Columns: No Margins, No Limits, No Kidding!
An Overview on the AKC/Petland Contract
Well, I've pretty much had it with all this Petland stuff, Ken. AKC clearly prefers to represent commercial breeders to the public as the place to get a dog, and where do they mention that a seriously better option might be your local show dog breeder? They make a cursory stab at breeder referral, but apparently we are the obstreperous and unwanted stepchildren hijacking more than our share of the whole revenue stream.
I really don't care if AKC's Affinity credit line is reduced, their legislative clout diminished, their sponsorship for the Invitational lost. They misuse so much of their power and money, that it might be a good thing if they had to sit back and take stock of where they are headed.
What the supporters of AKC's position ignore is this (see the articles attached below):
1 - Many of those 1.5 million "AKC registered" pet store puppies whose registration money AKC lost, mostly through demanding DNA and care standards, could not be legitimately registered in the first place because they were in fact not by the parents on their registrations, or were even mixed breeds - going through Petland will never change the fact that many puppies from mills and other commercial breeders are of questionable parentage and won't stand up to a DNA test. I myself have seen, as a former groomer, pet store-bought dogs with AKC registrations that were obviously not even purebred, not to mention those which are merely poor specimens of the breed or riddled with health problems, genetic and otherwise. The CBs used to routinely put a bitch in season with multiple dogs to insure she conceived, and they weren't picky about the pedigrees until DNA testing came along.
At last check, it is not yet possible to determine the breed of a dog merely by looking at a DNA sample. All they can determine is whether a given pup is produced by a given dog or bitch or not. So a good portion of the AKC Stud Book is already hopelessly corrupt - the only pedigrees in their Stud Book that have a hope of being certain are those kept by show breeders, who care about and know the dogs in question. And now the AKC has restricted our access to our own records and history by stopping subscription publication of the Stud Book. But I digress!
The fact that these commercially bred dogs, some of which are of dubious parentage, were in fact registered by AKC all these years (because they had no methods to prove otherwise and might not have bothered if they had) does not obviate the fact that they cannot and should not be registered by a reputable registry now.
The answer to those lost registrations and money is not to lower the bar of standards of breed purity, animal husbandry and health care. As long as there are other registries which don't care about the principles we show breeders hold dear, as AKC itself did in former times, AKC will continue to lose registration volume. Is this necessarily a bad thing? Yes, if the primary goal of AKC is to make as much money as possible (and they ARE supposed to be a non-profit) rather than to truly promote the interests of purebred dogs and the Fancy. Somewhere along the line, the Fancy part was superseded by "all owners of purebred dogs", not necessarily the same thing as the founders intended.
2- Many of those lost registrations were due in whole or part to the commercial breeders refusal to meet AKC's standards of care or registration. There is no guarantee that Petland would have had any more success in making its suppliers comply than AKC has so far. It could be that Petland would have lost vendors through this deal if they did insist on standards being met (unlikely). But do we really want AKC to lower the standards of care, or just turn a blind eye as they always have before the AR people started hammering away at puppy mills? Especially when they have no issue with doing home invasion inspections of show breeders, because they know where we are and that we need to participate in AKC events and cannot afford to boycott or pack up and go elsewhere? They do it because the few problems they catch that way make it look like they are all about enforcement of high standards in care, breeding and record-keeping, which clearly they are not.
3 - AKC stopped publishing the monthly Stud Book two years ago, allegedly to prevent registration piracy by commercial breeders and other registries, thereby depriving he Fancy of our only access to our dogs registration and production records, WHICH WE PAY THEM TO KEEP, and which they are, by their own charter, compelled to maintain and PUBLISH! AKC should punish the pirating offenders in court, not the Fancy.
I haven't done exhaustive research here, but I can find no other major breed registry in horses, dogs or cats that does not make it's stud book a matter of public record, either free or by subscription. And having a single copy in the AKC Library does not constitute public access or publishing in the strict sense of the word. The definition of the word "publish" is "to print or otherwise make widely available."
In fact, the Thoroughbred racehorse industry publishes their new stud book entries monthly in a freely available subscription magazine, and you can even go online, right this minute and without even logging in, to find basic five-generation Thoroughbred pedigrees back to the beginning of records, FREE, including photos of recent and long-ago horses, race records and progeny reports. More advanced data requires a small subscription, but one can get for free far more data than AKC offers for sale, considering their pay-per-pedigree database drops off sharply in entries before the 1980's. That's 1980, kids, not 1880! For the TB horse pedigree site please see PedigreeQuery.com
Why isn't the TBRA worried about unscrupulous people pirating their pedigrees? There's a lot of money in Thoroughbreds, after all. Because it's a non-starter - they make use of DNA and positive ID. You don't comply, you don't get registered, simple as that. No exceptions for mass producers!
4- The pet stores succeed in selling dogs with papers from these second-string registries because the pet-buying public either does not know the difference or does not care. In fact, the pet-buying public sees little or no benefit in owning an AKC-registered dog over any other. Papers are papers to them. In fact, what does AKC do for Joe Public besides take their money and send them a slip of paper? What do they really do for us show people? Yes, they keep our show records and regulate judges, etc, but we do pay entry fees for all that, and they get a share.
Would any of us really care that much where our dogs were registered if we did not wish to compete at AKC shows? I doubt it. Particularly when we, the Fancy, are aware of the many problems and holes in the AKC Stud Book and records which they are reluctant to address or outright obdurate about fixing. Yet another reason they refuse to make the records public?
Most of the "benefits" derived from owned an AKC-registered dog are just too esoteric to interest the pet-buying public. AKC needs to offer some tangible benefits to Joe Average Dog Buyer to make it worth their while to register. Going through Petland will not answer that issue. How many of your puppy buyers never bother to send in their papers if you give them the papers to do? Why should they, really?
5- True, AKC has "always" registered dogs from pet stores, but this is a fairly recent phenomenon in AKC's 100+ year history, something unknown to the gentleman fanciers who began this Club of Clubs. Factory farming and puppy mills are a recent development as well. And AKC has "always" been content to take their money, not caring where the dogs came from or how they were raised as long as the paperwork was done and the money kept flowing in.
Perhaps AKC should return to its roots (and charter) and admit that they are, and always have been, best positioned to serve the interests of the dog-showing and show dog breeding fancy, and forget some of their mega-corporation goals and budgets and fancy quarters. As far as I can see, their benefit as an advocate of our rights have been minimal. Considering that their "help" with legal issues, including PAWS, which is much more beneficial to the commercial breeders than you and I, has been questionable at best, perhaps we'd be better off with a smaller, more customer oriented AKC. Even at the cost of slightly higher fees.
If AKC put the same energy into promoting us to the public, the show-dog breeder-owner and backbone of the sport, that they do into wooing Senators and promoting corporate deals and now selling doggie merchandise, we'd have a better chance of putting the commercial breeders out of business, because the public might actually know we exist. As David Frei of Westminster KC put it, not one of the dogs you see competing at Westminster was bred by a commercial breeder or bought from a pet store. Do you see that anywhere on AKC's website??
Whose interests is AKC really serving best, I wonder?
Perhaps they should just split the registry, and sell off the show dog parts to someone who cares and isn't interested in megabucks, and then they'd be free to cater to all the pet stores and puppy mills whose money they desire so badly.
Could it be that they need us just a little, to provide the respectable, glamorous front for their operation? How would they have a gala black-tie Invitational without us jerks? Perhaps they could attend the pet industry bashes instead, honoring the highest producers of puppies and money-makers, and save a lot of their/our money.
Click For More Articles by Virginia O'Connor: More on the AKC Corporation
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