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The Loss of Integrity of the Norwich Terrier Registry – Cairn Terriers Registered as Norwich Terriers

Members of the Norwich Terrier Club of America have for a number of years been working to monitor dogs that are registered with AKC as Norwich, as well as Norwich puppies being sold on the Internet, because in the past they have found dogs registered as Norwich Terriers that they believe are Cairn Terriers or mixed breeds.

To call attention to the problem, Norwich fancier Dana Esquibel made a very public demonstration earlier this year. She explains: “On January 6, 2012, at an AKC show in Palm Springs, Calif., I showed a dark brindle Cairn Terrier mix with a docked tail that is registered with the AKC as a Norwich Terrier. The judge examined him, gaited him and excused him. We had purchased an ad in the Cairn section of the show catalog inviting Cairn Terrier people to come to the Norwich ring to see the ‘lost Cairn.’ Come they did.”

Ranger was AKC-registered as a Norwich Terrier and sired numerous litters. Photo courtesy of the NTCA.

Why would anyone purposely register Cairn Terriers as Norwich? Supply and demand is the answer.

Cairns ranked 56th in terms of number of AKC registrations in 2010, while Norwich ranked 100th. These figures reflect the relative differences in the populations of each breed around the world; there are simply more Cairns than there are Norwich. The Norwich Terrier is in great demand in the pet market in the United States, but is a much more rare breed than the Cairn.

Pet prices for Norwich puppies are higher than for many breeds. A quick search of the Internet will reveal Norwich puppies for sale ranging from $500 up to $3,000. On one website with puppies offered for sale by multiple breeders, only two listings were for $500, both brindle males, one 6 months and one 9 months old, and both which appear to be Cairns. There were a total of 32 listings for Norwich for sale. The most popular price was $3,000 (five sellers), with half of the puppies selling for over $1,000 and eight more selling for $900 and up.

A search on the same “puppy finder” site for Cairn Terrier puppies included 53 listings with prices ranging from $300 to a high of $2,000, not including a 4-year-old for $200. There was one $2,000 and one $1,800 listing, oddly neither with a photo. The most popular price was $450 (12 sellers), with exactly two-thirds of the listings advertising puppies from $400 to $650.

Esquibel explains the origin of the Norwich she’d shown in January: “This dog was purchased by a friend and fellow Norwich fancier from a commercial breeder in Missouri. In an attempt to find out exactly what breed of dog Ranger really is, she purchased and submitted a cheek swab DNA sample using the Wisdom Panel Purebred DNA Certification Test, which is available from Mars Veterinary. The test results say that this dog is 75 percent Norwich Terrier and 25 percent Cairn Terrier. Ranger is 6 years old, has been used for breeding for several years, and the resulting offspring are AKC-registered.”

A portion of the DNA analysis returned on the dark brindle female registered as a female black and tan.

“The AKC has been registering non-purebred dogs as Norwich Terriers for a decade,” explains Esquibel, “yet few members of the fancy are aware of the situation. We showed this dark brindle Cairn mix to bring awareness to the fancy of the loss of integrity to the Norwich registry and the misuse of Cairn Terriers by commercial breeders.”

According to Esquibel, “This problem has become so commonplace that one only needs to visit the AKC website and view the Classified Ad section to find puppies being offered that are clearly not purebred Norwich. I did a search for Norwich Terriers in the AKC classified section and found an ad for Norwich puppies for sale that offered the breeder’s website address. Upon navigating the website, I found a photo of the dam of the puppies, and it revealed her to be a dark brindle bitch, clearly not a purebred Norwich Terrier!

“The AKC has removed some of these dogs from the Norwich Terrier registry,” says Esquibel, “however, between imports from eastern European countries and some less than scrupulous commercial breeders, more non-pure dogs are continuing to be registered by the AKC as Norwich Terriers.”

Alexa, registered as a daughter of Ranger’s, is no longer AKC-registered as a Norwich. Photo courtesy of the NTCA.

Carol Suggs, chairman of the NTCA Registry Integrity Committee, says that the NTCA has been aware that Cairns with docked tails were being sold as Norwich as early as 2002. As more and more questionable dogs turned up, more members of the parent club became involved in helping to verify the backgrounds and/or pedigrees of questionable dogs, and eventually the parent club decided it needed to give the group a formal name. Thus, the Registry Integrity Committee was formed.

