Westminster dog death: Did someone deliberately poison a champion?

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It's obvious to anyone who watches the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show that competition is fierce. But could it be deadly? The owner of another competitor says that her dog's death might be the result of a deliberate poisoning at the prestigious show.

Cruz, a three-year-old Samoyed, died four days after his first Westminster competition, on Feb. 16. The dog had been competing in Colorado when he became ill and vomited blood. Cruz died later due to internal hemorrhaging, and the dog was cremated.

Now, however, his owner, Lynette Blue, and handler Robert Chaffin suspect that Cruz was actually poisoned at the Westminster Dog Show, according to a report from ABC News. The two cite the fact that Cruz had not been left alone at any time since the show and could not have come into contact with any poisons. Rat poison can cause the type of hemorrhaging that killed Cruz.

While the symptoms and death of Cruz (the shortened form of the dog's show name, GCH CH Polar Mist Cruz'N T'Party at Zamosky D) could definitely be the result of accidental or deliberate poisoning, cancer is also a possibility.

The owner and handler are not convinced. They believe that the poisoning might have occurred in New York while Cruz was "benched" and kept in an area with other handlers and dogs. Chaffin, the handler, is suspicious of an animal-rights activist who approached him during the show -- an accusation that has already been refuted by PETA as "ludicrous."

Neither Chaffin nor Blue have accused their fellow competitors, but the Westminster Dog Show does provide owners with the option of hiring security guards. "It could be some crazies or some animal rights fanatics," Blue said. "Or it's always possible... that other people in the dog show world try to knock out top competition."

Although Westminster has stated that its security is excellent and that no dogs have been injured during the show, Blue now insists that the competition is "not safe for dogs."

Cruz did not place at the big show but still held the designation of "Grand Champion" thanks to other show wins and high scores.

Photo/Video credit: Lynette Blue