TODAY

TODAY   |  March 01, 2013

Was prized Westminster show dog poisoned?

A winning show dog, 3-year-old Samoyed Cruz had a bright future until he died mysteriously just days after his big break at the Westminster Dog Show. His co-owner and handler now say they suspect foul play. NBC’s Katy Tur reports.

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>>> this is a sad story surrounding the death of a dog that competed in the westminster dog show . katy tur is here with details. good morning to you.

>> good morning. the 3-year-old samoya named cruise died three days after the show. his owner believes there was foul play involved, something westminster denies but the canine community is certainly buzzing. he was a fluffy white champion, winning show dog . 3-year-old cruise had a bright future. days after the samoya's big break , cruise was dead. now his co-owner, annette blue and handler say they suspect foul play .

>> i think somebody dropped meat laced with cumadin, rat poison or whatever into his crate when nobody was looking.

>> the vet found something similar to rat poison which does take time to develop. the dog began vomiting blood three days after westminster and was dead within hours. they believe it happened here at this building where the dogs were being groomed and prepped. she found out that the dog had been debarked, in other words, the dog had had surgery to make it just a little bit quieter. he has had a bark reduction and she went ballistic and started giving robert dirty looks and finally my friend asked her if she was showing a dog and she said no. and she said, you can't be in here and you do need to leave.

>> reporter: cruise's vet told "the new york times" that while the symptoms were consistent with poisoning, she thought it was unlikely that cruz had been deliberately poisoned. a judge at this year's dog show agrees.

>> it's highly unlikely, the public viewing the dogs, the vast majority were fascinated, intrigued and in a really great mood.

>> reporter: westminster kennel club defended the show, saying they've never had any incident of poisoning, adding no other animal which attended our show was reported to our show veterinarians with any incident of serious illness. as for cruz , the club says they've investigated and no rat poisoning is used at the piers. they point out that no autopsy was done, so there are still a lot of unanswered questions. who, what and why aside, all annette blue really wants is her dog back.

>> he was -- cruz was just a sweet, loving dog. he loved everybody and he was such an easy, super boy .

>> right now, there's no police report and no real suspects. annette blue declined an autopsy on the dog because she said she's sure he was poisoned. she said she'll take the vet's report to the new york city police department but admits it will probably remain a mystery.