AKC Actions Taking Toll on Commercial Kennels
By: Norma Bennett Woolf Date: 02/28/1996 Category: | Canine Issues |
AKC rules for registration and identification of breeding stock require breeders to keep detailed records of their breedings and number of pups in a litter and to identify every dog so that anyone could match the page in the record book with the dog in the kennel. Careful records maintain the integrity of the registry to insure that Ch So-and-So was actually the sire of Lady Such-and-Such. It's an honor system - one that most breeders adhere to in reporting litters (523,368 in 1994, up from 514,187 the previous year).
Problems crop up when breeders keep sloppy records, fail to identify individual animals, or expose a bitch to several males during her heat cycle. Problems also crop up when unscrupulous breeders seek to circumvent the rules by hoarding individual registration slips and passing them to buyers of ineligible puppies or selling them to other breeders.
The task of checking on breeders for compliance with the rules falls to the AKC inspections and investigations department headed by William Hughes. Hughes has nine inspectors and three investigators and said he plans to add three more inspectors this year. The inspectors handle routine checks of breeder records; the investigators are called in when in-depth probes are required.
In 1995, the department conducted more than 2000 random inspections and handled hundreds of complaints. The random inspections were triggered by the number of litters produced by a breeder - generally eight or more in a 12-month period - and by a chance selection of breeders in the area where the chosen breeder is located. In other words, an inspector may target a particular kennel or two that has produced more than eight litters and then visit a few other breeders in the same area.
Board member James G. Phinizy emphasized that AKC must follow due process and the law in inspections and investigations. "We can't just wave a wand and throw these people out the door," he said. "We cannot be arbitrary and capricious."
As a delegate, Phinizy proposed the policy change that allows suspension of breeders and brokers convicted of cruelty, and as a board member, he voted to enlarge that policy to include those who surrender their dogs to avoid charges of cruelty.
As a result of recent changes, inspectors now have the authority to freeze a kennel's privileges if they discover discrepancies in a sampling of records. If the infractions appear to be minor and easily fixed, they give the breeder 45 days to to get the records in order. If the infractions seem to be major, if the records cannot be brought into compliance with the rules, they notify the breeder that the Management Discipline Committee will recommend suspension and that the breeder can request a hearing on the charges. If the trial board upholds the charges and the recommendation of the committee, the breeder can appeal to the board.
During the 45-day grace period or the investigation, the breeder may not register new dogs, breed or sell dogs, or participate in any AKC events. Co-owned dogs are included in these prohibitions. An inspector or investigator revisits the kennel after 45 days and goes through the records in great detail. If all is in order, the breeder can get on with business. If all is not in order, the breeder faces suspension.
If the breeder refuses access to the inspectors or fails to get his records in order or if the investigation turns up widespread inconsistencies, the breeder will be suspended. The length of the suspension depends on the nature of the infractions, but can range from five-to-10 years and include a $500 fine. Suspensions are announced in the secretary's pages in each issue of the AKC Gazette.
Suspensions affect all dogs owned and co-owned by the breeder and result in cancelled registrations on dogs whose parentage is in dispute. In some cases, breeders and brokers have attempted to circumvent suspensions by continuing to sell AKC dogs registered in the names of their friends or relatives or by taking possession of the dogs without filing transfer papers with AKC. In the latter case, the blue slip goes with the dog but does not include the buyer's name; when the suspended breeder-broker sells the dog, he fills in the name of the customer, who then can register the animal. Upon complaint that such deception has taken place, AKC inspectors will check those new owners.
AKC will also suspend any breeder convicted of cruelty or neglect, any breeder who surrenders dogs in order to avoid suspension or conviction, and any exhibitor who substitutes dogs in the ring or shows a dog that has been dyed or surgically altered. Suspensions for cruelty can be long as 25 years. In some cases, a breeder will be suspended for records violations before a cruelty case gets to court and then will be suspended for an additional period.
Any breeder who loses privileges for five years or longer must start with a new colony of dogs after the suspension is up.
Under the new guidelines for streamlining inspections, AKC suspended the privileges of 27 kennels that were licensed by the US Department of Agriculture to sell puppies. Included in that batch was Shirley Myers, one of the kennel operators cited in the recent Philadelphia Inquirer story that blasted AKC for failure to control puppy mills.
As AKC improves its inspections program, is has opened the door for instant studbooks established to circumvent its suspensions. AKC registration was once considered a necessity to assure high prices for purebred dogs, but such is no longer the case. Several other registries have surfaced, including Universal Kennel Club which conveniently has the same initials as the United Kennel Club, a working dog registry almost as old as AKC; America's Pet Registry, operated by the Association of Professional Pet Distributors, the commercial kennel trade association; and the US Breeder's Registry, founded by a puppy broker when a US District Court judge in New Jersey upheld AKC's claims of fraud and enjoined him from ever using AKC's name or selling AKC-registered dogs.
These registries give suspended kennels an alternative to AKC and lessen the potential impact of AKC suspensions.
lthough things are considerably better than they were a few years ago, the AKC board is looking for ways to positively identify dogs and to include poor kennel conditions as a reason for suspension along with records and identification violations. DNA testing is under consideration for dogs whose parentage is in doubt and for litters that may have more than one sire.
AKC inspectors alert local authorities if they find kennels with dirty, cruel, or neglectful operations, but they cannot suspend registration privileges based on these observations. Board member Ken Marden said he favors adding poor conditions to the list of infractions.
"We can't do anything about conditions, " Marden said. "Maybe the time has come and we've got to bite the bullet and do that. We ought to be able to say 'this is the policy ' and we're going to cut them off. The village idiot can tell what bad conditions are."
However, even if the board allows suspensions for inadequate or inappropriate kennel conditions, AKC can only suspend registration privileges; it has no power to change those conditions or suspend licenses to sell puppies. With other registries waiting in the wings to provide paperwork for puppies if AKC suspends a breeder or broker, it is necessary for state and federal agencies to move in, investigate, and file charges in order to clean up the kennels and save the dogs.
About The Author
All Authors Of This Article: | Norma Bennett Woolf |