The annual Westminster Show ensures all dogs have their day

The Westminster Dog Show, televised since 1948, has always been America's most widely-watched live telecast of a dog show, with an audience of over 3 million for both nights aired on TV. This year's show, held February 12-13 at a sold out Madison Square Garden, will reach viewers through several fronts.

The Westminster Dog Show, televised since 1948, has always been America's most widely-watched live telecast of a dog show, with an audience of over 3 million for both nights aired on TV. This year's show, held February 12-13 at a sold out Madison Square Garden, will reach viewers through several fronts.

"We have 600 media from over 29 different counties, and we deal with national and local media here and local media from all over the country," says David Frei, director of communications at the Westminster Kennel Club.

Recent media includes a taping on The Ellen DeGeneres Show, where eight dogs appeared with Frei. Other promos include the lighting of the Empire State Building in purple and gold, representing Westminster's colors during the show.

Why does it matter?

"This is the pre-eminent dog show in the world. There will be lots of media coverage," says Brad Bernstein, senior press manager for Westminster broadcast partner USA Network. "You'll see the winner [who last year was Rufus (pictured), a bull terrier] on every national news broadcast and sports news. Obviously PR pros want to know what's going on in the moment."

According to Geoff Browne, national show and breeder services manager for Pedigree parent company Masterfoods USA, the pet market is a significantly growing segment; it's growing about 4% a year as shown by recent APPMA numbers.

"Especially with people living longer [now], pets are becoming a more significant part of people's lives," he says.

There are also a number of celebrities involved in pet-related causes. Renee Kopkowski, PR director, Masterfoods USA, adds that Katherine Heigl from Grey's Anatomy is the spokesperson for the Pedigree Adoption Drive, and she will be doing a media tour on Good Morning America, among many other shows.

Five facts:

1. The Westminster Kennel Club sponsored the First Annual NY Bench Show of Dogs in 1877 at Gilmore's Garden (what is now Madison Square Garden), with 1,201 dogs entered.

2. The Westminster Dog Show is the second-longest continuously held sporting event in the US. The Kentucky Derby outdates it by just one year.

3. There are 40 million dog-owning households in the US and the US dog population is 60 million, according to the American Pet Products Manufacturers Assoc. (APPMA).

4. People in the US spent $38.4 billion on pets in 2006, according to the APPMA's 2005/2006 National Pet Owners Survey.

5. Entries come from almost every state, DC, Puerto Rico, and five foreign countries. Leading the way with entries in 2007 are California (283) and New York (253).

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