Grrrr....

From reading it in several places, this appears to be the form letter the AKC is sending to people who have written to complain:

"Thank you for your feedback. We appreciate and understand the concerns of our breeders and dog owners.  We hope the information provided below is helpful.   

"At the September meeting of the AKC Delegates, the AKC announced a program in which Petland may facilitate the individual AKC registration process for eligible dogs sold in their stores. Today, many of these AKC-registrable dogs are registered with other registries or not at all.  Several questions emerged following that announcement.  We provide the following details to reduce misunderstandings about the program.

"What kind of agreement does the AKC have with Petland?  Following are some of the basic facts about this plan:

  • Only AKC-registrable dogs are eligible for this program. The program does not provide registration to dogs not otherwise eligible for registration. We are doing this in large part to assure that AKC-registrable puppies already in these stores are registered with AKC.
  • AKC will educate Petland staff about the value and importance of AKC registration.  AKC will highlight the opportunity for participation in appropriate AKC events and the importance of programs like AKC Canine Good Citizen to promote responsible dog ownership.
  • Petland will encourage new puppy owners to register with the AKC. Petland will help the customer complete the AKC registration form online, similar to the current online registration process.  The customer will pay the entire AKC registration fee in the store. Petland may charge the customer a small processing fee to cover their cost. Registering in the store increases the likelihood that the puppy owner will register their new puppy with the AKC.  Research has shown that if dog owners don't register their dog soon after acquiring it, they are less likely to do so in the future.
  • This program allows the AKC inspections team to continue its active presence in the commercial sector.  If puppies sold in retail pet stores are not AKC registrable, AKC loses the ability to inspect and influence the care and conditions in pet stores and the breeding kennels that supply the pet stores.
  • AKC and Petland are not engaged in an endorsement, partnership, affiliation or joint venture. A written agreement between AKC and Petland exists, in large part, to protect the AKC and ensure that all applicable AKC Registration Rules and Procedures are followed. 
  • AKC does not endorse any breeder or seller of dogs. Our central message about how to buy a puppy -- to thoroughly research the breed and the breeder and to consult AKC resources, starting with the parent club -- has not and will not change.
  • This program has not changed AKC's registration policies.  The AKC has always registered dogs sold through pet retailers as long as the pet store and breeder are in compliance with our standards for accurate record keeping and meet the AKC's care and conditions requirements. Read our Compliance fact sheet at:
    http://www.akc.org/press_center/facts_stats.cfm?page=6. The program with Petland offers AKC an opportunity to communicate the benefits of registration and involve new puppy owners in the world of AKC but does not imply an endorsement any more than AKC papers have in the past. It will ensure that AKC inspectors and investigators continue to have access to all kennels breeding AKC puppies. This will continue enforcement of our care and conditions policies and compliance with record-keeping.   

"Why is AKC encouraging the registration of all registrable dogs?

  • Today, many AKC-registrable dogs sold by pet retailers are not registered with the AKC by their owner.  Less than 50 percent of AKC-registrable dogs are registered with the AKC. The AKC strategic plan targets this problem in all customer groups, including pet stores. When these new owners do not register, AKC and our clubs lose the ability to encourage them to become part of the fancy or to educate them about responsible dog ownership.  We feel we can best promote our values and bring people into the world of AKC events by reaching out to new dog owners no matter where they choose to purchase their dog.
  • AKC's ability to influence legislation and public opinion is directly linked to the number of dog owners we represent.  Ultimately, AKC's ability to take a leadership stand on any issue is closely tied to the size of our constituency (the number of people with AKC registered dogs).
  • AKC can best serve the interests of dogs and their owners by maintaining stringent standards and promoting the benefits of AKC registration. With more than 20 different for-profit businesses acting as canine "registries" in the U.S., it is important that the AKC distinguish itself as the genuine purebred registry. Many of these for-profit businesses will "register" dogs with little or no proof of lineage and none have any inspections or compliance standards. These businesses actively and aggressively work to convert AKC registrations into applications for their listing services. The fact that AKC can inspect kennels and pet shops and take action against them whenever necessary protects the welfare of all AKC puppies. 
  • AKC's ability to offer important programs is directly linked to our annual registrations.  In addition to subsidizing AKC events, registration fees provide support for a range of programs and services including the AKC Canine Health Foundation and the AKC Museum of the Dog. Registration income also provides an important source of funding for our scholarship programs, veterinary outreach, our compliance department, combating unfair canine legislation, providing disaster relief and much more.

....

"How will this impact rescue?

  • Dogs will be sold in pet stores whether or not AKC registers them. However the AKC feels that by bringing more registrants into the AKC fold we have the opportunity to educate them and involve them in programs that promote responsible dog ownership.

"What prompted this agreement?

  • The AKC has undertaken a strategic plan to reverse the significant decline in registrations that has occurred during the last decade. The plan includes a number of separate initiatives. Together these initiatives are designed to regain market share, while maintaining a registry of unequaled integrity and size. The approach outlined in the plan is to increase registrations by addressing the needs of all customer groups - fanciers, breeders, pet owners and the commercial channel. This focus stems from a belief that purebred dogs are best served by the AKC, and that breeding programs are improved with our involvement. This inclusive approach helps position AKC as the voice for all dogs and all dog owners.

"What are the next steps?

  • As a result of the questions raised both during and after the September Delegates Meeting the Staff will continue reviewing and communicating with our core constituency. A meeting will be held prior to the October Board Meeting which will include a number of Delegates and fanciers to discuss this initiative. The AKC Board of Directors will discuss this topic during the October Board Meeting. The program is under review by staff and management. Further details will be provided when they are available.

"Thank you

"David Roberts
AVP Registration and Customer Services
American Kennel Club

"You may direct comments to:
.   Email:  puppyreg@akc.org
.   Mail: AKC Operations, 5580 Centerview Drive, Raleigh, NC 27606-3390"

Somehow this isn't very comforting to me.  I do understand that the AKC needs to find a way to reach unknowledgable buyers who are being swindled into believing that with the new "registries"--i.e. the ones that will give "papers" to any "breeder" who will pay for them--are just as good as the AKC.  But really with this decision, it seems that the AKC is joining the crowd.

As I understand it, the AKC's official position on puppy mills has always been that they're just a registry, and that individual buyers need to ascertain the conditions in which their puppy was raised.  Thus, even though it seems that the AKC would be in a unique position to restrict puppy mills (by for instance limiting the number of litters registered by each breeder in a year) they've remained neutral.  But this latest step goes a little beyond neutrality to me--if this isn't endorsing puppies sold in pet stores, I don't know what is.

Personally, this breaks my heart because I have one little dog who loves earthdog more than life itself, but it's going to be very difficult for me to continue to support the AKC via our entry fees if the situation stands.  On a broader level, creating more of a market for puppy mill puppies creates more dogs that eventually end up in pounds and rescue when unscreened and/or uneducated buyers realize they've gotten more dog then they can handle.  Even if you don't care about animal welfare at all, it's your tax dollars that are going to go to pay for those mistakes.

So what can you do to help?  Drop an email or a letter to the addresses above and sign this petition which will go to the AKC delegates.  (I know, I know--I often doubt the effectiveness of things like this myself, but it only takes a few minutes and it can't hurt).  Updates will be forthcoming....