What killed Cruz? Westminster dog's death leaves handler suspicious

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Foul play suspected in Westminster dog's death

The prized pooch died less than a week after participating in the world-renowned dog show.

The mysterious death of a fluffy, snow-white dog named Cruz has left his longtime handler and one of his owners suspicious that he may have been the victim of foul play.

The 3-year-old prizewinning Samoyed competed at the famed Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show on Feb. 11-12 in New York. Less than a week later, Cruz died in Lakewood, Colo., where he was competing in another show.

The cause of death hasn't been determined but the dog had symptoms, including vomiting blood, consistent with ingestion of mouse or rat poison, Molly Comiskey, the Colorado veterinarian who treated Cruz, told The New York Times. Such symptoms show up in dogs about three to five days after they eat the poison. That means Cruz, who passed away Feb. 16, would probably have ingested any poison while he was in New York, according to the Times.

Comiskey told the Times she thought it was unlikely that Cruz had been deliberately poisoned. But the dog's handler, Robert Chaffin, and one of his owners, Lynette Blue, aren't so sure.

Chaffin told the newspaper he believed that animal-rights activists, some of whom have protested dog shows as inhumane, might be to blame.

"I’ve heard horror stories about other people's dogs having their setups tampered with, being poisoned, but I never thought it would come to me," the Times quoted him as saying.

Ingrid Newkirk, founder and president of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, called such an insinuation "scurrilous," adding "it's so low to even suggest it."

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Westminster Kennel Club on Friday it has never had an incident at the show where a dog has become ill or was poisoned.

"We are ultra-cautious to the point where we do not allow dogs to be off lead at any time while at our show. After conversation with the co-owner of the dog in question, it was established that the dog left Georgia on Monday and flew to New York, he was exhibited at our show on Tuesday, and flew to Denver on Wednesday morning where he subsequently became ill on Saturday," the organization said in an emailed statement to MSN News. "Unfortunately, no autopsy was performed, so there are a lot of unanswered questions. No other animal which attended our show was reported to our show veterinarians with any incident of serious illness."

Blue said she was devastated by the loss. She said she contacted police and was considering whether to take further action to get to the bottom of the case.

Blue mourned Cruz's passing in a post on her Facebook page earlier this month:

"Thank you to everyone who has contacted me and for their support in this extreme time of [sorrow]. I just can't seem to stop crying and can hardly see. I do appreciate the outpouring of support from everyone, thank you."

Comiskey, the vet, doesn't think anything sinister is afoot.

"Dogs are dogs. It's not anyone's fault. They eat stuff; they get into things; they make bad decisions," she told the Times.

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