Criticism Welcome Here

Photo Credit: Kathie Meier

While I’ve never bought into the notion of “making everybody happy” I do believe that everyone is deserving of an explanation.  My kids never heard, “Because I said so!” (though I sure did feel like screaming it at them from time to time).  No matter how long my client’s list of questions, I address each and every one.  And as an author, I do my best to respond to all of my readers’ comments, be they good, bad, or ugly.  It simply feels like the respectful thing to do.

Critical comments from my readers invariably prompt introspection. Case in point, I recently received a comment criticizing my facebook post of an American Kennel Club (AKC) Health Foundation podcast featuring an interview with Dr. Gary Stamp, Executive Director of the Veterinary Emergency and Critical Care Society. Here is what my facebook friend had to say.

“Nancy, it would be critical and wise that you look into the AKC’s possible affiliations with puppy mills, before you promote anything which AKC may sponsor. I need to delete you from my facebook if you are at all promoting the AKC.”

These comments certainly got me thinking.  In fact, I have been concerned and annoyed that the AKC has not been vocal enough about the puppy mill issue.  Given my public stance against puppy mills am I being hypocritical in promoting something positive that the AKC has to offer? Here’s where my logic took me and how I responded to the facebook comments.

“Thanks for your feedback.  Please know that I share your concern about the AKC.  They are in a position to have a huge impact on eradicating puppy mills, yet they choose not to do so and that is truly discouraging for me.  I am not 100% clear about their motivation, be it financial or something else.  That being said, I do respect the AKC Health Foundation and their stated mission which is ‘to advance the health of all dogs and their owners by funding sound scientific research and supporting the dissemination of health information to prevent, treat, and cure canine disease.’  Note that their goal is to serve all dogs, not just purebred dogs. Their podcasts consistently provide timely, accurate, and educational information, the kind of information that truly helps people become more effective medical advocates for their pets.  And if you’ve read much of what I’ve written, you know that I am passionate about medical advocacy!  For purposes of full disclosure, you should know that I have participated as an interviewee in an AKC Health Foundation podcast and, no, I was not paid to do so.

While I disapprove of the AKC’s lack of action regarding eradication of puppy mills, the AKC Health Foundation serves a definitively positive purpose. This is a classic case of not wanting to throw the baby out with the bath water.

If you’ve consistently read my blog posts you know that I am rabidly opposed to puppy mills, and it sounds like you are as well.  Hopefully this common ground will allow us to respectfully agree to disagree.  Thank you for sharing your opinion with me. If you choose to ‘unfriend’ me (or whatever the heck such a facebook action is called) I understand.  Thanks for hearing me out.”

Introspection is always a good thing.  Feel free to keep those critical comments coming, though not too many all at once!

Best wishes for good health,

Nancy Kay, DVM
Diplomate, American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine
Author of  Speaking for Spot: Be the Advocate Your Dog Needs to Live a Happy, Healthy, Longer Life
Recipient, Leo K. Bustad Companion Animal Veterinarian of the Year Award
Recipient, American Animal Hospital Association Animal Welfare and Humane Ethics Award
Recipient, Dog Writers Association of America Award for Best Blog
Recipient, Eukanuba Canine Health Award
Recipient, AKC Club Publication Excellence Award
Become a Fan of Speaking for Spot on Facebook

Please visit http://www.speakingforspot.com to read excerpts from Speaking for Spot. There you will also find “Advocacy Aids”- helpful health forms you can download and use for your own dog, and a collection of published articles on advocating for your pet’s health. Speaking for Spot is available at Amazon.com, local bookstores, and your favorite online book seller.

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27 Responses to “Criticism Welcome Here”

  1. Barb Says:

    Good for you for not throwing the baby out with the bath water.

  2. China Says:

    Well, for my part I’ve not heard nor seen in print anything I would disagree with you about, granted I’ve not read every single word you’ve uttered …

    That being said, it’s nice to know that should the day come when I might, that I can freely make comment of another view that would not get me kicked to the curb.

