AKC Appears to Like Puppy Mills?


You would think an organization dedicated to dogs would enthusiastically support legislation targeting puppy mills. However, the American Kennel Club (AKC) is spending resources a completely different way, and is even publicly opposing legislation supporting limits on pet store sales.

There’s no responsible breeder—those are the good guys—that ever sells to a pet store. So where are pet stores getting their stock? If it’s not the good guys, it’s the bad guys, most notably mass breeders (puppy mills and commercial facilities).

More than 200 communities across the U.S. and Canada—ranging from Chicago to Austin to Toronto to Albuquerque—have legislated that no dogs or cats (and, in some communities, rabbits) can be sold at pet stores. Several counties, including Cook County in the Chicago area, have bans as well. Californians are already more than half way there, as most of the population resides in cities where similar pet store restrictions are currently in place, including Glendale, Long Beach, Los Angeles, Palm Springs, San Diego, and San Francisco. In all, more than 30 California communities limit pet store sales. Now, the entire state might outrightly ban sales of dogs, cats, and rabbits at pet stores (bill AB485).

So, if the AKC is opposing laws targeting puppy mills, aren’t they then supporting the mills? Why?

I really do want to understand. I’ve tried before, when, in Illinois, the AKC wanted a law that would have overturned community decisions to ban sales of dogs and cats at pet stores, and, going forward, would never allow an Illinois community to ban sales of dogs and cats at pet stores. The AKC response didn’t make sense to me. Also, the legislative efforts by the AKC and pet store industry fell flat, only enraging the public, including responsible dog (and cat) breeders.

I am trying again. Here’s the AKC website explanation for their opposition to the bill, which would make California the first state to ban the sale of dogs and cats (and rabbits, too) at pet stores. My comments are italicized.

AKC: “As recent history has shown, many anti-breeder animal rights extremists continuously advocate for incremental breeding and sales restrictions that they hope will eventually lead to outright bans on all animal breeding and ownership.  They collectively consider all breeders and pet stores as substandard and inherently not interested in practicing or promoting animal welfare. These politically aware extremists recognize that most purebred dog fanciers and enthusiasts have not historically thought of themselves as similar to, or aligned with, pet stores or professional breeders.  As a result, they employ a “divide-and-conquer” strategy to further split the political strength of breeder groups.  This is the strategic foundation that California’s AB 485, which seeks to limit Californians from purchasing purpose-bred dogs from regulated retail sources, is built upon.”

Me: Because I disdain where pet stores get their puppies, I am now an extremist? Veterinary Professionals Against Puppy Mills, of which I am a co-founder, supports purebred dogs IF they are from responsible breeders. I have no idea what the above is really about, except the AKC tells its members that everyone is “out to get them.” There’s sadly some truth to that. There are many people who do abhor purebred dogs, but the idea of limiting pet stores sales is not about that. It’s ONLY about where the pet stores get their dogs. And, in fact, they never get dogs from responsible breeders. Anyone who sells to a pet store is an insult to responsible breeders, and is often a puppy mill. 

AKC: “Over the past few years, a multitude of local jurisdictions have considered proposals to ban the sale of pets at pet shops, claiming that such proposals would put substandard breeders out of business. As the proposals move from one jurisdiction to another, the template stays largely the same. Proponents make inflammatory allegations about abuses by breeders (whom they collectively call “puppy mills”) or unsubstantiated or false claims of animal population issues. Their proposed solution to these ills urges banning the sale of purpose-bred pets in lieu of sales of animals obtained from shelters and rescues. Animal rights groups count on the idea that the philosophical division between breeder groups will prevent them from uniting against their incremental, yet no less radical, agenda.”
Me: There is some truth there. Certainly, many people in the “movement” to ban pet store sales of dogs and cats ONLY seek to support adoption and rescue. Others, like myself, support adoption, rescue, and responsible breeders. Again, very simply put, no responsible breeder ever sells to a pet store anyway. This is AKC’s way of scaring breeders by saying that people are out to get them. And it’s true, sometimes people have been out to get them. But I’m not one. I am, however, out to get puppy mills.

AKC: “Sponsored by the same group that attempted to institute mandatory spay/neuter in California in 2007, AB 485 seeks to ban the sale of pets from known, regulated, and inspected sources (including breeders and handlers subject to federal licensing), and requiring pet shops to only sell pets from unregulated and uninspected sources (i.e., shelters, rescues, and other similar organizations) that are not subject to state consumer protection laws or other guarantees. In essence, retail pet store bans, including AB 485, remove available consumer protections for new pet owners, limit the ability of pet owners to obtain the appropriate pet for their lifestyle, and potentially increase public health risks (which are not limited to geopolitical state boundaries). Furthermore, AB 485 will dramatically reduce every Californian’s access and ability to choose a pet with the predictable type, mandated care, and substantiated health backgrounds that come with purebred pets from regulated sources.”

