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  • Nov
  • 18

Do AKC Papers Matter?

Posted by at 6:32 AM | Permalink | Comments (25)

murray-croppedThe question came as I was approaching the end of an interview with two morning “radio jocks” discussing Spay Day activities at the animal shelter that I was running at the time.

“But aren’t those papers with the purebreds worth something?” asked the one host, who had earlier indicated that he had a purebred dog.

“Sure,” I responded. “They prove the person holding them is an idiot because they paid hundreds or thousands of dollars to perpetuate a problem when they could have helped an animal and for much less money, received a spayed or neutered puppy or kitten who would make a great lifetime companion.”

The show was almost out of time, so the hosts just repeated the animal shelter’s phone number for the Spay Day information, and I hung up. One of my colleagues, who had been working in open-admission shelters and euthanizing homeless animals for more than 10 years was laughing so hard at my honest comment that I thought he might need medical care. I’m glad he saw the humor in my directness, but this whole issue of “papers” is no laughing matter.

The American Kennel Club (AKC) issues papers that supposedly “register” and “prove” that your dog is a “purebred.” Dogs adopted from animal shelters do not come with these papers, so people mistakenly think that there is something wrong with the millions of healthy, wonderful homeless dogs in need of forever homes–all because of this paper myth.

I recently talked a woman and her daughter into adopting one of the dogs from the shelter where I volunteer instead of going to a breeder as they had planned. The woman’s last question to me was, “And you’re sure that papers don’t matter?” I let her know about a Dateline NBC investigative piece (resulting from a PETA undercover investigation) that reported that dead dogs and even cats had been registered with the AKC as “purebred dogs” and that anyone who pays a fee can register their animals. She nodded, and I explained, “It’s all marketing, and it perpetuates the tragic overpopulation problem so that wonderful dogs like these here are homeless; nothing more.”

Now, papers can be used on the floor with a puppy who isn’t yet housetrained, but I can’t think of any reason to have them. Except, perhaps, as historical relics to illustrate a sad period of human greed and animal suffering. What do you think?

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  • Andrea says:

    I adopted a Rottweiler 7 years ago. To this day she has been the most loyal and loving family pet we’ve had. We now struggle with issue of whether its time to put her down. Our vet assures us that with her health issues it’s not going to be long before we have to face life without her. I’ve bought several AKC registered dogs throughout my life but none imprinted on my heart as my rescued baby.

  • Sott says:

    I’m pleased to hear that you supported a chaining ban but don’t find it surprising that you oppose “mandatory spay-neuter.” When local shelters and advocates who don’t sell animals try to institute proven measures that reduce overpopulation, breeders pull out the “oh, not me, it is the irresponsible people who need to be regulated.” Will you support licensing differentials for unspayed animals, with the differential (higher fee) directed to spay-neuter? Mandatory neuter on impound? Do you support regulation of breeders? The breeders should have to pay a fee that covers administration and inspection and also kicks some money into spay-neuter. This would weed out the breeders who don’t meet community standards, and would not only pay for itself but do a social good by supporting spay-neuter. “Concerned” issues rebates, has nvolvement with local shelters, and even supports some good legislation; all businesses do such marketing and community relations. “Concerned” can write me at PETA’s headquarters and shed the hidden identity; PETA has conversations with industry groups all the time. Of course, if your non-negotiable starting point is that breeders don’t need regulation then there isn’t much of a conversation to have.

  • Concerned says:

