HSUS slams AKC for not taking a stand against puppy mills

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The Humane Society of the United States is rightfully criticizing the American Kennel Club for fighting against regulations on puppy mills. The HSUS press release includes a statement noting the AKC panders “to the interests of large-scale, commercial breeding facilities rather than serving smaller-scale, high-quality breeders who make up the majority of AKC.”

And this is very important – “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.”

Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of The HSUS is quoted in the release: “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. 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 draws from several sources of information – from “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.

A number of findings from the report:

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* – 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; and 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.

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It is time for the AKC to switch sides and join animal-welfare advocates in the effort to shut down puppy mills. The regulations mentioned in the HSUS report – those the AKC has been fighting against – are basic standards, that include basic veterinary care, humane housing that includes space to move around and time for exercise and play.

Once again, I put the argument in the context of what is best for pets in general. Would the AKC or any quality breeder tell a person buying a puppy to take it home and force it to live 24/7 in a tiny cage and to not offer the puppy veterinary care and don’t allow him or her any time at all for play and exercise? No – no one could justify telling people to do any of that. So why is the AKC fighting this basic level of care for breeding dogs?