Mimi, a Japanese Chin, is the reigning Detroit Kennel Club's best in show. (Elizabeth Conley / The Detroit News)
Detroit— The Detroit Kennel Club — which has held an annual dog show for nearly a century — has decided to halt its 2014 event after not being able to find a main sponsor for three years.
The show, organizers say, has suffered in recent years from declining attendance and the loss of popular events such as the agility competition, where dogs raced through an obstacle course. The club held the show every March at Cobo Center and officials said they aren’t giving up on trying to bring it back in 2015.
“We were not able to secure a main sponsor and it put us in a bit of a pinch,” said Kirsten Borgstrom, a spokeswoman for the club.
Richard Ford, the chairman of the dog show, said Purina, a manufacturer of food products for pets, stopped sponsoring it three years ago. Club officials said they lobbied businesses nationally and locally for additional sponsorship but no one would step up.
“As of now, if we would go at it alone, we would have tapped ourselves out completely,” Ford said. “The last couple of years we tried to talk to other sponsors. We’re going to still pursue sponsors for 2015.”
Ford said the show cost in excess of $100,000 annually with the main sponsor covering the majority. The show for next year had been in question since the end of summer when the club alerted Cobo officials it would not host it next year.
The dog show, which began in 1916, usually draws about 25,000 attendees each year with 3,000 dogs for the two-day event. The spectators and vendors come from across the country. The show is one of only a few in the nation that are benched, meaning spectators can get up close and personal with the animals and their owners.
In addition to popular dog competitions, the show featured herding and police dog demonstrations and, until three years ago, an agility competition that was eliminated when organizers took it to another venue.
Ford said the club is considering having the show at a different, more cost-effective venue and would consider other options.
“I’m so sad about this,” said Kate Lochner, owner of Invisible Fence Brand of Shelby Township, who also does obedience dog training.
After moving to Michigan from New York five years ago, Lochner said she and her husband have attended the Detroit show every year, and it has helped their business develop new customers and contacts. “You have a ton of different dogs,” she said. “It brought people into the city. From a business standpoint, we met so many people.”
But Roy Dudley, owner of Cedar Creek Pet, which makes dog beds and is based in Waterford, said the show lost its luster and appeal with the loss of the agility event. Small businesses like his, he said, didn’t make enough money like other shows in Cleveland and other cities.
“It was one of the better shows but it was going downhill,” Dudley said. “Honestly, for what I was paying, I didn’t care if I did it or not.”
Lisa Peterson, a spokeswoman for the American Kennel Club, based in New York, said it’s rather unusual for a club in a big city to end an event due to financial problems. “We haven’t observed any patterns,” she said. “The larger shows generally have a sponsor.”