    Actually, Marta, I am a part of the legislative processes in my state. I am the legislative liason for my dog club. I attend meetings regularly regarding dog laws. The issue is not my inability to see that there is a problem here. And here is another issue…pointing fingers before you ask questions. Had you asked, you might have learned that I helped institute a no-chaining law in my state. I also helped get a bill passed that puts higher penalties on those people who are truely irresponsible with their pets. Higher fines and stiffer sentencing. Creating laws is not the hard part, but putting them into practice is. Who is going to fund the policing of these laws? PETA? I don’t think so. In my state, people are losing their homes daily. People are losing their jobs. Do you think that policing the current dog laws are a high priority in my state right now? I can tell you that it is not. And by the way, I do volunteer at my local shelter. I have also rescued countless dogs from puppymills. I have been a vet tech for 13 years. I don’t need an eye-opener. If you can name it, I have probably seen it.
    Scott, you are right. I don’t agree with mandatory spay/neuter programs. But, I am also not opposed to every bill that gets introduced. I have supported countless bills brought up in my state and others that advance the welfare of animals.
    So, even though I volunteer at shelters, have helped get new legislature passed, do health testing on my animals, only breed a litter once every 4 years and only when I have homes lined up, feed my animals a good quality diet, provide lots of excersize and a good home, screen potential adopters for suitability, take back any dog I have produced if the owner can no longer care for him, foster rescue animals, hold fundraisers for my local pet pantry, and LOVE my animals, I am irresponsible? I don’t think so.
    One other thing…I refund money to adopters for various things like providing a steralization certificate, completing an obedience class, getting their dog certified for therapy work, ect. So, over the lifetime of the dog, the adopter gets a good portion if not all of their money back. But I am still a small business, right Scott? If that were really the case, I would be the worst business person on the planet. Why don’t you come and talk to me and we will sit down and go over the figures?

  • Marta says:

    I’m a shelter worker for the past 16 years, and I can’t disagree more with “Concerned.” Just come on down to the shelter and take a look at the scores of homeless dogs filling our cages. While you are busy breeding and selling dogs, we’re busy caring for stray and unwanted dogs that are dropped of by the hundreds each week, and having to decide which ones to euthanize because they don’t have any chance for adoption. I “understand” you and know that you aren’t seeing that your breeding is contributing to our challenges with finding lifetime homes for wonderful animals (MANY of whom are purebreds with papers when they enter). Worse though, is that it seems ALL breeders (backyard or show, doesn’t matter) oppose every solution that shelters and those concerned about the tragedy of overpopulation propose. I would challenge you, “Concerned”, to demonstrate what a “good” breeder you are by organizing for a law in your county that regulates the “bad” breeders. I hope to see you help petition for mandatory spay/neuter laws, “Concerned”. I’d also challenge you to spend just one month volunteering for your local high-volume shelter–I guarantee it would be a real eye-opener for you. You talk about being prejudiced…what’s more prejudiced that killing homeless dogs, purebred and mixed breed, because there are more animals in shelters than people willing to come in to adopt them?

  • Scott says:

    Well, at least “concerned” agrees that George is wrong when he says that AKC papers relate to healthy and happy dogs. They simply show the “pedigree” and as noted at http://www.peta.org/mc/factsheet_display.asp?ID=145 that means that papers focus on appearance standards, not health or temperment. The AKC is a big business that registers animals and lobbies against the common sense laws that work, such as high licensing differentials for unspayed animals, mandatory spay-neuter (unless you buy a breeder’s permit, “Concerned”), mandatory spay on impound of strays, etc. But let’s move from papers to this lumping of breeders that upsets “Concerned.” I’ve sat in so many meetings and hearings with dog breeders that I’ve lost count. I’ve had extended conversations (polite, thoughtful) with breeders over the years about what constitutes a reasonable standard (yes, waiting until there is a home for your pups before breeding is a start) and they all differ. In the end, they are small business people who don’t want regulation, and so they make wild claims about how their animals are not part of the overpopulation problem. Let’s look at the math though: Patronek and Glickman (1994) found that show breeders put some 1.8 million dogs into the population each year; amateur breeders put another 1.3 million in; mixed breed dogs in households add another 2.6 million and pet stores throw more than 500,000 in each year (that figure has surely grown). With some 4.7 millions canines (including pups and dogs with papers that display “show” lineage!) I think we should all be concerned that anyone in any of those breeder categories is breeding. Yes, I’ll lump you all in with one word: Irresponsible.

