I love the AKC as a dog registry, but as a political group and a breed certification group, I’m more than just ‘sketched out.’
I’m telling you this as a person who loves dogs, don’t trust the AKC (American Kennel Club). The only thing you should trust them with is information about your dog and that’s it. Do not automatically trust breeders with the AKC label on it. Do your due diligence and research the breeder’s reputation. The AKC name should not have as much authority as you are thinking it deserves. You don’t have to believe me on this one, but you can believe the Humane Society and The Dodo.
Many of the issues here wouldn’t be so bad if the AKC wasn’t such a reputable organization. We’re talking about a foundation that has helped dogs for the last 136 years. In that time, they’ve founded non-profits, helped the recognition of hundreds of dog breeds, and have brought both canine competitions and canine welfare into the forefront of public attention.
This is why it hurts me to say that this organization has been grossly mishandling how it handles breeders. To summarize, the AKC has been connected to several puppy mills, even awarding their highest honor, the “Breeder of Merit” award, to someone who plead guilty to animal cruelty charges.
Why Is The AKC Bad?
Dogs registered to the AKC have gone from being champions of dog shows to broken victims, covered in weeping sores and wallowing in cages caked in feces. This is exactly what happened in the case of “Wild Bill” and Bleu Moon Cattle Dogs. In the AKC’s own words, their 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.” Their response is problematic for several reasons, but the biggest one is, if an AKC inspection was conducted with a police officer, then the brunt of the work is on the inspector, not the officer. I don’t expect a police officer to be an expert in what proper canine welfare looks like outside of obvious signs of abuse. This means the inspector should be the one looking for signs of abuse and if the inspector missed this, then the AKC should be asking how and why this happened, and whether the issue is in their training of inspectors. Instead, it seems like the AKC is trying to hide behind the fact that an officer was there, therefore it’s not the AKC’s fault.
If that mistake were a one-off incident, then I would give the AKC a pass. But the Humane Society has been documenting every bad breeder they find in their “Horrible Hundred” annual report, and a third of the breeders on that list were either selling AKC registered puppies, or marketing themselves as AKC breeders. This means either an AKC inspector came in, saw the conditions these dogs were in and said “this is okay by us,” or there are a high number of breeders stealing the AKC brand for their own purposes. In both cases, the AKC needs to change how they handle breeders that use the AKC name.
The Bleu Moon Cattle Dogs case also brought up an issue with how the officer did a follow-up a week later and then noticed the proper care wasn’t being administered. What changed? Abuse like this doesn’t just appear after a week. Why wasn’t an AKC inspector dispatched for this follow-up? If there were any signs of this kind of abuse, then the inspector should have found them in the first inspection. The fact that several breeders with AKC approval continue to appear in the Humane Society’s “Horrible Hundred” year after year leads me to question whether these inspections are checking for anything at all.
Based on this complaint from the Washington Post, however, I’m inclined to believe that the AKC has become far too lazy with their inspections. The poster talks about how they had discovered 38 different issues with one specific breeder who held 20 different business names. The poster goes on to point out how “76 percent of our issues are genetic abnormalities traced to one specific bloodline, which registered through the AKC.” Furthermore, the poster notes that they were looking for one specific dog because “He was a prime suspect carrier for renal disease and potentially had fathered 200-plus dogs.”
How does a genetic disorder slip through their health checks? Of all the things you should be monitoring your dogs for, especially for breeders, this is one of the most important things to screen for if you want to keep future generations healthy and free from suffering. If what the poster quoted from an AKC representative is correct and “the AKC does not maintain health records for registered dogs,” this suggests a problematic blind spot in how the AKC as a registry should act. Keeping track of the health of entire bloodlines, especially when you’re giving the OK for breeders to use a dog to sire “200-plus dogs,” should be a top priority so you can ensure the bloodline remains healthy.
On that same note, the poster goes on to point out that the problematic breeder had been “unlicensed by all authorities for 11 years. All the while, she registered many litters with the AKC.” This suggests that the AKC is not running proper background checks if an unlicensed breeder is able to continue registering unhealthy litters of dogs whose health conditions aren’t being recorded either. This would also explain how so many AKC certified litters and breeders end up on the Humane Society’s “Horrible Hundred.”
But hey, despite these many faults, the AKC at least puts in work for animal welfare right?
The AKC and Animal Legislation
The AKC has been an avid opponent against animal-welfare reform. Their official mission statement says “The American Kennel Club is dedicated to upholding the integrity of its Registry, promoting the sport of purebred dogs and breeding for type and function.” However, this point has a dark undertone when you take into account that the AKC gets most of its funding from the registration of animals ($33.4 million, a third of their total budget) and the amount of money the AKC has donated toward opponents of animal welfare reform (more on this later). In short, it is very much in the AKC’s favor if people bred as many puppies as humanly possible and registered them all with the AKC. The end result? Puppy mills are good for business for the AKC, and Animal Welfare laws would harm a major revenue stream for the AKC. But this begs the question, whose side is the AKC on, the breeders or the dogs?