    Dr. Kay you’re doing an excellent job of educating many of us in areas that we would not otherwise be privy!
    Thank you …

  3. M.R.S. Says:

    Just what would you have the AKC do, regarding “puppy mills”? For some years they have had a rigorous program of kennel inspections, they require DNA identification on frequently-used sires, their inspectors examine all records and paperwork. This approach has resulted primarily in a large percentage of high-volume breeders simply ceasing to register their dogs with AKC, instead going to any of the many “paper registries” that have sprung up. AKC has no police powers, other than suspending that person/kennel from AKC privileges. If the AKC inspectors find unsatisfactory conditions, they can only (and will) report this to the local authorities that can enforce local rules…then it’s up to the locals.

  4. Jason Merrihew Says:

    You can’t please everyone but you can treat everyone with respect. I thought you did a wonderful job answering this question.

  5. Mitch Labuda Says:

    How does the AKC, a private entity eradicate puppy mills, which by their nature are a business like the AKC? If, we want to stop puppy mills, the state and local governments need to step up, create legislation and enforce the legislation to stop inhumane animal breeding. The AKC and associated groups can and should get behind legislation to end these practices as well as the general public, especially those in states that do little to stop the excessive breeding of all animals.

    It’s one thing to be critical, is another, to be ignorant of an issue or person and critical.

  6. Erich Riesenberg Says:

    I suppose a good test of the real worth of the AKC Health Foundation is its stance on poorly bred, inherently sick AKC labeled puppy mill puppies.

    A quick word search shows nothing:

    http://www.akcchf.org/

    Is this a group that works to maximize breeder profit?

  7. Charlie Fippin Says:

    Exactly how does the commenter think that AKC could eradicate puppy mills? AKC does kennel inspections and will withdraw AKC privileges from anyone found in violation of good dog care. Many puppy mills have left the AKC registry because of AKC’s requirements for care, DNA records and for general record keeping. Those puppy mills have made their own registries that have no requirements. AKC is a strong legal advocate for your right to own a pet!

  8. BIS Says:

    Being avidly involved in the world of showing dogs in AKC events, I have to tell you that the math is simple.

    The AKC is facing increasing financial difficulty. Typical pet owners do not register their purebred dogs and the number of dogs participating in AKC events is steadily declining.

    AKC makes the majority of its money based on the litter registrations of large-scale breeding operations, such as puppy mills. They also make their money in DNA profiling required on frequently used studs. While they don’t avidly promote puppy mills or large-scale breeding operations, they definitely enable them.

    I honestly believe that the AKC could not survive without the registration revenue it receives from these operations. Sad but true.

  9. Nancy Says:

    The most obvious problem with dog shows is that they encourage breeding, both directly and indirectly. As explained on the American Kennel Club’s website, “Spayed or neutered dogs are not eligible to compete in conformation classes at a dog show, because the purpose of a dog show is to evaluate breeding stock.” The shows create a culture based on breeding, showing and selling dogs, in the pursuit of a champion. With three to four million cats and dogs killed in shelters every year, the last thing we need is more breeding.

    If fewer people bred their dogs, there would be fewer dogs for sale and more people would adopt from shelters. Breeders also create a demand for the dogs and for their breed through advertising and also by simply by putting them on the market. Furthermore, not everyone who wants to give up their purebred dog is going to bring the animal back to the breeder;-most will get dumped at the shelter.

    The AKC web page listing breed rescue groups is not about adopting or rescuing a dog, but about “information about purebred rescue.” Nothing on the page promotes adopting or rescuing dogs. Instead of encouraging adoption and rescue, their page on rescue groups tries to redirect the public to their breeder search page, breeder referral page, and online breeder classifieds.

    Every dog purchased from a breeder or pet store is a vote for more breeding and a death sentence for a dog in a shelter. While dog show participants care profess to care about the welfare of their dogs, they seem to care little about the millions of dogs who are not theirs. Also in the years I have been involved in rescuing animals, I have seen a disproportionate amount of show dogs who are discarded after their usefulness is over. These dogs have never been able to run or interact normally and many have psychological wounds to contend with.

    “Purebred dogs” encourages breeding as well as encourages inbreeding, and implies that these dogs are more desirable than others. Without dog shows, there would be less of a demand for dogs who have a certain pedigree or conform to an artificial set of physical specifications that are considered ideal for each breed. This also promotes backyard breeders who want to make money off a certain breed.

