Puppy Mills and the AKC

They are closer than you think.

They are closer than you think.

Note to readers: On the Oprah show today, the American Kennel Club (AKC) tried to distance themselves from their relationship with puppy mills. However, the glowing image that they tried to portray of themselves as advocates for dogs, couldn't be further from the truth.

Please read the "Open Letter" submitted by the American Kennel Club (AKC) to "The Oprah Winfrey Show" and compare that with our own research and first-hand experience in the story below.

Dancing With the Commercial Breeding Industry, starring the AKC

Money Talks
Attending a dog auction in Missouri gave us an eagle’s eye view in to the "pet trade," revealing first-hand, all of the nuts and bolts that make up the giant, woolly mammoth of a business that brings big bucks to auction services, commercial breeders (a.k.a. puppy mills), brokers, pet stores, and of course, the almighty American Kennel Club (AKC). It was fascinating how each of these "well oiled machines" worked together in the name of making money.

In 2006, the AKC registered 870,000 individual dogs and 416,000 litters, and brought in $72 million dollars in total revenues. Well over $30 million in revenues were from dog registrations alone. Sadly, it is believed that 80% of this profit comes from puppy mills. At $20 a dog and $25 per litter (plus $2 per puppy) the AKC makes a pretty penny selling a piece of paper that really does nothing more than state that the dog the dog is a pure bred, or approved cross-bred (designer breed).

The AKC website quotes: "AKC registration means a dog, its parents, and its ancestors are purebred, but it does not indicate health or quality." The AKC takes no responsibility beyond that, nor do they guarantee that the dog didn’t come from unsatisfactory breeding conditions, such as a puppy mill. Again, quoting the AKC website, "Papers" DO NOT indicate quality or promise a healthy dog."

Alpha Dog

One of main players at the auction was the AKC Representative, whom the auctioneers introduced at the start of the auction the first day, urging folks to see her and "she’d set ya’ll up", proclaiming that "AKC-registered pups means money in the bank!"

The AKC rep was a woman in her late 60’s who floated around the warehouse with a clipboard, toting a heavy stack of forms and certificates, while grasping a microchip scanner. She always stood near the auction block or the front of the room in plain view. She was one person I never lost site of throughout the event. She would watch for cues from the breeders who would signal her to come "certify" their litters. She would scan dogs for registry numbers, so that puppies could be served papers, AKC papers, that is. People paid her a fee to "legitimatize" dogs to the outside world.

It was amazing how quick the "certification" process was, and another testament to how little energy goes into the AKC brand. It’s essentially a marketing scam that people buy into without thinking twice. Money is the name of the game, and if you have a $20 bill and a purebred dog, your dog basically has his diploma.

After all "Puppies with AKC papers fetch more owners", since "Nine out of ten consumers prefer AKC-registered puppies." I learned this from an AKC print ad that came out in the August 2007 issue of "The Kennel Spotlight", a highly popular magazine distributed at dog auctions across the Midwest.

Meet a real-life AKC-registered dog from champion ancestors!

Pictured left: Lily, an AKC registered Italian Greyhound.

Lily has 35 AKC Champion dogs in her pedigree. She was born and sold at a commercial breeding facility in Missouri, where she lived in a tiny cage and was bred to the max, for her entire life. It didn't matter to her breeder that she was languishing in her kennel, and that her life of neglect led to emotional and physical defects, like her rotting jaw. No one had to see her, and as long as Lily kept producing nice-looking offspring, she was still of value in the eyes of her breeder.

Lily's offspring were sold at auctions, to fellow breeders, or to brokers who sold them to pet stores, all carrying the AKC's seal of approval. You see, like the breeder, who sees value in a dog by how much money they can generate for them, the AKC, sees value in a breeder by how many litters they can produce.

Fortunately, Lily was saved from a life at an auction by a rescue group called Mill Dog Rescue Network (MDRN) of Colorado Springs, who dedicates their life-saving work to rescuing dogs from commercial breeders.

Interestingly, Lily's breeder was also at this recent auction. She was bidding on more breeding Italian Greyhounds, even though she promised Lily's rescuer that her "breeding days were over."

The Tango

Nowadays, to strengthen the bond, AKC representatives make themselves known by heavily saturating themselves at industry functions like breeder conventions and dog auctions. They are careful not to alienate themselves from commercial breeders since the backlash only proved to be a financial disadvantage.

Many "Old timers" in the breeding industry will say that "AKC needs to build up to what it used to be", which to me, means before the invention of the word "puppy mills" and before animal welfare advocates opened their mouths and people listened to what they had to say. To these guys, these were the "good ole’ days."

Whatever the case may be, history will tell, that the commercial breeding industry and the AKC virtually must work together in order to produce hefty profits. This powerhouse of a pair is the perfect (dysfunctional) couple; the AKC holds the capital, the political clout, and the marketing power, while the commercial breeder serves the demand for purebred dogs. One without the other is like a fish without water.

That is, unless the AKC truly honors its mission statement, which reads: "AKC dedicates itself to upholding the integrity of its Registry, advocating for the purebred dog as a family companion, advance canine health and well-being, work to protect the rights of all dog owners and promote responsible dog ownership."

IF the AKC was held accountable for their "stamp of approval", this would put an end to conducting business with large scale commercial breeders, (a.k.a. puppy mills), and they would be left to find an alternative means of generating revenue. Perhaps a way that was more in line with their original core values, listed below.

AKC's Core Values:
- We love purebred dogs
- We are committed to advancing the sport of the purebred dog
- We are dedicated to maintaining the integrity of our Registry
- We protect the health and well-being of all dogs
- We cherish dogs as companions
- We are committed to the interests of dog owners
- We uphold high standards for the administration and operation of the AKC
- We recognize the critical importance of our clubs and volunteers

What You Can Do To Help?

1.) Confront the AKC!
Write the AKC and tell them to stop contributing to the misery of puppy mills and start honoring their core values.

Ask them to put more energy into protecting the health and well being of their "breeds" and less energy into churning out a profit. If the AKC was truly concerned with the aforementioned they wouldn’t have an AKC representative "doing business" at dog auctions, where commercial breeders (a.k.a. puppy mills) sell and trade dogs like cash crops.

Dennis B. Sprung
President and Chief Executive Officer
260 Madison Ave, New York, NY 10016

Ronald H. Menaker
Chairman of the Board

AKC's Canine Legislation Department
(919) 816-3720

2.) Be active!
Stay involved and up-to-date on issues related to commercial breeding (a.k.a. puppy mills) and help to end this horrific (yet common, legal) practice by joining The Truth About The Pet Trade community on the Best Friends network.

3.) Did you buy one of Lily's puppies?
Her breeder was "Martha Reed." See Lily’s AKC registration and her Pedigree.

4.) Spread The Word!
Please forward this story to anyone that you know and if you have an experience the AKC, you'd like to share, please post your comments below.

By: Jennifer Krause, Best Friends Animal Society’s Breeder Campaign Team

Main photo of Molly holding Lily and photo of Lily in cage by Clay Myers, Best Friends Network Staff Photographer.

"Breeder Auction", photo of Dog Consignment Auction, Cassville, MO, Courtesy of the Best Friends Campaign Team

"Priceless", photo of rescued Greyhound, Courtesy of Elle Wittelsbach


Read Puppy Mills on Oprah! You watched the show--now what?
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