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My Take: Rebutting Critics Is Up to Us

Many people involved with AKC shows and dogs will have seen the “Today Show” program that aired on May 1. If you haven’t seen it, you should, because at some point someone who knows you’re part of the world of breeding and showing dogs will ask you about it.

My personal reaction to the program could fill volumes. It’s difficult to even know where to begin. But I think the most important message I can bring to our readers is this: it is up to us to spread a positive message about breeders. No one can do it as well as we can do it ourselves. Don’t be ashamed of who we are. The vast majority of people who go to dog shows every weekend and who breed the dogs shown there take better care of their animals than the average pet owner. We simply must be prepared with real facts to rebut biased reporting like what appeared this week on NBC.

The more happy, healthy purebred puppies responsible breeders provide to pet homes, the more the general public will know that breeders are not the demons they’re so often characterized to be.Photo © www.canstockphoto.com.

The more happy, healthy purebred puppies responsible breeders provide to pet homes, the more the general public will know that breeders are not the demons they’re so often characterized to be. Photo © www.canstockphoto.com.

Are you disgusted that AKC didn’t do a better job of presenting our side of the story? Me too, but remember that the animal rights extremists’ goal is to divide and conquer, so they want you to be mad at AKC and to think about leaving the sport altogether. Instead let’s work on helping AKC get out the right messages about who we are. On the other hand, I see no reason that we shouldn’t ask AKC to be accountable for the “I don’t have an answer for that” responses given during the broadcast, this despite the fact that the organization has reportedly hired the “best PR people” in the business the past few years, no doubt at great expense. We all know that “no comment” and “I don’t have an answer” make it look like someone is hiding something. And as long as AKC is viewed as “hiding something” there will be more attacks against us, and they’ll continue to be indefensible.

The best defense for responsible breeders is a strong offense, and a strong offense requires each and every one of us to treat our dogs well and to do appropriate health testing before we breed. It requires us to not be afraid to breed a litter of healthy, happy puppiesthat will be sold to the public as pets – after all, if responsible hobby breeders don’t supply puppies for pet homes, someone else will. Let people know that you spend far more on your dogs, between buying premium dog food, veterinary care, health testing and the cost of whelping and raising puppies, just to mention a very few costs associated with raising dogs, than you’ll ever make back.

To properly defend ourselves, we have to be prepared to explain to anyone who asks why owning a purebred dog is a good idea. With a purebred dog, thanks to centuries of careful breeding, you know what you’re getting in terms of the very basics, like how big your dog is going to get, what kind of temperament he’s going to have and how much grooming will be involved in owning this dog. New owners can learn what behaviors this particular breed’s natural instincts might lead them to exhibit, whether it’s a natural instinct to herd, follow his nose around the neighborhood or build sand castles in the backyard. And – despite all of the claims that purebred dogs are inherently less healthy than mixed-breed dogs – owners will also get a snapshot of what kinds of health concerns have come up in the family, and an assurance that the responsible breeder has done everything possible to weed out dogs with health problems, whether it’s something as common as skin allergies or as serious as cardiac anomalies. Perhaps one of the most valuable things people get when they buy a purebred puppy from a responsible breeder is, for the life of their dog, a sounding board and advisor whom they can ask questions of and receive advice from if there’s anything they want to know about living with their dog.

It would also be wise to remind the harshest critics of dog breeding that a world without purebred dogs would be very different from the one we know today. Without purebred dogs, there would be many fewer reliable canines involved in law enforcement, search and rescue, bomb and drug detection, and working on farms and ranches around the world. These are just a few of the services dogs provide for us, and those who know will tell you that for these jobs, the reliability of temperament and performance of a purebred dog is irreplaceable.

When they buy a purebred puppy from a responsible breeder, a family not only knows what they’re getting as far as temperament, size and grooming requirements, they also get an advisor for the life of their dog. Photo © www.canstockphoto.com.

When they buy a purebred puppy from a responsible breeder, a family not only knows what they’re getting as far as temperament, size and grooming requirements, they also get an advisor for the life of their dog. Photo © www.canstockphoto.com.

A strong offense also means we have to keep doing what we’re doing in our kennel clubs: doing the extra work required to offer activities to the general public that will bring them in and allow them to get to know us and to learn that we want to have fun with our dogs, as well as show them ways to have fun with their dogs. It means continuing to interact with local politicians, law enforcement, vet schools, students in need of scholarships, and the families and individuals who come out for Meet the Breeds and other activities at our shows.

It also requires us to be prepared when someone asks us about programs like the one on the “Today Show.” At the end of the segment, Jeff Rossen mentioned that perhaps the best place to get a dog is from a rescue organization, but he failed to mention that a huge number of rescue organizations are run and funded by parent club members. We have to get that message out, because no one else is doing it. We have to get out the message that AKC, AKC parent clubs and AKC breeders also donate millions of dollars each year to research that leads not only to breakthroughs that will benefit dogs, but those that benefit humans as well.

