Rally Against the AKC's Involvement in Puppy Mills 

by Laura Allen of The Animal Law Coalition

Puppy mills mean big revenues for the AKC. In 2006, the American Kennel Club (AKC) registered 870,000 individual dogs and 416,000 litters. At $20 per dog and $25 per litter (plus $2 per puppy), AKC brought in well over $30 million in revenues from registration of dogs born in puppy mills. 

The AKC, though, does not check to find out if dogs even qualify for registration and does not travel to every breeder’s facility to inspect it. The AKC has announced it “cannot guarantee the quality or health of dogs in its registry.” But AKC is happy to take the money, which, incidentally, is the largest source of its revenue, and issue "papers" for the dogs anyway. Usually the "papers" simply list the purebred lineage listed on the application submitted by the breeder. 

An American Kennel Club (AKC) representative, Lisa Peterson, recently stated: “Dogs are property. And we like to leave the option to the owner of the property, of the dog, with the breeder. It's their decision as to how many intact females to own or how many litters to produce.” 

Most puppy mill dogs are sold in pet stores or online. The consumers believe a dog with AKC registered papers is actually a purebred that is in good health. Of course, many dogs from mills are inbred, provided little or no care or socialization, and have genetic diseases, illnesses or deformities and behavioral problems. 

Now the AKC plans to have a seminar called "Legislative Empowerment" where they will teach breeders and other dog owners how to oppose legislation and regulations.

The AKC Loves Puppy Mills and the Naïve

The American Kennel Club is a proud platinum member of the Missouri Pet Breeders Association. This is the part of the AKC that the American Kennel Club does not want you to know about -- that they work hand in hand with the puppy mill industry. And the AKC's relationship with the puppy mill industry is not a small thing either -- it is a vital part of the American Kennel Club's financial operation. It is where the money comes from. Over at The Canine Chronicle, Gretchen Bernardi has written about her five years of working with the "High Volume Breeders Committee" of the American Kennel Club. The High Volume Breeders Committee is the AKC's new name for what used to be called a puppy mill.

For those who have not followed the AKC's long involvement in the puppy mill business, here's a quick summary: 

* While the American Kennel Club has always put itself out there as an "elite" organization of elite people and elite dogs, the facts are quite the opposite. A huge chunk of the money that finances the American Kennel Club, and an astounding number of dogs, come from commercial puppy mill breeders. 

* The AKC puppy mill connection first came out in the press in the late 1980s thanks to a handful of defecting staff. Prior to that time the AKC simply ignored questions about puppy mill registrations, lied about it, or gave deflecting answers. 

* With the rapid rise of genetic defects within some Kennel Club breeds, the issue of negative genetic loads and genetic bottle necks came to the forefront of discussion on internet list-servs and bulletin boards. Vocal breed club members began to demand that the AKC keep better track of paperwork, and that they stop winking at puppy mills that cranked out a hundreds dogs a year from a single sire. 

* The AKC's implementation of a Frequently Used Sire program, along with some increased inspections of commercial breeding facilities, resulted in the Missouri Pet Breeders Association boycotting the AKC and switching most of their registries over to the no-questions-asked, American Pet Registry which originates in Arkansas. 

* Over the space of six years – from 1999 through 2006 – AKC registrations dropped by 250,000 dogs as increasing numbers of puppy millers ditching the AKC

* The loss of puppy mill income precipitated a cash crisis for the AKC. You see, the American Kennel Club depends on puppy mill money to finance their expensive building on Madison Avenue and their money-losing dog shows, as well as their staff travel, pre-and post-Westminster dog show parties and the like. 

* What to do? The answer, of course, was to woo the puppy mill trade back, and so the "High Volume Breeders Committee" was created. This was the old puppy mill business with a new (and not too transparent) name. 

* The first meeting of the High Volume Breeders Committee was held in September 2001. 

Gretchen Bernardi notes that since 2001, the AKC has not increased the inspection and investigation staff of high volume breeders, and has simply ignored eight of the nine committee members who sought to get the puppy millers to "raise the bar" and change their way of doing business. 

