Friday, January 11, 2013

The American "ka-ching" Club (AKC)

As the cash register closes and the sound of making money fills the bank accounts of the American Kennel Club, dogs across America are suffering in puppy mill kennels while their papers wait for the right buyer to come along. The AKC stamp of approval means a lot in the purebred puppy world, yet what does AKC really stand for??

The American Kennel Club was born a century before I was, in 1884. Since that time, the AKC has grown to be one of the largest recognized dog-related organizations, yet what have they really done to improve the breeding standards of this country, as they set out to do so many years ago?

Sadly, not a whole lot.

According to the AKC 2011 Annual Report (the most recent publication), nearly 75% of all litters were registered online. At $25 a pop, you can imagine how quickly those dollars added up. (ka-ching!). With nearly 23 million in registration fees alone in 2011, that adds up to nearly a million dogs a year that are registered through the AKC.

Now, some may argue that the AKC does inspect kennels that register puppies. This is true. However, since 2000, AKC has inspected less than 4000 breeders homes or facilities each year. With 1 million dogs registered, there is absolutely no way that each breeder is regulated or even regularly inspected. So how important is that registration document really? If the kennel is never inspected, how can the AKC guarantee that all dogs with their stamp of approval are healthy and properly cared for? They can't. In fact, the AKC even states on their website that "The AKC cannot guarantee the quality or health of pets in it's registry. A registration certificate identifies the dog as the offspring of a known sire or dam on a known date." So, being AKC registered really means: Your puppy has two parents that are the same breed, even if those pets are suffering at the hands of a commercial or puppy mill breeder. 

So, the AKC does have some standards of care for the animals in their registry. They only register litters where the owners follow the Animal Welfare Act guidelines of the USDA. That sounds great right? Not really, since the USDA guidelines are pretty much a joke. Plus, small breeders of 50 dogs or less (that doesn't sound all that small to me) that sell directly to the public do not have to be inspected by the USDA. So, the small breeders are not USDA certified, and the AKC only registers those that are USDA certified.. what does that tell you about the breeders that are AKC registered? 

In addition to the support of high-volume, commercial breeding, the AKC has continually portrayed dogs as simply property. I do not consider any of my four pets property, they are my family.... my kids.

This week, a case was brought before the Supreme Court of Texas. In this lawsuit, a family pet was killed by a local shelter. The shelter was aware that this was a family pet and that the family wanted their pet back home, yet the pet was killed. The shelter claims this was an accident, however the family is seeking justice for Avery, who was a loved family member. (So loved in fact, that this family was willing to seek legal counsel to help them.) 

The AKC, who has no real reason to be involved in this case, has filed an amicus curaie brief (which is basically a brief sent in by someone that is not involved or was not solicited to be involved) on behalf of the shelter that killed this family pet. The AKC also sent a Washington D.C. powerhouse lawyer to testify on behalf of the shelter. 

Ryan Clinton, one of the lawyers working to seek justice for Avery's family, wrote on his blog yesterday:
Asked directly by a Texas Supreme Court Justice what the value of an “old, blind dog” is, the AKC’s lawyer answered “you have to draw the line.”  He didn’t finish his sentence because he didn’t have to and didn’t want to see his quote in the paper. What he communicated was that the Texas Supreme Court should value purebred dogs based on their market value as purebreds, but when a non-registered pet becomes just an old, blind dog, to the AKC at least, it is worthless.
My non-registered mixed breed pup, Holly & me.

It's fairly obvious where the AKC stands on how they feel about property. It's obvious that my family of mutts means nothing to them. Honestly, the AKC means nothing to me as well. I am proud to own my mixed mutts of unknown heritage. When people ask me if I have registered pets, I will just smile and let them know know that I don't have worthless papers but that my rescue pets are always going to be priceless. 

Stephanie Conrad
Pet Studio Art | Owner | Artist

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Please note that this blog posting is not aimed at those that have purchased bred dogs. While I do believe the AKC does not care about the animals they register, I do not believe that pet owners that purchase dogs with an AKC registration are not caring pet parents. I know that many pure-bred dogs have amazing homes, with amazing families. I highly recommend and promote adoption from shelters and rescues because those pets truly need homes.

Of course, I understand that many people do want to purchase from a breeder. Of course that right is any individual's right. Before you purchase a puppy from a breeder, please look into that puppy's history. 

  • Check out the breeder. Visit the place where the puppy was bred. If you get a bad feeling, do not purchase the puppy. If the conditions are bad, report the breeder to your local animal welfare agency. 
  • Have your puppy checked out by a VET immediately after you bring him home. 
  • Ensure that you are not supporting a commercial breeder. These breeders are only in it for money and rarely care about the quality or health of the pets.
  • Do not buy from a pet store. Pet Store puppies are almost always obtained from commercial breeders. A breeder that cares for their puppies will want to know the type of home that the puppies are ending up in and will allow you to meet them personally. A breeder that sells to pet stores will never know the families that purchase their puppies, therefore they could never guarantee that the pet is in a safe home, which shows how little they care.
  • Do NOT buy a puppy because you feel bad for it. While it is hard not to get involved, purchasing a puppy from a breeder because you feel bad for it is just funding the breeder further and allowing him/her to continue breeding in bad conditions.