The Humane Society of the United States has released a report calling on the American Kennel Club to reverse course and support efforts to protect dogs from the worst abuses at puppy mills. The report also criticizes AKC for pandering to the interests of large-scale, commercial breeding facilities rather than serving smaller-scale, high-quality breeders who make up the majority of AKC.
The report notes that numerous puppy mill operators who have been charged with animal cruelty have been selling AKC-registered puppies and some of them even passed AKC inspections.
“The American Kennel Club bills itself as ‘The Dog’s Champion,’ but our report shows a pattern of activity that is entirely at odds with that self-description,” said Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of The HSUS. “The AKC has opposed more than 80 bills and proposals in the last five years that would have implemented common-sense, humane standards of care at large-scale breeding facilities. We are shocked that a group that should be standing shoulder to shoulder with us is constantly lined up with the puppy mill industry.”
The report is based on information uncovered during HSUS-assisted raids of puppy mills, AKC “alerts” sent to breeders, materials published on AKC’s website, and AKC’s lobbying activities over the past five years.
Among the findings:
- Humane organizations have assisted law enforcement in rescuing suffering dogs from large puppy mills whose operators regularly registered dogs with AKC. In just the past six months, this includes three facilities in North Carolina where more than 250 dogs were caged in squalor. Ironically, the AKC’s primary office is located in Raleigh.
- Over the past five years, AKC has opposed more than 80 different state bills and local ordinances designed to provide stronger protections for dogs in puppy mills. The group has opposed landmark measures enacted in Missouri, North Carolina, Oregon, West Virginia, Texas, Washington, and other states.
- Since the end of the 1990s, when AKC was facing a boycott of its registry by large-scale, commercial dog breeding facilities, the group has dedicated significant resources to fighting laws that would regulate those facilities.
- In 2012 alone, AKC asked its supporters to oppose:
- Laws in several states that would have required puppy producers to comply with basic care standards
- Legislation in three states that would have prevented the debarking of dogs without a medical reason
- An ordinance in a Tennessee town designed to prevent dogs from being left in hot cars
- A Rhode Island state bill to prevent people from chaining or crating a dog for more than 14 hours a day
- A Louisiana state bill that would have prevented breeding facilities from keeping dogs in stacked, wire-floored cages
- AKC has attempted to deflect independent regulation of large-scale breeders on grounds that it maintains an internal kennel inspections program, but standards for the program are unclear and its results unpublished. The HSUS report discloses that some puppy mills had been “inspected” by AKC but were still the subject of law enforcement-led rescues—with facility operators later convicted of animal cruelty on account of the poor conditions of their dogs.
- Most recently, AKC has been lobbying breeders to oppose a proposed U.S. Department of Agriculture rule that would regulate Internet puppy sellers under the federal Animal Welfare Act. AKC’s chair described the regulations as “onerous,” even though the proposal includes exemptions for breeders with fewer than five breeding female dogs as well as breeders who sell only to buyers they meet in person.
While the AKC does have beneficial programs such as an annual Responsible Dog Ownership Day and AKC Companion Animal Recovery disaster relief assistance, these make up just a tiny percentage of AKC’s annual outlays. Therefore, the report calls on AKC to distance itself from the large-scale, commercial dog-breeding industry and return to its original focus of representing small, premium, responsible breeders who belong to national breed clubs, participate in dog shows and other events, and have the welfare of their dogs as their top priority.
The report comes a week before the close of the public comment period on the USDA’s retail pet stores rule, a rule designed to ensure that large-scale puppy producers (like the one in the video above) who sell animals online or by mail or phone sight-unseen be regulated just like the producers who sell to pet stores. Concerned citizens can voice their support for the rule at humanesociety.org/usdapuppymills.