A Response to HSUS’s Troubled Blog of May 7, 2020

2020-05-08 | , AKC Government Relations Department

No Good news for dogs as AKC announces its most popular breeds:

The picture painted of the American Kennel Club in a blog published by HSUS yesterday was filled with so many inaccuracies, we’ve decided to try to fix the inaccuracies section by section, rather than write a full rebuttal.    –AKC. 

HSUS:   

Last year, we assisted with the care and placement of dozens of dogs rescued from the property of a German Shepherd breeder in Maryland. The breeder was cashing in on the popularity of a breed celebrated by the American Kennel Club, which has consistently placed German Shepherds at the top of its list of most popular breeds for many years now. The dogs were being kept in filthy conditions, as far as can be from the glamour of a show ring—two puppies were found in a dirty bathroom with what appeared to be fecal matter and urine on the ground, and many of the adults were filthy, fearful and thin.

FACT: AKC does not condone irresponsible behavior. This breeder was suspended by the AKC in 2018, and was not an AKC client at the time of this terrible situation in 2019.  AKC is not a government agency and cannot inspect those who do not register their dogs with us.

This year, once again, German Shepherds, like Labrador retrievers, golden retrievers, English and French bulldogs and poodles, rank high on the AKC’s list of top 10 most popular breeds. The list, released this week, has become a matter of concern for animal protection organizations because it serves as a reference point and incentive for puppy mills to churn out countless numbers of the top-ranking dogs each year for sale.

FACT: Loyal breed owners love to see how their breed ranks in popularity across the country. There is no proof that this list encourages improper breeding or “puppy mills.” The list is based on dogs being registered with the AKC. AKC encourages responsible breeding practices and provides extensive educational information to dog owners and breeders, through AKC clubs, online programs, AKC Canine College, the funding of peer-reviewed health research and best practices for breeders. AKC discourages the improper breeding of dogs or risking their health for profit. Accusations of this nature are an insult to responsible breeders.

To add insult to injury, AKC lends misleading credentials to many indiscriminate breeders who produce these purebred dogs, without regard for the problems caused by indiscriminate breeding, inbreeding and the lack of socialization for the animals.

FACT: This is an inaccurate accusation. AKC does not provide credentials to breeders.  However, we are very proud of our industry-leading voluntary programs through which professional breeders access continuing science-based breeder education, information about best practices, and breed-based health tests for parents to produce healthy puppies.  AKC is proud of our hobby breeders who are dedicated to preserving the heritage of their breeds, educating the public about their amazing breeds, and breeding health-tested parents for healthy, happy puppies. 

The AKC is also the ONLY private all-breed dog registry with an inspection program that conducts thousands of inspections per year. If our inspectors find a problem, we work tirelessly to appropriately address the issue on behalf of the welfare of dogs, including reporting negligence/cruelty to the appropriate authorities.  

On top of that, the AKC vigorously opposes any attempts made by lawmakers and organizations like ours to improve the treatment of animals in puppy mills AKC dog breeders have often appeared in our annual Horrible Hundred reports; some have been charged with animal cruelty for keeping their dogs in dreadful conditions.

FACT: Most of the people HSUS tries to connect to AKC in its “Horrible Hundred“ list have not registered with the AKC in years. AKC is not a government agency and can only inspect breeders that are actively breeding dogs AND registering their dogs with the AKC. Breeders who are active AKC clients are inspected as high priority to ensure that they are properly caring for their dogs.

In March, I told you about a dog rescued from an AKC breeder in Caldwell County, North Carolina, who was all skin and bones, riddled with parasites and lethargic. She was also pregnant with seven puppies, four of whom died at birth; the remaining three required hospitalization and round-the-clock care to survive.

FACT: The condition of this dog is upsetting and never should have happened. The breeder in this case had been suspended by AKC the year before this happened. 

One of the most heartbreaking stories is that of Wild Bill. Once an AKC champion dog, this Australian Cattle Dog competed in AKC events, winning ribbons for his good looks. Tragically, after his glory days in the show ring were over, Wild Bill was discovered by local law enforcement officials at a Mississippi puppy mill, where he was starving in a filthy, rusted crate with inches of feces-infested water around him. But if that wasn’t bad enough, an AKC inspector who saw it all gave the kennel a clean inspection report.

FACT: The facts of this case from 6 years ago have been and continue to be distorted for emotional gain. This breeder has been suspended from AKC for almost 6 years.  AKC’s inspection was conducted with a police officer onsite who did not see any conditions that were concerning. When the officer returned to the kennel for a follow-up a week later, the conditions were not appropriate, and the proper care was not being administered. 

Although it registers only pure breeds, the AKC doesn’t hesitate to profit from “designer” mixed breeds like “labradoodles” and “goldendoodles” either. These dogs are in demand because of beliefs that every lab or golden retriever is friendly with children and that poodles are hypoallergenic. The hype is misleading, because mixing any breed with a poodle does not automatically make the offspring non-shedding or allergen-free, yet pet stores don’t hesitate to cash in on the misconception.

FACT: The AKC does not encourage the cross-breeding of dogs for designer mixes. Mixed breeds lack the of predictability of characteristics of carefully bred purebred dogs because there is no way to track or ensure which traits the offspring receive. Sadly, there are also significant health issues associated with designer mixes. Having said that, AKC celebrates all dogs, and we encourage all dog owners – whether they own a purebred dog or a mixed-breed – to participate in the many family-friendly events we offer for all dogs and their owners.