It’s for this reason that the AKC is currently falling out of favor with many a dog lover. According to a Humane Society report, the AKC has increased the number of animal welfare laws they opposed from 80 to 150 between the years of 2012 and 2015.
In fact, the AKC’s PAC releases a list of all the politicians it donates to and how much. In their list for 2011-2012, the AKC reported that they supported Steve King (R-Iowa). Regardless of where you stand on the political spectrum, this should be a hideous offense to anyone that cares about animals since Steve King tried to support dog fighting, doesn’t see an issue with forcing animals to fight, tried to legalize the sale of cat and dog meat, and tried to subvert the way states would create animal welfare protections. The last point was specifically H.R. 4879, King’s personal baby, which the Humane Society released a report on. To summarize King’s beliefs, he believes that animal lives should never be held higher than a human’s life, so we should degrade animal welfare laws to be far below human rights laws.
In all fairness, the AKC says they’ve supported several animal welfare laws, and they’ve shown it on their website. However, while I personally found that the AKC was supporting a lot of great legislation for animals, I found the legislation that they opposed to be a bit more disturbing. As the Inquirer and the Humane Society have covered, the AKC will oppose anything that even remotely threatens puppy mills or breeders. They will usually tout that this is to protect breeders, dogs, and any form of dog ownership. But this is where the issue is for me – at what point are you protecting the breeders over the animals? The AKC has been working against any legislation that exists to prevent puppy mills or to make it harder for puppy mills to exist. While they say this is to protect their groups of breeders, I have to question whether the AKC is prioritizing the protection of their own breeders over the welfare of animals.
If we look at the 9 politicians that received donations from the AKC’s PAC of $2000 or more, only 3 of these senators even voted for more than 3 laws supporting animal welfare. On top of that, we can see that only two of these politicians seemed to support a bill aimed at adding more restrictions to puppy mills. For the amount of money these politicians are receiving from the AKC, these positions seem to be rather weak for animal welfare.
Looking at the AKC’s own position on this anti-puppy mill law, they provide a few different reasons, but none of them seem to be sourced back to anything. Plus, they conveniently left out how this law would prevent the stacking of cages, ensure that the dogs have access to clean water, ensure dogs have access to an area they run can around in instead of being cooped up in cages for their entire lives, or that this law does not affect training, so dogs being trained for sledding or bomb-sniffing will not have their regimens changed at all. If you wish to read more about this bill, then please visit this site, but the point here is that this bill sounds like it’s aimed at protecting the animals that are in puppy mills. All of these points sound like something animal champions would support. The AKC’s disagreement with this bill however is ambiguously worded and doesn’t cite anything to back up their claims, which raises my suspicions about how much they care about animals compared to caring about breeders.
In fact, I would say this behavior of keeping breeders safe over the animals has plagued the AKC in recent years. The Philadelphia Inquirer has done a great story talking about why this might be, but I personally believe this mentality can be seen best in their relationship with the Humane Society.
The AKC vs The Humane Society
I’m sure you’ve noticed that most of my sources are from the Humane Society, which has done a great job of documenting everything the AKC has done.
However, the AKC didn’t take all of this lying down. If you’re a resident in Washington, DC, then you’ve probably seen some posters attacking the Humane Society. Publicintegrity.org covered the story behind those ads and discovered that those attack ads lead back to the AKC.
What I found to be most appalling about this is that the AKC brought on Sarah Longwell, a vice-president president of the organization behind those posters to speak at the 2014 AKC legislative meeting. There, Sarah talked about how to attack the Humane Society. As publicintegrity has quoted it: “The Humane Society feeds off of perceived ‘moral authority,’ she was quoted as saying in an AKC licensee’s newsletter. We must “remove that moral authority” in order to take back the conversation, she said.”
This is disgusting in so many ways to me. The Humane Society has earned that moral authority by actually helping animals and backing their actions with science and data. Now don’t get me wrong, I have my own criticisms of the Humane Society from personal experience, but at heart, they’re a good organization – they keep the welfare of all animals and our environment at the forefront of their actions.
But what offends me most about someone like Sarah Longwell giving a speech like that is how it has nothing to do with animals. How does attacking the Humane Society’s moral authority help the cause of keeping animals safe and healthy? In comparison, the Humane Society is calling out the AKC’s hypocrisy because that hypocrisy supports puppy mills which in turn hurt animals.
The AKC on the other hand seems to be an engine that has grown so large and so old that its own survival is the only thing it cares about anymore.
Writer’s Notes for Next Week
Hey everyone! I just wanted to thank you all for reading my blog posts. I know the time between each post has been getting longer, but COVID has been wreaking havoc on my schedule.
I should be able to get another post done in about two weeks. I’ve been working on this next post with a few friends for a while, so this next post should hopefully be pretty interesting to you all.
Thanks again for reading, and I hope you all stay safe out there!