By: Staff  Date: 01/7/2012 Category: | From the Offices of NAIA |

Word has it that AKC may be in for yet another television bashing, this time on NBC Dateline during ratings week in February. For details, see www.akc.org and read Norma Bennett Woolf's article, "NBC plows old ground, assaults AKC.

Considering how many times AKC has already been vilified in the media, it's hard to believe that TV producers still consider AKC a worthwhile target. It is even harder to understand why AKC is singled out for such negative attention in the first place. Even AKC's critics recognize it as the world's leading dog registry. Why the continuing assaults?

The Unholy Alliance Between TV and Charities

Prior to the television age, the physical environment in which charities conducted their work and the quality of the work performed there played major roles in a charity's ability to attract public attention and donations. Children's charities operated schools and orphanages, for example, and animal charities maintained shelters and veterinary clinics. Donors could visit a charity and determine for themselves whether or not it was worthy of their support.

The arrival of TV in the 50s changed that situation. Television provided charities a new and astonishingly effective venue for fundraising. Animal charities that mastered the new technology, i.e., the ones that learned to present their issues sensationally, saw their treasuries burgeon. Groups that failed to capitalize on the new medium, and simply stayed focused on their missions, often saw their treasuries, or at least their public images, decline regardless of the quality of their work. From a fundraising standpoint, perception proved to be more important than reality. With television, perception was reality. As cynics might have predicted, new charitable organizations began to mushroom, each one espousing more outrageous beliefs and telling more sensational (newsworthy) stories than the last. Some national animal charities closed their shelters and said goodbye to hands-on animal care altogether, opting instead to protect animals by using the media to raise public consciousness about animal abuse. What was the result? Tax exempt educational charities brought in more money than ever before, but without shelters to maintain and animal caregivers to pay they had virtually no overhead. By the 1980's, animal protection was big business.

Celebrities, marketing executives, philosophers and even self-proclaimed anarchists soon took up the animal cause. Fund-raising opportunities were available to all. People who had never before shown an interest in animals joined the crusade. Peter Singer, the philosopher whose book, Animal Liberation is credited with launching the animal rights movement, made no claims to even like animals. The doctrine he supplied simply argued that animals should be liberated from human use. The animal protection movement became the animal rights movement. Knowledge took a back seat to doctrine.

Animal rights philosophy offered a whole new value system that could be pushed as a moral imperative. Movements with moral imperatives can justify anything, from firebombing laboratories to dishonest fund-raising methods that destroy businesses and people's lives.

The Bottom Line

Over the last two decades animal rights fundraising organizations have become masters at making news. They have replaced their shelters, shelter workers, and animal care supplies with surveillance and photographic equipment, cameras, editing equipment, investigators (with no jurisdiction) and cameramen. Through headline-grabbing antics, outrageous stories and sensationally edited film footage they have woven themselves into the fabric of the media establishment and parasitically attached themselves to it. Most importantly, they have gained the confidence of TV executives and developed friendships inside radio and television broadcasting companies across the land. This is extremely important, because. You are what the media defines you to be

Public benefit charities, IRS 501 (c) (3) organizations like People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals and the Humane Society of the United States must define themselves - create a public image - to raise money and stay in business. Similarly, for-profit businesses with bottom line objectives must define themselves to stay profitable. Both use marketing and public relations to develop and maintain their images. One group promotes products or services while the other promotes values and charitable activities, but both depend on a favorable public image for survival.

Not-for-profit 501 (c) 4 organizations like the American Kennel Club, that neither fund-raise nor seek profits from the general public, have had a harder time grasping the need to interact with the media and to define themselves. If they've thought about it at all, they have often concluded that their mission statements, by-laws, and even their tax status oblige them to focus their attention exclusively on their members. They have not recognized that in an age of mass communications, they cannot represent their memberships effectively without proactively engaging the media and developing an appropriate public image.

Any business or organization that fails to proactively define itself in the media today is in for hard times. AKC does more for dogs than any other dog registration organization in the world. The proof of that claim lies in the fact that no one, including AKC's critics can name another organization that does more. But until AKC informs the public about its kennel inspection program, its use of DNA, its responsible dog ownership programs, its scholarship awards and its million dollar donations to canine health, someone else, with sales to make, ratings to garner or fund-raising goals to achieve will be relaying their version of AKC's reality to the public. Fund-raising guru and animal rights extremist, Paul Watson, co-founder of Greenpeace said it best. "It doesn't matter what is true.You are what the media defines you to be."

Counting the ways AKC helps dogs and dog owners

  1. Approves and maintains records for 15,000 events yearly
  2. Supports canine health through donations to the AKC Canine Health Foundation, $1million last year alone.
  3. Bestows veterinary scholarships
  4. Develops and places public education programs - including the Best Friends Teaching Kit - in educational facilities nationwide, nearly 50,000 so far.
  5. Publishes monthly magazines, The Complete Dog Book, The Complete Dog Book for Kids, and AKC Dog Care and Training
  6. Promotes responsible dog ownership through the AKC Canine Good Citizen program open to all dogs
  7. Maintains the AKC Library which houses 16,000 volumes of books, magazines, video tapes, and art
  8. Supports the AKC Museum of the Dog that houses one of the world's finest collections of artwork featuring man's centuries-old relationship with the dog.
  9. Supports young people through the AKC National Junior Organization, which offers educational programs and scholarships
  10. Maintains the most comprehensive website on purebred dogs anywhere
  11. Helps recover lost pets through affiliated AKC Companion Animal Recovery identification and registration system; more than 25,000 lost pets have been recovered so far.
  12. Employs the latest DNA technology and kennel inspections to promote the integrity of its registry. Suspends the registration privileges of people who maintain inaccurate or fraudulent records.
  13. Sanctions events for nearly 5000 affiliate and member clubs
  14. Produces videos about all facets of purebred dogs, performance events, obedience, dog care, and training.
  15. Suspends registration privileges of breeders who fail to bring their kennels to a specified level of conditions
  16. Registers more than one million dogs annually
  17. Has served people who appreciate purebred dogs since 1884.

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