Westminster Dog Show 2013 Foolishly Courts Controversy with Judge Selection

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Westminster Dog Show 2013 Foolishly Courts Controversy with Judge Selection
James Moses; Photo Credit: A. J. Mast/The New York Times

James Moses is one of the most notable names in the dog-show world, but he has no business being a judge at the most famous dog show on the planet: the Westminster. 

For more than half a century, Moses has built a highly decorated career in the lucrative dog show business. 

Moses' greatest success has come with German shepherds.

He has handled numerous champion German shepherds. In 2012, he was the breeder, owner and handler of Captain Crunch, who went on to be named the top herding dog at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show. 

Now, Moses will be on the other side of the equation. As reported by the New York Times' Susanne Craig, he will judge German shepherds, border collies and Australian shepherds.

Based on a keen eye for picking out champion dogs, Westminster could not have selected a more worthy judge. However, it could have picked one that opened up the show to far less controversy. 

While carving out his reputation as a champion handler and breeder, Moses has created ties all throughout the dog world, like he has with handler Jamie Clute.

As Craig informs us, Clute is "close associates" with Moses, and Clute has confirmed he will show at least two dogs at this show.

That relationship is a valid launching point for speculation that Moses could not be impartial.

This isn't just about Clute. Moses has ties to almost everyone in the industry. As Clute explains it, he has ties to every shepherd. Here is Clute from Craig's article: “Everyone in the shepherd world has ties to Jimmy, so it takes the conflict away."

Obviously, he doesn't have ties to every shepherd. A fact he points out himself, while trying to make the same point, in this quote also provided by Craig: "There are few German shepherds in the country that are not connected to me.”

Beyond the questioned fact of how many shepherds Moses has a connection to is the ultimate point that it does nothing to take the conflict away. 

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In fact, it only creates more room for speculation. These kinds of connections would only make it easier for Moses to wield his power. He could now easily play favorites among a connected community of handlers based on whatever whims his heart desired. 

Now, I am not in any way trying to suggest Moses will be biased. I have no idea, and he is the only one that could truly answer that question. 

What I am suggesting is that there is far too much room for the perception of bias. 

The Westminster dog show leads to big money for the winners, and where there is money to be made, there will be people who are willing to cheat the system to profit. 

Moses is in a position to do just that, and in the process, he puts the entire dog show under a cloud of suspicion. This is something that Westminster should have eagerly avoided. 

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