Instead of trying to get the puppy mill world to change, the AKC has joined them. The American Kennel Club is now a platinum member of the Missouri Pet Breeders, the very organization which launched the boycott against it back in 2000. In addition, notes Ms. Bernardi, the AKC has removed the “do not buy puppies from a pet shop” advice from its website. 

Andrew Hunte, founder of the Hunte Corporation, the largest commercial puppy mill broker in the U.S. was invited to sit in the AKC box at Westminster. Then, in 2005, the AKC entered into a contractual arrangement with Petland, the largest outlet for Hunte puppy mill dogs in the U.S. 

This deal was only abandoned after a massive protest by dog owners, but the AKC continues to register puppy mill puppies, continues to register pet shop dogs, and continues to give discounts to high volume breeders. And, of course, now there is a direct web link from the Hunte Corporation (supplier of pet store dogs) to the AKC's web site. 

In August of 2007, the AKC unanimously passed a resolution “to direct management to aggressively pursue the registration of every AKC registerable dog and to actively welcome any breeder or owner who is willing to abide by all AKC rules, regulations, and policies.” In short, do whatever it takes to make nice with the puppy millers. The AKC needs the money!

The AKC registry cannot guarantee that animals are healthy, well-bred, or humanely treated. 

·        AKC has no rules that disallow puppy mills from registering dogs with them.

·        AKC does not have the ability to enforce any laws. 

·        If a breeder is found to be out of compliance, the only penalty available to the AKC is suspension of that breeder's ability to register dogs with the AKC.  There is nothing stopping this breeder from registering dogs with other breed clubs after an AKC suspension.

·        AKC inspection reports are kept private, with no public transparency.

Abby was purchased in Michigan after her owner answered a classified ad for AKC-registered Labrador Retrievers. Her owner was given only a handwritten vaccination record at purchase.

Within a few days, Abby became gravely ill and tested positive for Parvovirus. She also had a severe urinary infection, ear infection and roundworms. The veterinarian felt she had only a 30 percent chance of recovery.  After several days of intensive care hospitalization, Abby beat the odds and survived Parvo. Her family sued her breeder in small claims court. He continues to sell AKC-registered dogs through the classified ads.   

Feb, 2009 – Thornton’s Kennels, NC. 

The HSUS and local authorities removed nearly 300 animals from small dirty wire cages -- some several to a cage -- in buildings lacking proper heat and ventilation. The lack of ventilation had created such strong ammonia smell that in some cases caused the animals' eyes to swell shut. Ammonia fumes that strong can also cause skin and respiratory infections.  In some cases the animals had been in the cages for up to eight years.  Ms. Thornton self-identified as an AKC breeder on her website and bills of sale. Paperwork recovered from former buyers indicated she registered dogs with the AKC.  

Mar, 2009 - Alexander Pristatskiy, PA.

Pristatskiy was charged with cruelty and running an unlicensed kennel after police removed 46 Yorkshire terriers from the basement of an abandoned home.  Pristatskiy had advertised the dogs for sale in local newspapers as American Kennel Club registered.  The AKC, to its credit, immediately started the process to suspend Pritatskiy, but only after local authorities intervened.  The AKC made a point of telling local media they would only suspend Pritatskiy upon conviction.  Pristatskiy plead guilty.

Dec, 2007 – Janie Conyers, NC

Ms. Conyers reached a plea agreement and agreed to never keep dogs again after 112 dogs were seized from her filthy, feces-encrusted and cockroach ridden home.  Ms. Conyers, an AKC champion breeder, was subsequently suspended for 10 years by the AKC – again, only after local authorities intervened and won a conviction.

AKC’s Most Popular Breeds Found in Puppy Mills 

The American Kennel Club recently released the 10 most popular dog breeds for 2009, and The Humane Society of the United States has found these very breeds in inhumane puppy mills across the country. The HSUS warns that puppy mills profit on trendy breeds and challenges the AKC to do more to fight puppy mills. 

The Top 10: The HSUS and Main Line Animal Rescue have rescued thousands of dogs, including each of the AKC's top breeds, from U.S. puppy mills. Some puppy mills specialize in AKC-registered dogs. The AKC's top 10 breeds for 2009, starting with the most popular, are: Labrador retriever; German shepherd; Yorkshire terrier; golden retriever; beagle; boxer; bulldog; dachshund; poodle; and the Shih Tzu.