Color it yellow: NYT uses discredited sources to dump on AKC

Color it yellow: NYT uses discredited sources to dump on AKC

By: Patti Strand  Date: 02/11/2013 Category: |

It’s happened again. The New York Times (NYT) has just published its annual hit piece against the American Kennel Club. Such articles appear like clockwork every February as the American Kennel Club (AKC) and Westminster Kennel Club (WKC) gear up for their annual celebration of purebred dogs at New York’s Madison Square Garden.

The WKC show is the oldest dog event in the US, making it a perfect target for a flagging publication trying to gin up readership. It’s just too bad that the authors didn’t take the time to uncover the facts. The real story would have been far more interesting, even useful. But it would appear that the NYT was not interested in letting important details interfere with their predetermined conclusion. In this article, they omitted known facts that support purebred dogs and the AKC, the country’s leading advocate for dogs and dog owners.

Worse, the New York Times bases this foul piece of yellow journalism on discredited sources, organizations with well-established records of deceit and known biases, in this case biases against dog breeders and purebred dogs.

The most damning source quoted In the NY Times article is the ASPCA, a group that recently paid $9.3 million to Feld Entertainment (Ringling Bros. and Barnum and Bailey Circus) to settle a racketeering case. The RICO case resulted from a decade-long lawsuit alleging elephant mistreatment by the circus. After years of litigation the case ended in Feld’s favor, with the court discrediting ASPCA’s chief witness as a paid plaintiff and fact witness.  The ASPCA paid Feld in order to settle both the RICO and Feld’s claim for attorneys’ fees in the original lawsuit. The remaining defendants in the RICO suit include other sources commonly cited by the NY Times: the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), Animal Welfare Institute and The Fund for Animals to name a few.  Kind-hearted donors responding to the sad-eyed puppies and kittens pictured in ASPCA and HSUS TV ads probably would be shocked to discover that their donations are often used to fuel the destruction of other animal lovers and the businesses and organizations with which they work. However, there is no excuse for a paper with the sophistication and resources of the NY Times to be so gullible. If they don’t know the history of these groups by now, they should get into a different business.

Here’s the unvarnished truth about AKC and its relationship with dogs and breeders.

Every February, you can count on an uptick of articles maligning AKC and purebed dogs.

No organization in the world does more for dogs than the American Kennel Club. At its heart, AKC is a purebred dog registry.  Everything else that it does – dog shows and performance events; spending more than
$1 million a year to fund kennel inspections; founding the AKC Canine Health Foundation and then donating more than $33 million to canine health research; founding and then maintaining AKC Companion Animal Recovery (an identification database that has helped to reunite over 400,000 dogs with their owners so far); providing $ hundreds of thousands in scholarships for veterinarians and junior handlers; recognition for hero dogs, and disaster aid; offering school education programs about dog care and interaction; dog show judge education seminars; and more – derive from its mission to promote purebred dogs. This doesn’t mean that mixed breeds and mutts are left out – they, too, benefit from the canine education programs, the identification database, and health research funded or directly administered by AKC and a host of AKC events that they can enter.

AKC does all these things with the support of tens of thousands of volunteers who are members of local and national breed clubs, training clubs, and kennel clubs. These volunteers benefit all dogs by hosting AKC events, providing public education about dog care and training, donating to disaster relief and canine health projects, helping dog rescue efforts, and working with local and state lawmakers, law enforcement, and humane societies to improve canine welfare.

All of these efforts help strengthen the human-animal bond regardless of whether the dog is purebred, mixed breed, or mongrel. However, AKC and their many dedicated constituents believe that purebreds are special, that they offer predictability in size, coat type, trainability, and genetically-linked behavioral traits so that prospective owners can select a dog that fits their needs and desires. To ignore this basic tenet of the connection between people and dogs – i.e., that the relationship works best when the two are well-matched -- is to show an unmitigated bias in favor of those who tear down AKC for their own purposes, including raising money by making false claims and demonizing breeders. 

It is true that AKC opposes many anti-breeding laws, and thank goodness they do. Dog organizations across the country are united in their opposition to the many misguided bills facing dog owners and breeders each year. If the NYT writers took time to study some of these bills, they might join the opposition themselves instead of criticizing those who do. It shouldn’t be news, but this country’s laws treat those accused of a crime as innocent until proven guilty. Laws that allow unwarranted raids on private property and seizure of dogs without a court order and those that permit agencies to sell or destroy those dogs before the case goes to trial, rob citizens of their constitutional guarantee of due process. We should fight such laws, just as we should oppose any other law that deprives citizens of their civil liberties. Also, like prohibition, laws that ban breeding only lead to underground markets and outsourcing of production to poorer providers. They don’t improve animal health and wellbeing at all.

The AKC Canine Health Foundation works to improve the health of all dogs.

The bottom line is that the fundraising animal organizations so often cited by the NYT do a good job at raising a ruckus, but AKC, the organization disparaged in the NYT article, is the one doing the actual work and providing millions needed each year to conduct kennel inspections and canine research, promote responsible dog ownership, provide events for evaluating breeding stock and performance ability, strengthen the human animal bond, honor breeders who do a good job, and deny privileges to those who fail to take good care of their dogs.

As hard as it tries, though, AKC cannot be expected to stop everyone who might abuse or neglect their dogs. There are two basic kinds of animal abuse found in kennels, the kind that can be improved by working with people to raise their standards of care, and the kind of horrific problems that develop suddenly as the result of major life changes and tragedies like physical and mental health breakdowns and drug and alcohol addiction. To their credit, AKC has developed the world’s best and most highly funded programs aimed at improving standards of care, but it can’t solve problems before they happen or when they’re subversively hidden from AKC’s view.

If you would like to comment on the NYT article, we invite you to do so below. Here's a link explaining how  to send a letter to the editor of the NYT:

About The Author

Patti Strand's photo
Patti Strand - NAIA President

Patti is a recognized expert and consultant on contemporary animal issues, most notably responsible dog ownership and the animal rights movement. She often appears on radio and television and her articles on canine issues, animal welfare, public policy and animal rights have appeared in major US news publications and in trade, professional and scientific journals. Patti and her…

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