Champion Spaniel Is Ejected From Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show: TCR Talks With Dog And Owner Moments After

***This piece has been updated***

[Following publication, Westminster Kennel Club spokesperson Lisa Peterson provided the following statement in an email to The Canine Review: “The Irish Water Spaniel had been excused,  not disqualified. According to AKC Dog Show Rules, excusal and disqualification are two separate reasons to ask a dog to leave the ring. If a judge cannot examine a dog it must be excused for that day. A disqualification is a much more serious offense such as when a dog attempts to bite a judge. That sparks a different procedure before the dog is allowed at a dog show again.”]

On the final night of the world’s most prestigious dog show, the 144th annual Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show at Madison Square Garden in New York, veteran show announcer Michael J. LaFave fell notably silent for almost two full minutes after introducing a dog in the first group of the evening to compete, the Sporting Group.

“The Irish Water Spaniel is a sole surviving water dog of Britain and Ireland,” LaFave began. “He was one of the first breeds recognized in this country and was originally used exclusively as a waterfowl retriever. His eager disposition, curly coat, and rat-like tail made him uniquely qualified for the task. This is Irish Water Spaniel! Number nine!”


Viewers watching at home (the clip above was from the Fox Sports live broadcast) continued to hear narration from the announcers on Fox Sports, who speculated that Judge Theresa Hundt had temporarily “excused” Simone to “go and relax.” 

And while those watching Fox’s broadcast were told that the dog was leaving the ring “to go and relax,” those watching from the audience at Madison Square Garden heard nothing all. Silence fell. Announcer LaFave’s microphone had seemingly been cut. And, then, 120 seconds later, announcer LaFave continued without explanation, introducing the next dog in the queue, a Sussex Spaniel.

So, what happened??

As Judge Theresa Hundt approached Simone, an Irish Water Spaniel competing in the Sporting Group, Simone repeatedly refused to allow Hundt to approach her, let alone examine her.

Simone, also known as GCH CH Poole’s Ide Say No More CD RN CGC, and her handler, Hannah Loonsk, were competing to win Best of the Sporting Group. (The dog that wins each group advances to the final competition to compete for Best in Show.)

Hundt consulted another WKC judge and, then, seconds later, dismissed Simone, and asked Loonsk (the owner) to exit the ring. [Update: Following publication, Lisa Peterson, a spokesperson for the Westminster Kennel Club, wrote in an email to The Canine Review: “The judge didn’t consult another WKC judge, it was the AKC Executive Field Representative who entered the ring to have a discussion with Hundt regarding the procedure.”]

The Canine Review caught up with the duo backstage after their dramatic ejection from the ring.

“With this breed, it happens all the time,” Loonsk told The Canine Review in the benching area, just outside the ring.

Irish Water Spaniels are “funny and sweet,” Loonsk said, but are also sometimes “more observant than you would like them to be.” Simone was startled by the camera and all the excitement of the evening, Loonsk explained.

All smiles and waving to Simone who was laying in her crate, Loonsk added, “She’s the love of my life.”

“It is what it is,” Loonsk said of their removal from the world’s most prominent dog show ring. “It was disappointing, but what really amazed me is how many people came up to us right after and gave us a hug.”