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The BBC's Richard Bilton reports
"Four-legged stars of Europe will be able to come and compete"
 real 28k

Thursday, 9 March, 2000, 17:52 GMT
'Woof' justice for top dogs
dog
A 'Chinese Crested' dog gets a final fuss before judging
The world's premier dog show, Crufts, has opened its doors for the last time as a British-only event.

More than 100,000 dog lovers are expected to visit the National Exhibition Centre in Birmingham during the four-day event which closes on Sunday.

More than 21,000 pedigree dogs and 500 cross-bred animals will be preened and pampered by their owners before being put through obedience and agility tests.

chihuahua
It's all too much for Salsero Bonnie the Chihuahua
Quarantine laws have always prevented foreign dog owners from entering the competition, although there have been occasions when dogs have been brought in from the United States, after six months in quarantine, specifically for Crufts.

But this will be the final year the event remains exclusively British as the government's relaxation of quarantine laws now allows animals with "pet passports" to enter from overseas.

Not all the breeders are happy about the idea of dogs from abroad taking part in the competition.

In an internet poll, 62% were against the idea and Beverly Cuddy, editor of Dogs Today magazine, said her readers were worried.

She told BBC: "I really think people do fear a European invasion.

"They're concerned it will go the way of Wimbledon - we organise it and the Europeans come over and win it."

But Kennel Club spokeswoman Caroline Kisko said she was excited by the possibilities that the relaxation of quarantine would provide.

"We envisage a record entry for Crufts 2001," she said.

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