  • Concerned says:

    I agree that there definitely is a pet overpopulation crisis. However, I think we all use the term “breeder” far to widely. There are different types of breeders. Puppy millers, back yard breeders, hobby breeders, reputable pet breeders, good show breeders and bad show breeders just to name a few. I don’t think all breeders should be lumped into one category.
    I am a breeder. I breed a litter once every 2-4 years and only when I have enough homes ready. All of my dogs live in my house, share my bed, have good nutrition, excersize, and veterinary care. I show in AKC. While I agree that they need some restructuring, I do see the value of having a registered dog. AKC papers do not dictate the quality of the animal but serve as a tool to evaluate the pedigree. Any dog I breed undergoes a battery of health testing as well as temperment testing. I not only show my dogs, but they enjoy field trials and obedience.
    Look, before I ever bred a litter, I spent almost a decade in the trenches of rescue. I have fostered abused and neglected animals, and I have also saved dogs at puppy mill auctions. I worked at a pet store for 3 months. I understand what many of you are saying, but the flip side of that coin is you are punishing all breeders. If you had a class of kids and 2 or 3 were constantly causing problems, would the entire class get detention? Hey, their all kids, right?
    I wish PETA would do something more constructive with their army of supporters. Lobby for harsher sentences for idiot pet owners. Many of the dogs in shelters are there as a result of their owners just letting them run the streets. Lobby for laws that prevent people who surrender an animal to a shelter from owning another in the future. Things like that.
    I can not respect an organization that says that my breeding program is just like Joe Blow who breeds for money. That is not what I am about. Maybe if PETA took the time to get to know me, I would understand. But so far, you guys are lumping anyone and everyone who breeds dogs into one basket. A little prejudiced and sterotypical, don’t you think?

  • George Mavros says:

    Scott and everyone else here are totally confused about the purpose of AKC papers. The AKC pedigree and registration records (papers) are a tool to be used by very responsible & experienced breeders in producing healthy & happy animals.
    Genetically inherited health, and temperament issues, of which there are many, can only be predicted and controlled (through selective breeding) in purebred dogs. That is why truly responsible animal organizations support purebred breeding.

  • Jan says:

    I have three rescue dogs in addition to a mutt. Two Jack Russells and a Norfolk. I have placed many dogs but of note are :
    -two rescued purebred poodles that were terribly thin and cage crazy from being starved and kept in cages by owners.
    -a JRT from a shelter found wandering the streets with a mouth full of rotten teeth and a huge abcess on her chest. She was likely a puppy mill breeder dog tossed out after she was too old to produce.
    -another JRT that was surrendered to be euthanized. The owner said no matter how much he beat the dog it still peed in the house. The dog had a raging urinary infection. You can imagine the rehab for this poor old dog. I kept him until his death at 18 because he was too untrusting and apt to bite to be rehomed.
    All of the other dogs found loving homes. Totally unrelated to what “breed” they were.
    Being a “breed” did not save these animals nor did the people that bought these animals for their “breed” do right by these dogs. If people do not care for animals the looks of an animal will not humanize an owner and the animal’s welfare will be easily sacrificed.
    Please rescue and stop all manner of selfish exploitation of all companion animals.
    The breeders know they are morally and ethically wrong but will not admit it so as not to dismantle their source of income and elitist snobbery. The purchaser are aquiring a companion for all the wrong reasons.
    I am encouraged to see this discussion here. To make people think.
    Scott knows the reality of the breeding industry and I applaud his truthfulness and courage.

  • Katy says:

    **just a correction to my post**

    I meant to say to the people out THERE, not their. And MALTIPOOS not malipoos.

    In my anger, all of my grammar skills seem to fly out the window. You knew what I meant.


  • Katy says:

    I am absolutely disgusted by the fact that people still feel the need to buy a dog [usually a puppy] from a breeder, when there are MILLIONS of animals flooding our animal shelters in our country. I have never owned a purebred dog, and I honestly doubt that I ever will…unless it were to come from an animal shelter. By the way, in just the past six months working in my local animal shelter I have seen purebred boxers, min pins, Yorkshire terriers, Havenese, and even Wheaton terriers [to just name a few] surrendered by the people who bought them, and eventually go home to families who simply wanted to rescue a dog! I guess that the value of these dogs’ “papers” are still not high enough to have their former owners keep them in their families.

    And just a message to the people who are out their claiming to get their “designer dogs” from a “breeder”:
    You are all idiots. You are paying hundreds–sometimes thousands–of dollars for mutts. And you have the audacity to tell people that you have a “purebred yorkiepoo” [or some other ridiculous mix]??!! Thank you, really, for contributing EVEN MORE to the pet overpopulation crisis in America. I look forward to the day when my shelter is full of labradoodles and malipoos. Disgusting.