Why AKC isn’t spending money on broadcasting all of these good things we do, or countering video of horrible situations in raided kennels with film from the kennels of responsible hobby breeders, is beyond me. Why, for instance, the public service announcement that Willie Nelson so generously created for AKC, letting people know that AKC clubs are responsible for many rescue groups, was not more widely used, I can’t say. But what I can tell you is that, if we want to protect our own reputations as fanciers and breeders of purebred dogs, we have to do what AKC is for some reason not able to do, and that is to spread the word about the good things we do, how terrific our dogs are and how devoted we are to making sure that purebred dogs continue to be happy and healthy members of our families and society. That’s the only way we can effectively counter these continual attacks.

Join your local breed or all-breed club, and help organize a doggie fun day or Meet the Breeds where people can get to know the breeders in your community. Know the important points to mention when someone asks you about programs like the one on the “Today Show.” Next time you’re at a show and you seeanyone who looks like they’re interested in talking about dogs, strike up a friendly conversation. Health test your dogs before you breed them, and be honest with yourself and with others in your breed about any problems you’ve encountered. It’s up to us to do the right things and spread the word. No one is going to do it for us.

AKC has provided additional talking points and rebuttal to the “Today Show” program, which can be found here.

Written by

Christi McDonald is a second-generation dog person, raised with a kennel full of Cairn Terriers. After more than a decade as a professional handler’s apprentice and handling professionally on her own, primarily Poodles and Cairns, she landed a fortuitous position in advertising sales with the monthly all-breed magazine ShowSight. This led to an 11-year run at Dogs in Review, where she wore several hats, including advertising sales rep, ad sales manager and, finally, editor for five years. Christi is proud to be part of the editorial team for the cutting-edge Best In Show Daily. She lives in Apex, N.C., with two homebred black Toy Poodles, the last of her Foxfire line, and a Norwich Terrier.
  • Tommi May 3, 2013 at 9:17 AM

    I think the overall message of this is misguided, especially the idea that “no one is going to do it for you.” Give AKC a little more credit, eh. The way AKC was presented in that segment had nothing to do with the PR employee and everything to do with the slant that had been decided on prior to even letting AKC talk. I think if anyone could get their hands on the uncut footage, the story would be a little different. AKC took a hit. AKC’s inspections program took a hit. AKC breeders took a hit. Sure, AKC breeders/owners/etc need to participate in improving their image, but to do so, they have to have the facts and support AKC for what AKC is doing. This article is lacking in that regard and indicative of exactly what HSUS hoped would happen.

  • catrens
    CathyM May 3, 2013 at 9:32 AM

    I am going to attempt to answer some of these questions you have.
    1. AKC is not in a position of authority over anyone EXCEPT as a registry.
    2. It has only been recently (last 8 years or so) that AKC branched into an IRS tax bracket that would allow them to legislate and protest what HSUS/ASPCA put out.
    3. It has only been very recently that AKC has a Chairman that recognizes the hostile situation the HSUS/ASPCA has created for breeders and is willing to do something about it.

    I am going to post the same response I have posted in other forums where people want the AKC to do more:

    I am sorry – I am reading this thread and hearing you want AKC to have the right to come in and inspect places for cleanliness and the health of the dogs.
    IF the AKC has the right to do this, BEING A REGISTRY BUSINESS, than that give the HSUS/ASPCA the right to come in and take away your dogs because they don’t think you are treating them according to THEIR standards and they are in the HUMANE BUSINESS/.

    Don’t you see what HSUS/ASPCA is doing? They are trying to get AKC to be recognized by the USDA as kennel inspectors when they are not.

    AKC is a business. They are in it for the money. What is wrong with making money and making a living? I am sorry – But I love my dogs. I will go down with a gun in my hands if someone tries to take them away – BUT they are my animals and my property. As such, it all needs to be kept in perspective.

    What you saw today (I have not seen but have read a lot about it) was typical HSUS/ASPCA garbage trying to stop people from buying dogs and persuading them that breeding animals is evil.

    Only evil people breed animals because if you breed you must sell and if you sell you must be making money and if you are making money you must not be taking care of your animals and if you are not taking care of your animals you need to have your animals taken away from you.

    AND The AKC which is a privately owned corporation is supposed to have the authority over anyone who breeds dogs to go in and take them away. And if they don’t, they need to do it anyway which means you get the USDA in on it.

    AND you get the USDA in on it and the APHIS rules and regs open up your home to search and seizure based on the type of property that you own.

    Once AKC is a mandated reporter to USDA, this opens up the HSUS/ASPCA to come in and take your dogs, spay and neuter them, kill the ones they don’t sell and sell the rest. You are branded a evil breeder and animal abuser and can no longer keep animals plus you are bankrupt because you had to pay all of the trumped up charges and fees the HSUS/ASPCA heaped upon you to take care of your animals they have already dumped somewhere else.

