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This Sunday rescue dogs from all over the country will be converging on Surrey to appear in the final of the ‘RSPCA Dog of the Year’ competition.

Although the competition is in its 11th year, this is the first year that pedigree dogs have been allowed to compete alongside their cross-bred friends. The competition is open to rescue dogs from any registered animal charity and those competing on Sunday are the winners of the 80 heats held across the country. Normally about 65 of the qualifying dogs manage to make it on the day, but Rebecca Ralph of the RSPCA says optimistically: “We’re hoping all 80 will turn up.”

The final is at the RSPCA Millbrook Animal Centre in Chobham, Surrey and the unenviable task of judging goes to Jackie Ballard, the Director General of the RSPCA, and vet David Grant from the RSPCA’s Harmsworth Animal Hospital.

The competition is judged on the dogs’ general appearance, personality and relationship with their owner. David says: “It is a fantastic opportunity for dogs and their owners to take centre stage and show just what great pets rescues can make.”

Sponsor Tesco has generously provided a variety of prizes for the best five dogs, including a grooming kit and vouchers as well as a commemorative trophy and rosette, and a £100 Tesco voucher for the owner of the winning dog.

Last year this honour went to Beagle cross, Monty, from Stoke-on-Trent, who was found abandoned and neglected, wandering the streets at just six months old. His owner Jackie Cowley from Burntwood says: “Monty came from a violent home and was extremely nervous when I first adopted him. He particularly feared people holding newspapers, slippers or anything that could be used to hit him.”

Fortunately Monty’s story has a happy ending as he has turned into an affectionate dog that excels at agility and has competed with Jackie at Crufts. Monty is just one of the lucky ones — in 2002 the RSPCA rehomed a total of 22,269 dogs.

The show opens its doors at 10.30am and offers a range of other attractions, including a sheep dog display, heelwork to music, a fairground, a circus workshop, a mini steam engine, a puppet show and a vintage car display. Entry: £2.50 for adults; £1.50 for children and OAPs; and free for under 5s. The final results will be announced at 1pm.