Debarking Comments Come Into Question Following Show Dog's Death

INSIDE EDITION speaks to the trainer of the dead show dog who questions debarking comments made to him by someone backstage at the Westminster Dog Show.

Is the death of a prize-winning dog at the nation's most prestigious dog show linked to the controversial procedure known as debarking?

Now, speaking out is Robert Chaffin, the handler of Cruz, the three-year-old Samoyed who is believed to have died from eating rat poison just four days after the Westminster dog show at New York City's Madison Square Garden.  

Chaffin said, “Somebody intentionally poisoned him in New York.  It's the only explanation we can come up with.”

Chaffin told INSIDE EDITION about a woman he encountered who he believes could be involved in Cruz's shocking death.

He said, "I know that there was a lady there who turned around and constantly, under her breath, told me I was a cruel person and that I was inhumane and I was nasty because my dog happened to be debarked.”

Debarking outrages many people because it is a surgical procedure often used on show dogs like the ones who compete at Westminster.  

As the show dogs are being preened and puffed backstage there's one thing you don't hear a lot of barking.

Debarking will turn a dog's bark from their normal sound to nearly silent squeaks.  

A dog being debarked is anesthetized, and then an instrument is inserted into its mouth that punches holes through the vocal chords.

Veterinarian Dr. Brian Voynick told INSIDE EDTION he believes dog shows shouldn't allow dogs that have been debarked to participate.

Dr. Voynick said, "I as a veterinarian, and most veterinarian's do not believe in debarking. Debarking should never be done because they are barking for a reason."

Lisa Lange, Senior Vice President of Peta, says debarking is one reason why the animal rights group opposes dog shows like Westminster.

She said, “We've seen people who breed show dogs then they debark them, they declaw them, they breed them for looks and not health. These poor dogs for the most part live in curlers and crates.  This is a very cruel and frankly, creepy world. “

The American Kennel Club, which runs the Westminster dog show, states as policy, "Debarking should only performed by a qualified, licensed veterinarian after other behavioral modification efforts to correct excessive barking have failed."

Cruz's trainer says he would never do anything that would harm the beautiful dog.

He said, “He was debarked. It didn't hurt him. It didn't affect him. He didn't even know he was debarked.”