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Westminster be Damned!

The Westminster Dog Show, the premier event of the American Kennel Club is over. What an irony that our beloved New York City gave birth to the ASPCA and the Westminster Dog Show. Proceeds from the forth day of the very first Westminster Show (the newly formed Kennel Club took its name from the hotel where they met, pictured at left) in 1877 were donated to the ASPCA which had been formed nearby in 1866.

Although not connected, the two organizations - the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and the American Kennel Club, the renamed Westminster Kennel Club - represent two diametrically opposing views of dogs in 2013.

The modern AKC has become shameless in their exploitation of dogs from a wanton disregard to the welfare of non-AKC registered canines to registering products of puppy mills to adopting breed standards that are blatantly unhealthy for the dogs bred to those standards.

Do you ever wonder why and how puppy mills exist and prosper?

Do you ever wonder how an obviously malformed, sickly doggie in the window can have "papers"?

According to the New York Times 40% of the AKC's $61 million annual income comes from registering these puppies. If products of puppy mills were not "AKC registered" two things would happen:

1. Puppy mill bred dogs would no longer be particularly valuable. As a result, many, if not most, of the mills would become unprofitable and close up.

2. The earnings of the AKC would shrink significantly, perhaps close to 40%.

To prevent revenue shrinking, the AKC continues to issue papers (and collect the fees) for dogs who are bred in squalor and starvation. At times, according to the New York Times, these are well respected members of the AKC producing these pitiful puppies. These puppies are the "purebreds" that are sold in pet stores and on the internet. One example they site the A.K.C. registered malemutes found when breeder Mike Chilinski's facility was raided. Although he had been "inspected" by the A.K.C. law enforcement found squalor, diseased and dead malemutes and breeder Malemutes weighing less than 50 lbs. Chilinski received a prison sentance of 5 years, so egregious was his abuse of his dogs.

"Of course this puppy has papers," the prospective buyer is told at the pet store. "It is AKC registered." (There are many things they are NOT told, including that if the puppy is not sold by the time it is no longer "cute" - about 6 months of age - it is euthanized.)

This reassurance to the uninformed buyer is all that is needed to close the multihundred dollar sale of the misbred product of a puppy mill.

How obvious the AKC is in protecting its revenue stream over canine welfare came to a head last year. Pedigree dog food had been the primary sponsor of the Westminster show for over 25 years. When they used their air time during The Show to promote shelter adoption and raise money for rescue, AKC refused to renew their relationship, turning instead to Purina as their new sponsor. Did we mention that Purina is possibly the least nutritious dog food on the market? At least they don't ask you to support and adopt "throw away" dogs!

The AKC is no more kind when it comes to puppies whelped by reputable breeders. The AKC adopts breed standards for aesthetics (whatever that means) not for health and welfare of the dog. Think of the bred-to-standards bulldog who can hardly breathe or the thoroughbred Labrador who develps hip dysplasia. These can be, and often are, dogs who are bred to an aesthetic standard which was developed in absence of considering healthy consequences and spend their often shortened lives in discomfort and pain.

When one of AKC's own such as Oregon collie breeder Ted Paul, once a highly regarded AKC judge, speak out in favor of limits, the organization ostracizes him. From the time of his statements, Mr. Paul was never again hired to judge an AKC event.

Where does the ASPCA come in? The ASPCA as well as the Humane Society of America (HSUS) work to develop laws that mitigate against the abuses and cruelty of puppy mills. They promote legislation such as laws that prohibit a dog being caged or tethered more than 14 hours per day, the stacking of wire crates, the number of sexually intact dogs that may be owned. Each and every bill in each and every state has been vigorously opposed by the AKC.

ASPCA and HSUS work with law enforcement to identify and raid puppy mills. Virtually every mill has ties to the AKC as that is how they get their dogs registered and the AKC comes to their defense with platitudes about responsible breeders.

Is the AKC institutionalized domestic violence against canines? How often do we see a societal facade of a well respected, loving couple where there is abuse when the lights are turned off? When the abuse is made known, people familiar with the couple are in shock and disbelief at the abuse that was being perpetrated behind closed doors.

The American Kennel Club is that openly loving but privately abusive spouse when it comes to dogs. May the ASPCA and HSUS expose them for what they are and may dogs - all dogs - have better lives as a result.

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