    As breeders strive to meet the standard for their breed, inbreeding is common and expected. Breeders know that if a certain desirable trait runs through a bloodline, breeding two blood relatives who have that trait will bring out that trait. However, inbreeding also amplifies other traits, including health problems.

    Many breeds of dogs are known to have health issues, either due to inbreeding or due to the very standards of the breed. Most bulldogs cannot mate or give birth naturally. Female bulldogs must be artificially inseminated and give birth via C-section. Flat-Coated Retrievers are prone to cancer, and half of all Cavalier King Charles Spaniels suffer from mitral valve disease.

    Because of their breed standards and the need to categorize dogs into different breeds and groups, dog shows give the impression that purebred dogs are more desirable than mixed-breed dogs. Even the word “pure” in “purebred” implies something disturbing. Were these animals human, standards such as those described above would be akin with racism and eugenics. Every dog, no matter their breed or health issues, should be valued and cared for. This buying and selling of a living being is also akin to human slavery.

    the American Kennel Club (AKC) promotes the cutting of some dog’s tails and ears, and the amputation of the dewclaw (an “extra” claw located on the inside of a dog’s leg), as “integral to defining and preserving the breed character.” According to the AKC, Doberman Pinschers should have both ears and tails cut short. Rottweilers and Cocker Spaniels at dog shows commonly have tails that have been cut. For the popular Weimaraner breed, “non-docked” tails are penalized by AKC judges.
    Tail docking and ear-cropping of dogs, like the declawing of cats, are painful and disfiguring procedures. The American Veterinary Medical Association opposes ear cropping and tail docking in dogs for cosmetic reasons; they state, “these procedures cause pain and distress, and, as with all surgical procedures, are accompanied by inherent risks of anesthesia, blood loss, and infection.” Ear-cropping and tail-docking are both illegal in Great Britain and other European countries.

  10. Susan Says:

    Nancy, the AKC is funded by registrations of new purebred dogs and thus have NO incentive to do anything that will limit their numbers. I am not talking just about puppy mills but about backyard breeders. Before I ever knew about rescue or about the vast and unconscionable numbers of healthy animals that are put down in shelters, I bought my first dog, a purebred Chow “with papers” from a backyard breeder. I believed that registering her with AKC would in some way serve to protect her if something happened to me, but now I know that 25% of animals in shelters are purebreds. Not only that, but once I got Lucy’s registration and pedigree, I noticed that 1) her mother was less than one year old when she bore Lucy’s litter and 2) there was much inter-breeding in her line – which I understand can be part of a thoughtful breeding plan – but this obviously wasn’t. As she aged, Lucy’s severely congenitally malformed hips came to light, and she suffered from pemphigus for the last two years of her life. Not only that, but by an odd coincidence, I pulled a Chow from a high kill shelter and found that he came from another litter born to Lucy’s parents. “Oh”, I thought, “a responsible breeder will always take her puppies back before letting them die in a shelter” – NOT! After they collected their money (in cash only) they were done with the puppies. No telling how many deformed Chows are in our area as a result of these people. Yet, the AKC will register the puppies and the unwitting public pays. To me, a backyard breeder is just as bad as a puppy mill – in fact, that’s what they are on a smaller scale. And it’s because of them we cannot get spay/neuter legislation in our state. Sorry for the rant, but I have no kind words for the AKC. To me, their efforts for “all dogs” is meaningless unless and until they rethink their motives and their basis for doing business. No wonder there are so many new kennel clubs springing up. AKC has lost all credibility.

  11. Eric Collis Says:

    I applaud Dr. Kay’s thoughtful response. Too often, in our society, a group (or individual) is portrayed as “bad” based upon a perceived (real…or imagined) “wrong”. Our world is rarely so easily defined. Eric

  12. Healthy Dog Project Says:

    Greetings:

    This is what many would call a “bait and switch” concept.

    The AKC needs to address the puppy mill issue. They choose not to do so because it benefits them. I can’t imagine any legitimate organization doing otherwise. But then they offer a health foundation – the tail wagging the dog perhaps.

    So how can the AKC be a a champion for the dog when they are only a registry? And their standards have done many breeds grave harm.