Me: I was there when California sought mandated pediatric spay neuter, and one of the groups behind that effort was the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS). To my understanding, the HSUS feels differently today regarding mandated spay/neuter. Secondly, I was on the other side—publicly and vocally—of the HSUS on that. I know that in Chicago (where mandated spay/neuter was also attempted), I personally played a significant role (with a coalition of shelters, veterinarians, and others) to kill the proposal. No matter, mandated pediatric spay/neuter has nothing to do with banning pet store sales of dogs and cats, and those behind the limits on pet store sales. The group that began initially to support the banning of the sale of dogs and cats at pet stores grew quite organically online. At first, no national organizations were involved. People are desperate to see puppy mills end. I want to know what the AKC is specifically doing in that regard.

AB 485 will not reduce anyone’s ability to choose a pet of predictable type (why doesn’t the AKC just say purebred dog?). In fact, the “type” at a pet store has been shown to not be real. Pet stores are known to sell mixes (e.g., a Yorkipoo) that isn’t what they say it is in the first place. And, most often it seems pet stores are selling high-priced designer dogs like those Yorkipoos, which are not an AKC breed, or even technically anything other than a mixed-breed dog. Or worse, they sell little “teacup” dogs with a myriad of health concerns.

Substantiated health backgrounds? You’ve got to be kidding. Even IF what a pet store says is true regarding where an animal is from, since the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) all but closed down their website to the public, there’s no way for consumers to do their own independent background checks. With a hobby breeder, right there, nearly always, you can meet the parents of the pup you may be interested in.

AKC: “AB 485’s proponents misleadingly claim that the bill will promote the purchasing of purebred dogs from local breeders. That claim, however, fails to shed light on the fact that many local anti-breeding laws and breeding restrictions, also supported by these groups, have already eliminated hobby breeding and now make obtaining a specific type of dog bred by a local breeder increasingly difficult.”

Me: Indeed, it’s true, if AB 485 is passed, local breeders stand to benefit! I’ve had this idea for some time: Just as AB 485 will allow pet stores to adopt animals from legit shelters and rescues, I think responsible breeders should be allowed in stores also, in order to educate the public about their breed. And to market themselves (not to sell the animals in the stores, however). Yes, there are some local laws in scattered places around the country that make life harder on breeders. And those are wrong. I don’t understand how responsible breeders can be hurt by laws suggesting pet stores can’t sell dogs, cats, and rabbits, since responsible breeders never sell to pet stores.  

AKC: “Predominantly, when governments attempt to limit the legitimate sources from which a person may obtain a pet, it not only interferes with individual freedoms, it also increases the likelihood that a person will obtain a pet that is not a good match for their lifestyle and the likelihood that that animal will end up in a shelter.

“It has never been more important than it is now for all dog lovers and those concerned about the future of our breeds to work together to preserve the freedom of individuals to choose from a variety of pets and to find one that is the right match for their lifestyle. Such pets can come from a variety of sources, including directly from the breeder, from a retailer, or from a shelter or rescue. The decision to acquire an appropriate pet should be made by consumers themselves, not restricted by an arbitrary government limit pushed for by extremists who ultimately seek the end of dog breeding and animal ownership.”

Me: Government, in my opinion, does impose too many restrictions regarding our personal freedoms. However, dogs and cats in puppy mill-like conditions are suffering, and puppy mills are thriving, so something must be done. Restricting pet store sales, I realize, doesn’t close the puppy mills, but it may certainly cramp their style. Legally, government can tell stores what they can sell. It’s done all the time. The most obvious example is restrictions of liquor sales. In thousands of communities, no liquor can be purchased on Sundays, or liquor can only be sold during restricted hours. There are many such examples.

Regarding AKC’s statement about not finding the right pet: The AKC is actually driving people AWAY from their base breeders. If I visit a small breeding facility for a shih tzu, that breeder may not deem me “good enough” or the right fit for his precious puppies. Pet stores don’t care. They don’t turn people away. A 108-year-old woman wants a border collie, perfect. The only question asked is, “Will that be cash or charge?” I agree that pre-pet counseling would save lives. I strongly endorse that idea! That counseling should come from a veterinary professional, or a certified animal behavior consultant, not the kid who works at a pet store. 

AKC: “The American Kennel Club emphatically supports freedom of choice in selecting a pet. AKC actively promotes efforts to ensure that people are educated, understand the demands of responsible ownership, and have access to a pet that is right for them. AKC strongly opposes any measure that restricts choice by compelling people and/or retailers to obtain pets solely from shelter or rescue distributors.  On these principles alone, AKC opposes Assembly Bill 485.”

Me: I agree. But, read the bill. It does NOT read, or even hint, that people must adopt from a shelter or rescue. In fact, the bill opens a door for responsible breeders.

AKC: “This week, AB 485 was passed by the Assembly Business and Professions Committee. The bill has been referred to the Assembly Appropriations Committee for further consideration, but has not yet been scheduled for a hearing.  The American Kennel Club and a coalition of animal interest groups will continue to lead the opposition against AB 485. We urge you and your club to join in our efforts.”

Me: I urge you to like the Facebook page Veterinary Professionals Against Puppy Mills. Most important, tell your neighbors and friends in California to support AB 485. And, if you are like me, continue to wonder about the AKC.

I, again, offer the opportunity to talk live on the air with an AKC representative about why pet stores should or should not have limits on what they can sell. So far, there have been no takers. I simply want to understand.