*Author’s Note: The following is purely opinion. Where facts are asserted, there are references for them. Should anyone be offended by my opinion, I apologize and welcome polite debate. I have never monitored the comments on this blog, but for this post, I will. Please be respectful.
I recently found myself in a difficult spot. To compete in herding, Shelby must be registered through the AKC, because that’s the sponsor of most of the herding events in this part of the world. While I joked about what Shelby’s registered name would be (I like “Shelby Comin’ Round the Mountain” because we named her after that line in the movie Pursuit of Happyness), I found myself struggling with my desire to trial Shelby and my moral objections to the American Kennel Club.
I have never had a dog registered through the AKC. To be fair, a lot of the reason for that is that while my dogs are purebred, they are (partly) rescues, the other part of the reason is that (before now) I’ve never had a reason to register them. I don’t want to breed, and I certainly don’t want to show in conformation, so I’d never had a need. But to compete, Shelby will need to be registered.
Why am I so worried about paying $30.00 to the AKC, so Shelby can compete in herding? Well, because the thought of giving the AKC any money at all makes me sick to my stomach. I have started to write this article about half a dozen times now and, because of my inability to articulate my disdain for the AKC without cursing, have stopped myself each time. Let me try again: I am offended by the conduct of the AKC. Giving them my money to spend on political wars against federal and state bills that I wholeheartedly support nauseates me.
But why do you loathe them, some may ask, aren’t they the ‘Dog’s Champion’? Don’t they represent ‘more than 125 years of passion for dogs’? Not in my opinion they don’t. In my opinion they are more the opposite of that.
I’m not going to restate some of the obvious flaws that can be found in this expose on the AKC which was done by the Today Show. You can watch it for yourself.
I’m not going to drone on and on about the bills that the AKC has blocked on a federal and state level (over 80) which would protect dogs from having to live in unsanitary conditions, be chained 24 hours a day, 365 days a week, be debarked for no apparent medical reason and be left in hot cars. You can read about those in the Humane Society’s report which can be found here.
Instead, I’m going to talk about two bills that hit a little closer to home for me: Pennsylvania HB 2630 and HB 2409. HB 2630 (also known as Daniel’s Law) was passed, making Pennsylvania the 20th state to end gas chamber euthanasia in shelters. By the time Daniel’s Law was passed there were only three shelters in Pennsylvania using the gas chamber as a means of killing unwanted dogs and cats, all three located in rural western Pennsylvania. The bill was blocked by some shelters and humane societies and, oddly, the American Kennel Club and affiliated breeders. The reason? They were taking up arms to come to the aid of shelters who they recognize as being financially strapped. How noble of them.
Except that their policy of defending the shelters in Pennsylvania did not extend to HB 2409 (also known as the Cost of Care Bill). The Cost of Care Bill has not been signed into law yet and is being blocked by the AKC. It provides that any owner whose animal is seized on suspicion of animal cruelty must either surrender the animal into the care of the shelter or pay a fine of up to $15/day to pay for the animal’s care. Many animals seized in animal cruelty cases are held until the conclusion of the criminal proceedings, which means that they have to stay in shelters for months without the possibility of adoption. That means months of housing, months of food, months of veterinary care, months of volunteer hours walking and playing with the animal, and months of the walls of the shelter closing in on the animal. Meanwhile, the cute stray that was brought in by animal control may only have a few days to live because there’s no space at the inn.
So it’s too expensive for shelters to put animals down humanely, using lethal injection, but it’s not too expensive for them to care for seized animals for months on end while simultaneously depriving them of an immediate forever home? Does that make sense? Apparently if you use AKC logic it does.
But what does the AKC care about shelter dogs anyway? Aren’t most of them mutts? Not according to the Humane Society. The Humane Society reports that in 2009 an estimated 25% of dogs in shelters across the country were purebreds. So maybe the AKC should care some, since a good percentage of AKC registered dogs are most likely ending up in shelters. Maybe they should. But what does the AKC have to say about breed specific rescue? Well, they have a list of breed specific rescues. Excellent! Good for them, let’s check it out.
Since I do a lot of work in German Shepherd Rescue (which, according to a recent AKC poll is the country’s second favorite breed and according to a recent Facebook popular poll, is the country’s favorite breed), let’s look there. Any idea how many breed specific German Shepherd Rescues the AKC has listed on their website? 33. They have 33 rescues listed for the GSD. I know more German Shepherd rescues on the East Coast than the AKC has listed nationally. They don’t have a single Pennsylvania GSD rescue listed and yet I know of at least four. Let’s try another. What about pit bulls? Pit bulls, as everyone knows, are in constant need of rescue and are massively overbred (and registered with the AKC for great profit). While too many of the nation’s pit bulls end up in terribly abusive situations and are subjected to deplorable living conditions, the AKC lists just one breed specific pit bull rescue. One.
Fortunately, Shelby isn’t ready to trial yet, so I don’t have to grapple with this issue quite yet, but when she is, I know I’m going to be holding onto that AKC registration form and just thinking – where is this $30.00 going? I know it isn’t going to the AKC registered Maltese who came from a puppy mill and ended up in a casket before the age of 1 because it was bred in filthy conditions by a breeder who didn’t care what kind of line breeding was going on. I know it isn’t going to the AKC registered pit bull who ended up in a fighting ring in the inner city. I know it isn’t going to the AKC registered German shepherd who ends up living in a kennel that’s too small, being overbred and underfed. I know it isn’t going to the happy mutt on the corner who was brought into the local shelter and was euthanized for space. In fact, it’s likely going to make sure that these conditions and these practices continue. Wouldn’t that money be so much better spent in the hands of my local breed specific rescue or humane society? What could the Chester County SPCA, for example, do with $30? They could feed a small dog or cat for almost a month, or neuter a couple cats, they could get heartworm tests which are desperately needed and it could go toward medical care for a sick dog who just needs another chance at forever. In short, they could do a lot more with that money in the name of animals than the so-called ‘Champion of the Dog’.