These dogs also frequently suffer from genetic problems, as do other popular AKC breeds like bulldogs, which can lead to big medical bills and heartbreak for those who buy them. AKC partners with Petland, the nation’s largest chain of puppy-selling pet stores, offering to enroll mixed breed dogs the store sells in its “Canine Partners program.” The program includes an “official certificate from the American Kennel Club honoring your dog,” and the eligibility to participate in agility and other performance events, all for a fee.

FACT: AKC’s Canine Partners Program is open to all dogs that cannot otherwise register with the AKC pedigree registry, including dogs from shelters and other retailers, not just Petland. All dogs, whether they participate in the pedigree registry or the Canine Partners Program, pay a one-time enrollment fee of approximately $35 and can participate in a wide range of events and services.

Petland, which notoriously sources puppy mill dogs, has been a subject of eight HSUS investigations for its terrible mistreatment of the animals in its care. Many Petland stores boast “AKC Inspected” signs.

FACT: AKC inspects hundreds of pet stores where dogs may be obtained and have done so for decades.  We do this voluntarily because we care deeply about the health and wellbeing of dogs –not because of any legal requirement.  If we find any issue of animal mistreatment, it is reported to authorities immediately. Mistreatment of dogs is never taken lightly by AKC. 

The AKC also regularly uses its platform to bash animal rescues – the same groups that help mixed breed dogs who are homeless and in need.  

FACT:  This is inaccurate. AKC is not opposed to rescue, in fact AKC is the largest breed rescue network in the country, working with responsible breed-based rescues located throughout the country. There are many dogs who were responsibly rehomed or rescued at some point in their lives, who go on to participate in AKC Canine Partners programs and are now champions across multiple AKC sports. Two AKC charitable affiliates – the AKC Humane Fund and AKC Reunite – provide direct donations to rescues and shelters.

However, AKC DOES have a very strong concern about irresponsible “rescues” or pet flippers who take advantage of well-intentioned “adopters” by selling them unhealthy dogs at high prices and claiming that they are superior to responsibly-bred and raised breed dogs.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has provided estimates that more than one million dogs are imported into the U.S. each year. Many of these dogs are bred by foreign puppy farmers in substandard conditions specifically for the U.S. “rescue” dog markets and are imported into the U.S. with invalid or fraudulent veterinary paperwork. Sadly, irresponsible rescues, which piggyback on the good work of responsible rescues, put public health and the safety of the animals, their handlers and their future owners at risk.  Just a year ago, CDC banned imports of dogs from Egypt because several dogs with rabies were imported and placed into rescue.    

Right now, it is also opposing a common-sense law in Massachusetts that would protect dogs from being left outside in harsh weather. And it regularly fights local and state laws that protect dogs in puppy mills, including laws that prohibit the sale of puppy mill puppies in pet stores.

FACT: The AKC is pleased to express the concerns of responsible dog owners in Massachusetts about H 1822/S 989, a one-size-fits-all proposal that would penalize the keeping of dogs in certain humane situations and fail to recognize appropriate breed-specific care guidelines.  Breeds such as Alaskan Malamutes and Siberian Huskies that are popular in Massachusetts are uniquely adapted to colder temperatures, and other dogs such as working K9s need to be acclimated to a multitude of conditions in order to be safe when required to work. AKC is joined by the Massachusetts Police Benevolent Association, the Boston Police Department, the National Animal Interest Alliance and the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation in urging changes to the proposal that recognize dogs’ unique characteristics while also ensuring that dogs are not left in conditions that pose harm to them.  

One of the things we have learned during this crisis is just how many Americans are eager to adopt and foster dogs from animal shelters. Shelters do amazing work, and they should always be the first stop for anyone looking to bring a pet home but if families are unable to find a rescue dog, seeking out a responsible dog breeder is key to ending the puppy mill trade. Dogs are truly our best friends, and their companionship–especially in these stressful times–is invaluable.

Dogs are truly our best friends, and their companionship–especially in these stressful times–is invaluable.

FACT: This is a statement we can all agree on. However, it’s also important to remember that responsible dog ownership is about more than how our dogs make us feel – it’s also about our commitment to them.  AKC has long taught that one of the most important things to consider when getting a dog is doing your homework and choosing the right pet for your lifestyle. When people choose a pet with known, predictable characteristics (size, grooming needs, exercise requirements, personality, good with kids, etc.) that pet is less likely to end up in a shelter.

We agree that shelters do great work, and we are proud of the support we and our clubs give to shelters around the country. We also recognize that a shelter or rescue dog that may have special needs is not the right fit for everyone. That’s OK. With Americans importing more than 1 million dogs each year, many of which are destined for retail shelters; it’s most important for future dog owners to carefully consider all lifestyle factors and purchase options – whether it be a breeder, a shelter, a rescue or a pet store – and make a thoughtful decision about what is most responsible and appropriate for your needs.

They deserve to be celebrated, and as long as the AKC contributes to their suffering, we will continue to fight the group with all of our might.

We find it odd that HSUS is committing itself to fighting one of the most respected and responsible dog organizations in the country instead of focusing on its mission of helping animals.

FACT:  AKC does not contribute to the suffering of dogs.  We urge you to check your facts. You will find AKC cares deeply about dogs and does more good for dogs than any other organization. It is true we do not do extensive fundraising or attack other organizations. Our approach is and remains focused on positive approaches to advocating for the purebred dog, promoting responsible dog ownership, advancing the health and wellbeing of all dogs, and working to protect the rights of dog owners. Of course, we will fight for the dogs we love, breed, and have a beautiful timeless bond with. Assertions otherwise, like many of those in yesterday’s blog, are patently false. 

 

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