BROOKSVILLE — A Citrus County kennel club that once was part of the organizing body for the annual Florida Classic Clusters Winter Dog Show has vowed to hold its own show in Brooksville next year.
Inverness Florida Kennel Club president John Madeiros said the club will hold the event May 18 and 19 at the Hernando County Fairgrounds. The decision was made after his club pulled out of the Clusters due to a legal dispute with the principals of three other clubs that helped organize the annual show at Florida Classic Park, east of Brooksville, each January.
"It was the best decision for our members, who have worked hard all these years to support the event," Madeiros said. "Hernando County has been a good host to us for years, and we wanted to have it there."
Madeiros said that a lawsuit filed by his club against Florida Classic Park Inc., Florida Classic Clusters LLC, Daniel Stolz and his wife, Mary Manning-Stolz, both of whom sit on the executive boards of the Clearwater Kennel Club and the Tampa Bay Kennel Club, remains unsettled.
Meanwhile, Mary Manning-Stolz said that the three other shareholder clubs — the Clearwater and Tampa Bay clubs, as well as the Pasco Florida Kennel Club — have re-formed into a new group called Florida Gulf Cluster. The group will have its 2013 winter event at the Greater Ocala Dog Club, Jan. 11 to 15 and 18 to 20.
Launched in 1999 and considered the largest accredited dog show in Florida, the Florida Classic Clusters had drawn upward of 15,000 entrants every year to Florida Classic Park, off Lockhart Road in eastern Hernando County. The event brought in an estimated $1.5 million in tourism dollars to the county each year.
The lawsuit, filed a year ago, created a deep chasm between the Inverness club and the other three groups that partnered in sponsoring the event.
According to Madeiros, the club's contract called for each of the four sponsoring clubs to receive an equal share of profits from the dog show. He said that his club's members voted to file the suit after discovering that it appeared that a significant portion of the profits for the past several years had not been accounted for.
The plaintiffs claim that in 2009, the Inverness club received only about $10,000 from a show that they claim grossed more than $150,000. In addition, the suit claims that a $73,000 discrepancy existed between bank balances shown on 2010 tax returns and those found on bank statements.
Beth Carr, show chairwoman for the Inverness club's event, said that next year's show will be sanctioned by the American Kennel Club. She expects it will attract about 1,500 entrants.
"It will be smaller than the winter event, but it's a start," Carr said. "We just want to make it a fun show that everyone can participate in."
Hernando County tourism coordinator Tammy Heon said that the new show date comes at a time when tourism is beginning to slack off.
"A lot of area businesses will be happy to hear that we're getting the show," Heon said.
Logan Neill can be reached at (352) 848-1435 or [email protected]