THE SAMOYED POISONING QUESTIONS
The Samoyed’s tragic death raised questions of sabotage, insurance scam, genetic bleeding disorder cover-up and other wild hypothesis.
TheDogPress.com questioned breeders, handlers, and veterinarians. Consensus is: “Cruz” was not poisoned by animal rights radicals at the Westminster Dog Show, nor was the Samoyed poisoned by a jealous competitor. So what then?
The Sammy was only 3 years old. Although he defeated a lot of good dogs, he was ranked 7th in his breed. Professional handlers admired the dog but none considered him a serious threat to their success. A jealous Samoyed owner? Equally unlikely.
Failure to necropsy the dog, followed by immediate cremation raises suspicion as to cause of death and in fact, there is no proof that GCH CH Polar Mist Cruz'N T'Party At Zamosky D was poisoned. While the emergency vet is quoted as saying the symptoms were consistent with a dog having ingested rat poison, handler Robert Chaffin insisted the valuable show dog was watched every minute.
The spokesman for Westminster KC said "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. Unfortunately, no autopsy was performed, so there are a lot of unanswered questions."
The Samoyed died February 16th so the time-line is medically consistent with rodenticide poisoning while at Westminster but the symptoms as described are not. Cruz was in his crate, groomed and prepped to be shown that day. We’re told he suddenly became sick, vomited, had diarrhea, and “could hardly walk” when removed from his crate. Sudden collapse and “bleed out” is extremely rare, in fact, death is preceded by 24 to 48 hours of obvious distress and “pain before death.”
Rat Poison or Genetic Bleeding Disorder?
Click for ii Instant Information on Anticoagulant Rodenticides, i.e. rat poison. One breeder-vet said “I just can't believe this animal was not necropsied, if for no other reason than to ease the owner’s mind, not to mention legal ramifications.” A prominent Samoyed breeder said “The “bleeding out” symptom is consistent with hemolytic anemia which can have a hereditary component in Samoyeds but it can also be caused by cancer or certain sulfa-based drugs. Sammy fanciers would want to know if their dog died from a genetic bleeding disorder. That would require necropsy and testing.”
A Sammy handler suggested the vet jumped to a conclusion based on Chaffin’s assumption that the dog had been poisoned; another thought the veterinarian might not have known about the breed-related bleeding disorder. Most Samoyed breeders agreed that any handler “specialing” a Samoyed should have been aware of hemolytic anemia. Regarding the emergency service veterinarian’s assumption of rat poisoning, breeders concurred that “a good veterinarian should have known of hemolytic anemia” because “it is not limited to Samoyeds.” A Doberman handler mentioned Von Willebrand’s Disease, another hereditary bleeding problem.
No Necropsy: insurance scam or genetic cover-up?
Dog fanciers are very concerned about genetic defects, whether structural, behavioral, or cosmetic but especially about genetic health problems. Dogs have been quietly “put to sleep” when serious genetic health problems are confirmed. The point was also made that if a bleeding disorder had been revealed by necropsy, any insurance claim would have been denied on grounds that the dog’s death was not accidental.
Regarding insurance fraud, co-owner and Samoyed breeder Lynette Blue told ABC News that she had no insurance policy on Cruz. Several handlers said that any professional handler would have insurance to cover the dogs in his care. We were unable to ascertain whether Robert Chaffin had insurance or whether a claim has been filed.
One person remarked “An insurance claim makes no sense because Chaffin is saying the dog’s death was an unexpected loss of income and that he is “struggling to pay bills.”’ Another reported “the dog was fine that morning (at Denver) and had been prepped for the ring. Then he threw up… and then couldn’t walk. It looked like he was bleeding from everywhere!” Conversely, a Working Group judge is quoted as saying “he was just trying to get a name for himself” by creating publicity and eliciting sympathy and another observed “That Sammy issue is a little odd to me because if I was going to claim poisoning, the very first thing I would have done was a necropsy.”
Consensus of opinion as to the Sammy’s cause of death is:
Cruz’s handler gave several mainstream media interviews immediately following the Samoyed’s death. On Friday he told CNN “I think somebody deliberately poisoned this dog.” Robert Chaffin told the NY Times he thought extreme animal rights activists may have been to blame, backing up his concerns by stating he saw a man scowling at him. Chaffin said the man remarked about Cruz’s vocal cords having been removed to keep him from barking.
People For The Ethical Treatment Of Animals (PETA) has deliberately achieved the title of “most extreme” animal rights organization. In fact, PETA staged a short-lived demonstration at Westminster in 2010. Co-founder/president Ingrid Newkirk said "it makes no sense whatsoever" that an animal rights activist would harm an animal.
Chaffin emphasized to the media that the valuable 3 year-old dog was watched 24/7 and that he “checked every corner of his room” in the New Yorker Hotel, specifically looking for rat poison. Having read that comment, a Samoyed owner observed that was “either a defensive exaggeration or paranoia.”
TheDogPress reached out to interview Robert Chaffin. He has not called back.
We tried to call co-owner Lynette Blue but she was in Australia for two weeks and not available by phone. We left word with her son and will add any comments she offers upon her return. Blue has bred Samoyeds under the kennel prefix Polar Mist since the 70s. She is previously quoted as saying that even though there was no evidence of foul play, symptoms were consistent with dogs that ingest rat or mouse poison, explaining that was why she decided against a necropsy. Blue added “The timeline adds up. There's no other scenario we can come up with other than poison."