What should the AKC do about irresponsible breeders?

The day before the Westminster show this month, the NY Times ran an article highly critical of the AKC, the registry most of us use for our purebred dogs.  The gist of it was the complaint that the AKC is not doing enough to enforce responsibility among breeders of registered dogs, and that its inspection actions were both ineffective as well as inaccurate.

You can read the article here: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/10/sports/many-animal-lovers-now-see-american-kennel-club-as-an-outlier.html?_r=3&adxnnl=1&pagewanted=1&adxnnlx=1360910119-coM++qgG/tqJrAXs/RPOmg.

Dennis Sprung, the President of the AKC, responded in a letter to the editor of the Times:

“Since 2000, the A.K.C. has conducted more than 55,000 inspections; as a result, hundreds of substandard breeders no longer register their litters with the club.

Less than 5 percent of the A.K.C.’s total revenue comes from commercial breeders. Choosing to conduct inspections costs $1.5 million annually, and while not in the club’s best financial interest, it’s a crucial safeguard for dogs’ health and well-being.

The A.K.C. is not a law enforcement agency. However, if we discover substandard conditions, we immediately report them to local officials.”

Alan Kalter, Chairman of the Board of AKC, wrote a longer defense which you can read here: http://links.mkt2242.com/servlet/MailView?ms=NDcyMDY1MAS2&r=NDIxNjQ3NDQ3OTAS1&j=MTQyMTA2MjczS0&mt=1&rt=0%25%25FORWARD_INFO%25%25.

A lot of this controversy is centered around a disagreement over what the AKC mission should be.  The breed standards are supposed to be managed by the parent club of the breed, which the NY Times article didn’t recognize.  AKC began life as a registry which also oversaw dog shows and judge licensing.  However, AKC registration, while still considered necessary for show dogs, is no guarantee of quality.  I imagine that’s what has led to the voluntary kennel inspection program: an attempt to put some credibility behind the words “AKC registered.”

Sadly, the costs of this kind of inspection are so high that it doesn’t seem like an effective program. I think that either (1) AKC should put more money into this effort as well as coordinate with local officials and rescue organizations to be certain that convicted (and I do mean CONVICTED, not simply charged) animal abusers and puppy mills should not be allowed to register dogs, or (2) they should simply give up this effort altogether. A halfway, under-funded enforcement arm doesn’t do anything to improve the standing of the AKC and doesn’t help honest and responsible breeders.

I’d also like to see an end to sniping between AKC and rescue and rights organizations. While HSUS and some others may be too far gone to reconcile with, it’s a shame that AKC finds itself opposing certain animal welfare laws that seem reasonable. Really, why oppose a bill that limits a breeder to no more than 25 sexually mature and intact dogs? If there are problems with proposed legislation being too broad (and there are), AKC should be working to get the language tightened and narrowed, rather than simply outright opposing it.

Meanwhile, I’ll just have to go on explaining to first-time dog buyers that a dog should be AKC registered, but that’s not enough: they should thoroughly investigate the breeder they’re buying from. Caveat emptor.


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