In Iowa and North Carolina, state lawmakers are considering legislation that would increase protection for dogs in commercial breeding operations. The proposed legislation is aimed at making it more difficult for the worst of the group – the puppy mills – to continue to do business as usual. While many dog-lovers are embracing the legislation, there’s opposition from a surprising organization – The American Kennel Club (AKC).
For those that don’t know, the AKC is the breed registry for pure breed dogs in America. While it’s most known for the popular Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, the AKC is also the sponsor of many popular programs like Canine Good Citizen, S.T.A.R. Puppy Training, Agility programs and more. All programs that are good news for dogs.
In fact, the AKC refers to themselves on their webpage as
We’re more than Champion Dogs, we’re dog champions.
As "dog champions" what exactly is their stance on puppy mills…just look at their veterinary outreach page.
Sounds great doesn’t it.
However, what they outline on this webpage and how they react to puppy mills are two very different things. The Iowa legislation opens the door for stronger state oversight on puppy mills, requiring inspections by the Iowa Department of Ag. It also calls for triple the cage size, annual vet checks, some solid flooring in cages and outdoor space, all things greatly lacking at most mass breeding facilities (See story).
All of this is good news for dogs living everyday in commercial breeding operations. Iowa has the second most commercial breeding operations in the U.S., second only to Missouri, the king of puppy mills. Iowa has also been home to some notorious puppy mills like Debra Pratt's (read about her puppy mill here and here). It’s a state in need of better laws to protect the dogs.
So, where does the AKC - the dog champions stand on the bill?
Why is the AKC fighting the legislation instead of helping the dogs in puppy mills?
They’ve worked smaller breeders into a frenzy to battle the bill and are working overtime to overturn the legislation. Yet, there is no effort on the AKC's part to make revisions that would lessen the impact or smaller breeders or good breeders while working to crack down on puppy hell – the Iowa puppy mills? Why not go on record someplace fighting to put puppy mills out of business or at least forcing them to breed in a healthier environment?
Why not stand up for the dogs being held hostage in the most inhumane conditions possible?
It’s all about the money. The AKC earns big bucks from commercial breeders...puppy mills.
An estimated 40 percent of the AKC’s annual $61 million revenue comes from dog registrations. Of that amount, the largest percentage of the funds come from mass breeding operations…many of which are puppy mills. Between 2011 and 2013, AKC revenue dropped 13 percent. As revenue drops, the AKC is holding on to the area where they get the most dough – commercial breeders.
The AKC is often on site at dog auctions – where breeding stock is auctioned off from one puppy mill to the next. They pass along registration papers for any dog with the right pedigree – that means a dog is the offspring of two other registered dogs. It does not mean that the dogs have been responsibly bred.
The AKC can also be found at puppy mills…like Debra Pratt’s. In fact, the Chicago English Bulldog Rescue pulled 23 dogs from Pratt’s mill last April. Two of them – one missing part of an upper jaw and one described as a hot mess because of so many health problems – both came with AKC papers.
I’ve talked to people who purchased puppies from Chicago pet stores that have had severe congenital issues - those that a good breeder would work to prevent. The dogs that came with papers were traced back to Iowa puppy mills, among others.
The AKC also has a mechanism in place to inspect breeders. However, they don't have a track record of pulling their support from bad breeders or turning in the worst of the worst to local authorities for action. In fact, several breeding operations that had been cleared by the AKC were eventually closed by local authorities as in humane operations according to a New York Times article.
So again, why doesn’t the AKC focus on making laws better for small breeders while helping in the fight against puppy mills? Why wouldn’t anyone who loves dogs like the AKC claims fail to work to protect dogs from the horrors of puppy mills?
As Iowa moves closer to a vote, the battle will heat up between dog advocates and those fighting for the rights of puppy mills. Instead of being the voice of the small, responsible breeder and shaping legislation that will help them, the "dog champions" will continue to fight against the dogs...the thousands of dogs living in puppy mill hell in Iowa and elsewhere.
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