    We need to empower ourselves to go beyond the concept of “throwing the baby out with the bath water”. We can change the effect that the AKC has by looking at role models such as Pedigree Dogs Exposed — putting the health of the dog before the interests of the hobby “industry”.

    It is clear to see that the health of an animal outweighs it’s ability to generate an income. We’d like that to be true for all organizations.

    So I think that we are not at odds at all – most are, in fact, in total agreement.

    The health of a dog comes first – and foremost.

    With common interests,

    Gloria J. Cestero-Hurd
    Founder,
    Healthy Dog Project
    Cooperstown, NY

  13. Jane Eagle Says:

    My own opinion is that I am fine with using them, but NOT supporting them.
    There are few people who revile the AKC as much as I do:The AKC has no health standards for breeding; the only breeding restriction is age (a dog can be no younger than 8 months). They also combat most legislation to protect animals such as …anti-puppy mill legislation. While they argue that their motive is to protect legitimate breeders and the industry, many argue their incentive is purely financial. Since the AKC makes its monry by registering dogs, this is a no-brainer, and the ONLY reason the AKC has no objection to puppy mills. I don’t know the percentages, but I would not be surprised if more than half (or LOTS more than half) of their income comes directly from puppy mills. Their websire even states:
    http://www.akc.org/reg/about.cfm
    “There is a widely held belief that “AKC” or “AKC papers” guarantee the quality of a dog. This is not the case. AKC is a registry body. A registration certificate identifies the dog as the offspring of a known sire and dam, born on a known date. It in no way indicates the quality or state of health of the dog. Quality in the sense of “show quality” is determined by many factors including the dog’s health, physical condition, ability to move and appearance… Many people breed their dogs with no concern for the qualitative demands of the breed standard. When this occurs repeatedly over several generations, the animals, while still purebred, can be of extremely low quality.”

    Having settled that, I agree with you, Dr. Kay: I have no hesitation using their resources as long as I am not giving them any money. Franky, I feel the same way about HSUS, which exists to make money for itself. Almost none is actually spent on living animals. I read recently that they acquired a large number of dogs from a bad situation. They milked it for all it was worth, then dumped many of the dogs at a North Carolina pound to be GASSED, one of the most inhumane ways to kill an animal (short of torture). I will sign their petitions for legislation I support, but do my best to make everyone aware that they are a fraud and should not get a penny from anyone. They are good at getting legislation passed, so do have some positive function (unlike PETA, who kills thousands of pet dogs and cats every year; see
    http://petakillsanimals.com/ )

  14. Z A Van Meter Says:

    AKC is right at all the Ohio Dog Auctions collecting their $$$$$$$. It is all about money with AKC. They are the only agent that can inspect a kennel unannounced but yet how many do they inspect? If you complain they state they only have 4 agents nationawide. Give me a break, puppy mills are a HUGE problem and what does AKC do? What does the USDA do? What about the health issues the dogs auctions bring into our state? No vetting of the dogs and many passes are given at the auctions. If it has four legs and barks-its a dog. Sell it.

    When some state agency stakes action,
    you comes in to get the dogs—rescuers and we foot the bills. What is wrong with this scenerio? It is all about MONEY not the dogs. They continue to suffer and suffer. The human race should be ashamed.

  15. Mitch Labuda Says:

    “But Harold Neuhart, who runs the auction, said opponents have no solid argument because the breeders are USDA regulated and the auction is legal.”

    USDA, United States Department of Agriculture.

    http://www.aphis.usda.gov/animal_welfare/php/awa/pg.php?pg=AWR_Section_2.6

    The USDA regulates, enforces, etc., the federal rules regarding animals, animal welfare, etc., not the AKC.

    Again, let us not be ignorant of our own government and the regulations of the agencies responsible.

    If we want change they we need to petition the law makers for change, not non-governmental groups.

  16. mary murray Says:

    Most of us in our breed feel the AKC has done nothing positive. there are some that are starting our own registries such as the GWA Please see their website.
    http://www.wirehairalliance.com/wirehairalliance/

    Breeding requirements for ADULT dogs (not puppies as the AKC seems to advocate puppies having puppies) and the dogs are put through rigorous testing for performance, confirmation, temperament, coat and so forth. These are breeders that give a damn….they also promote the health and well being of our breed. I would never buy an AKC registered puppy…I would go to the VDD German registry or `the GWA.

