Madison Square Garden has officially gone to the dogs.

Well, between Charles Oakley and the general state of the New York Knicks, you can argue it's already there. But if you're a true sports fan, then surely you're aware of America's second-longest continuously held sporting event. (Spoiler alert: If you think it's the U.S. Open or March Madness, put your nose to the ground and try to sniff out this one.)

Believe it or not, it's the Westminster Kennel Club Show, originating in 1877--the only event older being the Kentucky Derby (1875).

This week, more than 3,000 dogs of 202 breeds are back in town and soaking up the New York City spotlight. But if you think this is just another show dog pageantry for the cuddliest competitors, think again. This event breeds big business.

Owners will spend well over $100,000 a year to present their prize pooches to the fans who dish out $40 to cheer on their favorite underdog.

And that's just the event.

To get this far, it requires years of searching, breeding, and training-- making it a very expensive pastime. Costs include daily maintenance, veterinary care, professional groomers, and handlers in some cases. After all, it takes more than a treat to prance perfectly through those obstacles courses.

"You might spend $100,000 a year just advertising your dog", says Wendy Anderson, of Hare Hill Hounds.

Pat Quigley, the owner of Lajosmegyi Kennel in Chehalis, Washington, says that with a professional handler included, the price tag for a year of showing or "campaigning" a dog leading up to Westminster can be more than $250,000.

The coveted Best in Show, Pewter Bowl recipient, can also influence an interest in that particular breed for years to come. The sale of purebred dogs worldwide is a multibillion-dollar industry -- not just for the award-winning breeders, but also for those responsible for ultimately filling the demand for puppies (think breeding farms, distributors, auctioneers, and pet store owners). It's no surprise that the overall spending in the pet industry came in at a record $60.28 billion in 2015, according to the American Pet Products Association (APPA).

On Monday night, the top hound, toy, nonsporting, and herding champions are crowned, and the Best in Show was selected Tuesday evening (February 13). Hope you filled out your Bark Brackets.

And yes, people actually do fill out Bark Brackets.

Published on: Feb 14, 2017
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