The BBC will not televise Crufts next year following a dispute over the inclusion of certain breeds of pedigree dog in the competition.
The broadcaster said it was suspending coverage of the world-famous dog show, held at the NEC in Birmingham, pending further investigation into the health and wellbeing of pedigree breeds in the UK.
The BBC has broadcast the show, which now attracts more than 27,000 dogs and more than 150,000 visitors to the NEC Birmingham over its four-day run, every year since 1966.
But concerns about the health of dogs appearing in shows were highlighted in a BBC documentary earlier this year, which claimed the breeding process used to produce pedigree animals had resulted in a high incidence of inherited genetic disease.
Animal welfare charities the RSPCA and the PDSA decided to suspend their involvement with next year's event because of concerns raised about dog health and welfare. And the BBC will now not be broadcasting Crufts in March 2009 after organisers the Kennel Club refused to comply with demands to exclude certain breeds of dog from the competition.
But the Kennel Club accused the BBC of imposing "insupportable conditions" on the show, which did not take into account measures the club had put in place to improve the health of pedigree dogs.
The organisers also said judges would be trained to help ensure all dogs being awarded prizes are healthy representatives of their breed.
In October, the Kennel Club announced it would be reviewing each of the 209 pedigree breeds in the UK following concerns about genetic diseases, a survey which it completed earlier this month.
It announced revised standards for the breeds, which it said would have far-reaching benefits for the health and welfare of dogs.
The Kennel Club review followed the BBC documentary, shown in August, which included a prize-winning Cavalier King Charles spaniel suffering from syringomyelia, a condition which occurs when a dog's skull is too small for its brain.
It also showed boxers with epilepsy, pugs with breathing problems and bulldogs which were unable to mate or give birth unassisted.
But dogs suffering from genetic illness were not prevented from competing in dog shows, and had gone on to win "best in breed", despite their poor health, the documentary said.
Today the BBC said it was aware of the "significant steps" the Kennel Club was taking to address the problems - including the changes to breed standards.
The broadcaster said it remained keen to continue discussions with the Kennel Club, with a view to reviewing the effects of the changes and the findings of an independent study sponsored by the club and the Dogs Trust, ahead of possible talks about resuming Crufts coverage in the future.
George Entwistle, controller, BBC Knowledge Commissioning, said: "We know that a lot of people will be disappointed that Crufts will not be on the BBC next year, but we need to be confident the measures being taken now and planned for the future are effective in addressing the issues raised about the health of some pedigree dogs before we return to broadcasting the event."
Kennel Club chairman Ronnie Irving said he was very sorry that BBC audiences in the UK and around the world would not be able to see the remarkable diversity of dogs and activities on show at Crufts.
"However, we have been forced to reject the insupportable conditions imposed by the BBC, who have told us they will only televise the show in 2009 if certain breeds are excluded from participating.
"We are unable to agree to these demands, as it would compromise both contractual obligations and our general responsibility to dog exhibitors and our audience and we believe it would be inappropriate and counterproductive to exclude any recognised breed from Crufts.
"We are obviously disappointed and confused with this outcome as we hoped the broadcast would have supported our focus on health and welfare issues, given advice about caring for and training dogs and showcased the charitable work that we support.
"This TV exposure would have benefited all dogs and given viewers a well-rounded picture of what the new Crufts in 2009 is all about," he said.
The RSPCA's Mark Evans said the BBC decision not to televise Crufts reflected "serious scientific and public concern about pedigree dog welfare".
He said: "Hundreds of thousands of dogs are vulnerable to pain, suffering and disease because they're primarily bred for how they look rather than with health, welfare and temperament as the main focus.
"Dog shows using current breed standards as the main judging criteria are fundamentally flawed and do our much-loved pedigree dogs no favours."
The RSPCA said it wanted to see the emphasis of dog shows shifted away from arbitrary appearance, so that health, welfare and temperament are considered first and foremost.
And the PDSA said its vets were faced with the consequences of unacceptable dog breeding practices on a daily basis, including serious health issues brought about by inherited conditions and compliance to breed standards.
PDSA director of veterinary Services, Richard Hooker, said the charity's decision to suspend its involvement in Crufts reflected the weight of opinion within the organisation and among its supporters.