I wrote this response and I'm rather pleased with it, so I thought I'd blog it.
We were invited to Crufts to have a one-day presence on the Pet.net stand, by Marc Abraham who is the Oldies Club patron. We didn't pay for this presence, and the volunteers that attended paid for their own transport and accommodation.
When we were invited to attend, the Oldies Club committee discussed whether attending would be seen as an endorsement of Kennel Club breeding policy. As a rescue organisation, we are very aware that more dogs are being bred than there are good homes for, and that many people are breeding dogs without properly considering their health and welfare into old age. In fact, we've even had a dog that was a Crufts class winner listed as a homeless oldie on our website, which was a sad reminder that any dog can end up unwanted in old age.
We decided that as a small charity without much of a public profile, refusing to attend Crufts would not have any public impact as a statement. As a rescue that only deals with old dogs, by attending we could help to raise the profile of old dogs in rescues, and talk to the dog owning public about the issues specific to older dog ownership. We could also raise the profile of the unglamorous side of the dog world, where it's less about glossy hounds bred to look pretty, and more about dogs with treatable problems that are neglected, dogs left home alone when their owners die, desperate owners in difficult situations having to surrender beloved friends because there is so little help available for dog owners when they become ill or elderly, and older dogs that are still healthy and active being put to sleep because there is nowhere for them to go.
Crufts is a valuable opportunity for fundraising and awareness raising. At the moment we have 35 dogs on our waiting list for foster homes. We get more calls, pretty much every day from owners who have dogs that have been turned away by other rescues because of their age.
Probably some of these dogs will be put to sleep if we cannot help them quickly: for example, right at this moment we are trying to place a dog whose owner is going blind, and cannot continue to care for her, a dog whose owner has severe asthmatic reaction to his fur, a dog whose owner has terminal cancer. None of them can afford to wait for us to take our time over fundraising. We desperately need more opportunities for fundraising and to appeal for foster homes, and the opportunity to appeal to a very large and dog-aware audience is one that we decided we could not afford to lightly turn down.