  17. Crystal Says:

    Those concerned with animal welfare do damage to the movement as a whole when we demean each other. I’m not crazy about certain things a lot of groups say and do, but when they do something that benefits animals and those who love them, I think it’s worth acknowledging. Sometimes we dance with the devil — for the animals. Those who go and buy puppy mill dogs from auctions are supporting the industry even though they say they hate it, and truly do. They’re doing it to save those animals they are able to help. Dialogue and disagreement are healthy. Pointing out inconsistencies is useful. Doing so in a spirit of kindness is key. We can’t claim the high ground in helping animals if we are unkind or disrespectful of each other as human beings. Thank you, Dr. Kay, for your efforts and your honest introspection in reviewing your own positions and actions.

  18. Susan Stone Says:

    I am pleased to announce that the City of Toronto, (Ontario Canada) has recently passed legislation restricting the sale of live animals in pet stores and flea markets to those acquired from Humane Society/City pound facilities.

    THIS will take a huge bite out of the puppy mill market. Eliminate their venue for marketing their product and we put them out of business and eliminate the suffering of countless poorly bred, bad health inflicted puppies and the families tasked with looking after them.

    If our city can do this, so can yours. Be the change you want to see.

  19. The Local Dog Says:

    Many interesting comments here. I think ultimately it is the puppy buying public that could have the most impact.
    Voting with one’s pocketbook is a time honored method of affecting change. Educating the public about how a puppy should spend its early weeks and how its parents deserve to live is paramount.
    For those that chose not to adopt, ethical, experienced and small scale breeders that always take back their pups should become the only conscionable choice. The public can be helped to see that they determine the standards of care and responsibility by what they will accept. They are certainly better inspectors than the USDA…

  20. CathyA Says:

    “If fewer people bred their dogs, there would be fewer dogs for sale and more people would adopt from shelters.”

    I wish this were true, but don’t think so.

    AKC – don’t know much about it. I end up with mutts. But I think that any so called registry requiring docking of tails and ears is a pile of BS. At some point or other dogs have become like fancy chrome covered appliances. I would presume (but may be dead wrong) that registries like AKC started to try to preserve the qualities of a working breed. Cuz dogs used to have jobs. Any “prize” that does not take temperment and health into consideration in judging a dog is useless.

    I really do hope alternate more viable registries happen.

  21. Beth Bond Says:

    The AKC is all about the money, plain and simple. In fact, they are the sole reason purebreds are having so many medical problems. They keep changing the standards. More pug-faced, shorter legs, broader chests, lower hind ends, all causing more health problems. I also personally know of a woman who took an unwanted rott puppy, origin unknown, and registered it with her puppy clan so she could sell as a purebred, using her known origin. There is no accountability with the AKC….it’s all about the money, plain and simple.

  22. Jackie Jurasek Says:

    I agree with Jason and Barb. You did an excellent job of stating your opinion. I also feel that any company is not wanting to put a dent in their huge profits. The puppy mill problem will never go away until greed is under control. I walk into the kennel area of my shelter and look at all those sweet little faces with their under shot and over shot jaws and wonder how their “breeders” keep getting away with “it”. I have been in the animal control profession for 15 years and have watched the slow change in the physical abnormailities of the dogs in my care. It is steadily getting worse. 😦
    Jackie J