    Adopt for love. Adopt a mutt. End of story.

  • True dog lover says:

    A pure breed dog will give you a very good idea of what the dog is going to look or behave when he or she is an adult. Unfurtunately, most dogs adopted from shelters end up back on the shelter because they’ve being so traumatized, they don’t make good pets anymore. The conditions of most shelters do not provide a good healthy enviroment for dogs, puppies, cats and kittens. They get there healthy and end up sick, and many of them die after a few days in the hands of their very distressed new owner. Vet bills pile up, and that cute little shelter dog ends being a very costly and sad memory.
    There is no other way to fight the over population problem, but educating people, and eliminating the sale of pets in comercial locations. Those are the puppies that after being purchased with no planning at all, will end up in the shelters.
    The sale of animals at pet shops need to be stoped!

  • German shepherd momma says:

    I adopted a 3 1/2 year old German Shepherd from a rescue group. I just got in her records and turns out she is a purebred GSD with AKC papers. Cool. I could care less except I know her exact birthday now. She is the best dog in the world and I would never buy from a breeder. Thousands of dogs (and cats) are put to sleep every day. There are way too many wonderful animals who need homes.

  • Passerby says:

    I love the term “right” and “ethical”. Two terms that have no true meaning. You want to help adopt pets out of a shelter then promote shelter education. How may dogs do you know that get adopted from a shelter because of the cute, adopt-a-dog ad on tv ad, and then end up back in the shelter? Or get adopted as a puppy and turn out to be a huge dog but no one ever told the family that wanted to adopt that there is a chance this could be a large dog. Dont blame the AKC for a problem which they truely have no control over. The problem is irresponsible puppy-mills, whether producing purebreed, designer dogs, or mutts. Each need to be looked at individually, not through steriotyping. And believe me there are just as many AKC registered breeders who own a fair share of mix breeds and care for them just the same as their show dogs.

  • David says:

    Despite some rather disgusting racist sentiments, you never see a newborn baby or a child at a foster care facility arrive with “papers” proving their racial/ethnic “purity.” The very suggestion of such a thing would provoke justifiable outrage. Just as it is a well known fact that there are too many unwanted children for the foster care system to properly care for, so too are there entirely too many wonderful companion animals, deserving of loving and caring home environments, waiting to be adopted. Perhaps if we could learn to see every child and every animal as the unique, wonderful and valued beings that they are then we could forget about the moral and ethical perversity of considering them worthy only when they have met society’s criteria of what is considered acceptable.

  • Michelle says:

    To anyone wanting to adopt a particular breed, please only go to a pure bred rescue shelter.There are rescue shelters for every breed of dog and cat,even for “designer” dogs and “hybrids”. Please do not be mislead when a pet store may say such and such dog is a “rescue”. That is not true. Animals at pet stores ALWAYS come from puppy mills-no-matter-what-the-pet store-says. Even with a big sign at the store falsely claiming “no puppy mills guaranteed”.I have seen it all!
    And please only adopt from shelters that you can actually visit and where the animals always go to their forever home already spayed and neutered.
    Anybody who genuinely cares for the animals they adopt out,always spay and neuter.Please remember that mixed breeds (Mutts) make wonderful pets!
    Thank You So Very Much!

  • Michelle says:

    Scott,thank you for your intelligent post and intelligent comments!

    Thank you to everyone on here who has only adopted from a shelter!

    AKC Breeder,
    of course you would write such nonsense…..you have a selfish hidden agenda. People volunteering at responsible open admission shelters do not. Their only “adenda” is to help as many animals as they can. The dogs that are in shelters are there simply because the family could no longer keep the dog/cat.Not because of anything the dog/cat did wrong. Or the dog is lost.Or the person who the dog lived with passed away and so the dog /cat was taken to the shelter,or like one of the panelists wrote on here–people thinking they can make money selling the registered AKC puppies, then find out they can’t.

    There are responsible shelters who’s volunteers and workers spend extra time pairing up the dog/cat with the needs of the family to ensure a forever home for the adorable animals.These beautiful compassinate people should be applauded for all of their selfless hard work.