    You don’t BUY dogs, you ADOPT dogs because they are the equal of a child.
    You don’t EAT horses, you ADOPT horses or let them starve, because they are the equal of a child.
    You don’t keep chickens for laying eggs, You turn them loose so something else can eat them and then be arrested for not taking care of them Because they are the equal of a child and need nurturing.

    Okay – I am a bit calmer – BUT I hope you can see what you are all talking about.

    Making a private business a mandatory reporter to the government
    Giving a private business the authority of search and seizure over you without you having any property rights.

    When did breeding, raising animals, selling them and making a profit become so evil?

  • Leonore May 3, 2013 at 9:36 AM

    spot-on. we have to “push” all the good information we have out there, as the public is clearly not coming to us to “pull” it.

  • Ruby May 3, 2013 at 9:48 AM

    Hear, hear! We should all share this article with our friends, and then set about doing exactly what it says.

  • Dave Higgins May 3, 2013 at 12:10 PM

    Thanks so much for writing the article. We should all be in an uproar about the biased and one sided segment on NBC. As you say we need to speak out about this across the land. Take the fight to the local level and get involved in your local community. Let all know about the all breed clubs and the other dog organizations in your area. Let the shelters know about AKC Canine Partners Program and their P.A.L listing for purebreds too! Most shelters are not aware of the programs that AKC and the Breed clubs have organized to help rescues. I emailed both the producer of the Today show and the President of NBC News about the poor reporting. We all need to be heard. I hope that AKC counters with a nation wide publicity effort. Their public education brochures are important and can have a terrific impact on the local community and responsible dog owner. Maybe the AKC rebuttal should be printed on business cards and distributed to all clubs in the nation. Then we have some facts to counter the story presented by NBC.

  • Joan J Ambrose May 4, 2013 at 3:43 AM

    Good advise Christi! Joan

  • Carol Suggs May 4, 2013 at 6:25 AM

    Christi has written an excellent article on what members of the fancy can do to promote the purebred dog. She briefly touched on a major failing of the AKC, their inability to promote the purebred dog to the general public.

    Lisa Peterson, AKC communications director, did a terrible job of representing the AKC on the Today show. She was poorly prepared and had no idea how to handle what obviously was going to be a bash the AKC interview.

    According to his bio, AKC Chairman of the Board Alan Kalter once owned the largest public relations firm in the country. In my opinion, the AKC has yet to benefit from his expertise.

    Carol Suggs

  • arty blu May 4, 2013 at 11:24 AM

    You did not mention in your article how we need to have the courage to monitor our own people who profess to be responsible breeders, while keeping so many dogs they become livestock many of these types our AKC licensed judges which is why I would presume pure-bred fanciers our not willing to expose or confront them. We need to clean our own house.

    • Iva Kimmelman
      Iva Kimmelman May 6, 2013 at 7:24 AM

      The subject of monitoring our own is thorn in my side. It is a waste of time.
      Show hobby breeders often “talk the talk” about policing each other. Yet time and time again when someone tries to do something to hold certain top breeders accountable, they get shot down every time. It seems to matter little how one cares for their dogs if they win a lot. Because in the eyes of too many winning is all that matters. Well not to me!
      One such “breeder of the year” (in the eyes of the AKC, and no one else) has a very long history of sub par breeding practices. The AKC apparently has a file as thick as a “phone book” filled with complaints.
      As I said, the reward for poor care is being named, Breeder Of The Year. Why would they want to clean up their act?
      Policing is pointless.

  • Mary Beth McManus May 5, 2013 at 6:08 PM

    I’d like to see NBC (& local affilliates) locked out of coverage for the Westminster Dog Show &/or interviewing the winner…then they can explain why we, the breeders and dog show folks don’t want to talk to them. Then on the networks that are given coverage I’d like to hear a strong spokesperson explain why the AKC is on their network (fair and unbiased, etc.), etc. The only way I’d like to see the winner on the Today Show for an interview is if this situation is addressed. Seriously, somebody needs to get the powers that be in AKC and clubs involved to stand up to this biased sabotage before they get away with it again. …

    • Fraya Katz May 7, 2013 at 12:47 AM

      Mary Beth McManus has had the best idea yet. Why should we allow NBC into one of our premier events? In fact, the top media event. If the NBA or the NFL were treated like we have been would they be eager to allow NBC to make millions on the ads shown throughout the show? No ! And nether should we.

      What event does HSUS have? Nada. There has to be a downside for NBC treating us so poorly. In fact we all should let NBC know that all of us are going to boycott NBC shows and let all the companies who advertise on NBC know we won’t be buying their products either. We aren’t helpless and there are a lot of us in the USA.

      We beed to put our money where our mouths are.

    • Christi May 7, 2013 at 1:34 PM

      Ladies, I agree that this is among the best ideas anyone has expressed. Thank you, Mary Beth and Fraya. Why should we support those who seek to take our hobby away? There’s nothing stronger than a hearty grassroots movement, as proven in the most remarkable way by the Arab Spring. If they could make that kind of change in a nation, we should be able to influence one television network. Let’s do it!

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