impact of the pandemic, many people unable to travel, especially those overseas, or unable to commit to travel at this time,” the Kennel Club told AFP.
Some 16,000 dogs from 38 countries are vying for seven places in the prestigious ‘Best in Show’ final, which will be decided on Sunday evening.
Of these, just over 1,800 come from abroad – well below the more than 3,000 foreign participants in the show’s various competitions two years ago.
Since the UK’s full departure from the EU in January last year, European visitors – and their pets – have been subject to stricter entry requirements.
The 2020 Best in Show winner was Maisie, a wire-haired dachshund.
© 2022 AFP