    Thank you Scott for all of your hard work!:)

  • Shelley Kushinsky says:

    I had a lovely Yorkie that came with papers. She lived to be 9 years old and I miss her terribly. I have since adopted two Yorkies? from a shelter. One is 3 years old and the male is 4 years old. They are suppossed to have the same parents, but there is no resemblence to each other. The male is 15 lbs. (a throw back to what Yorkies used to be) and the female is 11 lbs. I love them dearly and would not part with them for all the money in the world. And to think they were to be euthanized. All it has to be is a dog and you have the most adoring animal in the world. They have no papers and they don’t care.

  • Scott says:

    AKC Dog Breeder,
    Thank you for your post. Over the past 30 years I’ve handled more dogs and cats than I can count, and also had the joy of helping place more animals than I can count in new lifetime homes. It’s true, some 30% of the dogs who come in to shelters are purebred and many have papers, and they aren’t necessarily more inclined to bite than non-purebred dogs. But the papers didn’t certify anything (although the term “certifiable” surely applies to anyone that places any value on papers, as I stated earlier). It is silly to suggest that breeders won’t produce vicious dogs; if the “desired” trait is present in a breeding dog (appearance rules here) then aggressiveness can be overlooked. But don’t take my word for it; there is plenty of documentation by people that accept breeders as legitimate sources of dogs. For instance, in The Right Dog for You Dr. Daniel Tortora states that when it comes to temperament individual AKC “judges may vary in their judgment over time, depending on factors that may include the time of day, phases of the moon and whether the judge had a good breakfast that morning.” Dr. Tortora continues to state the obvious (if you ever took basic biology) when he writes that variation “will also occur within a breeder’s line because the results of any one mating are only partially predictable by the nature of the mated pair…variation will occur both between and within litters.” It was breeders that turned the Saint Bernard from the gentle giant to the risky bet; there are plenty of cocker spaniels that have papers that get “no families with children under 7 years” limits in shelters because they are little terrors. If you want to pretend that PETA, Dateline NBC, and many more sources didn’t show that AKC papers are simply “registration for a fee” and that even puppies from a dead dog can come with papers, that’s your right. But you’re just “papering over” some glaring ethical problems with the AKC “system.”

  • Pamela says:

    It is pathetic: people want to be told what to do and accept the word of any dubious “authority”. There are college courses out there that teach people to ask questions and think for themselves, often disguised as ethics, logic, semantics, scientific investigation and even engineering. The public has to keep asking themselves the same question that police do: Who stands to gain? It is disgusting that animals are made to pay with their lives for the monetary gain of a few.

  • Yes, it dose matter,..because if you have a family and looking for an puppy or dogs with great temperment. A breeder will only breed the best temperments and the pedigree will show you the history of great temerpents that been bred. Unlike a shelter dog,..there’s NO history and evern after a temperment testing and passing,.. thereone little thing they never tested and that child or person may trigger it and that person would be hurt or even killed. It’s very rare for a breeder to produce such nasty temperments, But, I’ve seen more cases on shelterd dogs turning on owners and the family kids,..SO, A PEDIGREE DOSE ALWAYS MATTER! So, please get your dog from a breeder!

  • Christina Nevshehir says:

    Sounds like AKC needs to be investigated for fraud. They oughta have deep pockets by now.

  • Sarah says:

    A lot of people are losing their houses right now. According to the news, many cannot find places to rent that allow pets. There are more purebreds in need of a home now then probably any other time.

  • Nini Sanchez says:

    Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Bless you for your truthful insight into a disgraceful problem! Thank you!!

  • David says:

    Hi Scott,

    I think you are so right!! And what happens when the purebred dog is no longer wanted by the family – it ends up in the shelter – and without his or her papers. I have always adopted shelter dogs and always will. They are wonderful dogs, just as perfect as any dog that comes with those silly papers.

  • kerry says:

    Not only do papers not matter, our experience is that mixed breeds are generally much healthier, more adaptable and live longer than purebreeds. Our local shelters are full of purebred pit bulls, rotweillers, and border collies that are dumped when people think they can make money selling the AKC registered puppies and then find out they can’t.

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