  23. Marlene Says:

    I don’t believe “puppy mill” is a legal term, at least I have never seen it in any ordinance or state statute. This means that any law that claims to address “puppy mills” is really addressing breeders. State and local laws generally do not affect USDA licensed facilities, so again, they only address anybody else who is a breeder. Most of those laws are redundent as animal cruelty and neglect is already addressed in existing laws and anybody, breeder or not can be held accountable under those laws. Most people who cry for regulations for breeders have no working knowledge of what a breeder does, have no working knowledge of genetics, population genetics, genetic diversity or what responsible breeding is really about. Here is something to think about, we do not have a pet overpopulation and anybody who bothers to do some research will learn that they have been misled about why adoptable animals are being killed in our nations shelter system. The latest research shows that the number of open homes for pets far outnumber the animals killed in shelters. So why are the shelters killing them? Please do your research instead of blaming the wrong group of people (breeders) for animals being killed in shelters. Many shelters cannot meet the public’s demand for small dogs and puppies, so they resort to importing dogs from out of the country, who is to blame for shelters killing dogs to make room for more adoptable dogs that come from places like Asia, Eastern Europe or Southern America? Those who believe that breeding should stop until there are no more shelter dogs don’t seem to understand that this means there won’t be any more dogs in the future. Shelter dogs don’t reproduce, so they will not be the ones to provide dogs in the future. If breeders don’t breed anymore, we won’t have any more dogs that are capable of breeding in as little as 10 years because all existing dogs will be too old to have a litter. So where will our future dogs come from? USDA facilities, out of country unregulated mass breeeding facilities (or what people call puppy mills) and out of country backyard breeders, those dogs would have to be smuggled in illegally as the new importation laws will make it too expensive to import otherwise. If those who are against breeders wish to own a dog in 20 years from now, you better start thinking about where those dogs will come from. Current laws do not distinguish between backyard breeder or reputable breeder, they only set arbitray rules that make it difficult if not impossible for reputable breeders to exist. If you don’t believe that, get to know some breeders and find out. I know the intentions of many people who support laws to regulate breeders are good, but good intentions aren’t enough.

  24. Marlene Says:

    I wasn’t going to say anything else but again, it is important to understand who does what. AKC has nothing to do with breed standards changing or preserving working ability or health. In the US this is the responsibility of the individual breed clubs. The breed club develops the standard, not AKC. Then it’s up to the individual breeder to breed dogs that are healthy and functional. Judges at dog shows are partially to blame for rewarding exaggerations of appearance, but ultimately it’s the breeders and the breed clubs who control where a breed is going. Then of course there is the public who demands certain features without understanding what that means to the health of the dogs.

  25. Linda Says:

    Again, I have said this before, we need to educate the public on puppy mills. A lot of these unhealthy “Designer” breeds are the animals that come out of these mills. Quit buying them! That is where a lot of deformaties and health problems come from. Responsible breeders of their beloved breed try to eliminate health problems in their dogs. A lot of testing is done. As for standards; I believe a lot of the national clubs set standards for their breed for the AKC. I agree the AKC is a lot about money but they do have some good foundations also. They are NOT the only ones responsible to take care of the puppy mill problem, and I don’t think it is fair to place blame on them. Go after the public and educate them. The media would be a great start.
    I wrote to a morning news person who was telling us that she bought this cute little “maltifluff” puppy off the street in NY. How terrible is that??? I told her what I thought about that. Millions of people saw this and probably wanted one of those mutts now that she promoted this little dog on national TV!! I never heard back from her! Surprise!! Maybe she couldn’t take the facts that she is promoting puppy mills. What a shame.

  26. Hazel Says:

    To clarify some other poinst of misinformation on these posts:

    AKC is a not-for-profit organization — comments about it “making money” gives an inaccurate impression that it is a for-profit business.

    The breed clubs in fact are responsible for breed standards and it is the breed clubs that can change them if they so choose. AKC itself doesn’t require any specifics as to appearance (ear cropping, tail docking, etc) — they are under the provence of the breed clubs. And in fact, none of these procedures are required for registration or breeding because they are not AKC requirements.

  27. Mitch Labuda Says:

    To correct a problem, one needs to understand it first and what agency to petition

    “Senators Durbin (D-Ill.) and Vitter (R-La.) have introduced The Puppy Uniform Protection Statute (PUPS), S. 707, companion to H.R. 835, to allow oversight of abusive puppy mills in the United States. Puppy mills are large-scale, commercial breeding operations where dogs are commonly housed in overcrowded, filthy, and inhumane conditions. S. 707/H.R. 835 will close a loophole in the Animal Welfare Act that currently allows large-scale, commercial breeders who sell puppies online or directly to the public to escape licensing and regulation.”

    https://secure.humanesociety.org/site/Advocacy?cmd=display&page=UserAction&id=5010

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