The first time Norwich Terrier fanciers became aware that some of these Cairns were registered with AKC as Norwich was in 2005. In April that year, a member of the then-parent club for Norwich and Norfolk went to rescue a 5-month-old puppy. He was later named Snickers. Club members believed the puppy was a Cairn instead of a Norwich, but discovered that the litter he came from was registered as a litter of four Norwich puppies. Club members wrote to AKC and included photos of the dog, asking that the litter be removed from the registry on the grounds that Snickers was a Cairn, not a Norwich.

Snickers, once AKC-registered as a Norwich. His Wisdom Panel DNA test showed that he is at least 50 percent Cairn Terrier. Photo courtesy of the NTCA.

After tracking down another member of that litter, a bitch called Maggie, NNTC members asked longtime Cairn Terrier breeder and judge Lydia Hutchinson to look at Maggie and give her opinion of what breed she was. Mrs. Hutchinson did so and wrote a letter to AKC stating that in her opinion the bitch was a Cairn Terrier with a docked tail.

AKC sent a field rep to see the sire and dam. According to Suggs, the rep was a former Terrier handler and judge, and he determined that they were poor-quality Norwich Terriers. The registrations were allowed to stand.

The Norwich breeders who were involved with these dogs were determined that they should not be registered as Norwich Terriers. Since this litter was registered, a pedigree was available, and NNTC members began to research the dogs in the pedigree. They discovered that the maternal grandsire, a dog in Germany, would only have been 3 weeks old when the breeding took place that produced Snickers and Maggie’s dam. Since this isn’t possible, they determined that the pedigree provided was a fake. This information was imparted to AKC and, according to Suggs, was verified by the AKC.

When a DNA test became available that purported to be able to determine a dog’s ancestry, NNTC members took a DNA sample from Snickers using a swab from the Wisdom Panel Mixed Breed Analysis test. The swab was sent to Mars Veterinary, which distributes the DNA test, and the test result reported that the breeds detected included the Cairn Terrier, at a “significant” level. The report says this means that at least 50 percent of the dog’s DNA comes from the detected breed.

According to the NTCA, it took several months from the time that the information on the German grandsire was sent to AKC for the registrations of these dogs as Norwich Terriers was revoked. According to Suggs, 131 other Norwich registrations were revoked based on these pedigrees.

Since then the Norwich Terrier Club has informed AKC on numerous other occasions of dogs that are of questionable heritage, and other registrations have been revoked. In several instances, club members involved in rescue have discovered dogs at auctions that were being sold as Norwich that were clearly not. The parent club does not purchase dogs from auctions, but members have done so on occasion in order to have them spayed and placed in pet homes.

This dark brindle female was AKC-registered as a “grizzle” Norwich Terrier. Photo courtesy of the NTCA.

Many of these dogs have been imported from Europe, and NTCA members were often able to prove that they were bred from Cairns by researching the pedigrees that were submitted when the dogs became AKC-registered. After seeing many of the pedigrees on dogs that were imported as Norwich, the NTCA committee concluded early on that pedigrees submitted to AKC for imports were constructed using bits and pieces of legitimate pedigrees, and some of them included names of Norwich in recent generations, but Cairns in later generations, making them easier to detect. The committee believes that today, breeders selling these dogs are submitting pedigrees that are more carefully crafted and include only Norwich, making it impossible to prove fraud based on paperwork.

There have also been instances when dogs registered as Norwich that turned out to be at least of some Cairn breeding were bred in large commercial kennels in the U.S., according to Suggs. The NTCA alleges that litters of Norwich Terrier puppies have been listed on the AKC website that, on closer inspection by both Norwich and Cairn breeders, are almost certainly not Norwich, as they are from parents that are dark brindle in color and look like Cairn Terriers.

The NTCA committee has continued to use the Wisdom Panel DNA test to determine the backgrounds of dogs it has encountered and believed were not Norwich. Additional registrations have been canceled over the past few years. However, since today it is impossible to detect a fraudulent registration based on pedigrees, the NTCA sees the Wisdom Panel test as the only way to determine a dog’s breed when one is questionable.

The website for the Norwich Terrier Club of America includes a “Buyer Beware!” page alerting the public to the fact that not all dogs advertised as Norwich are Norwich.

The NTCA has asked AKC to accept the results of the Wisdom Panel test for dogs that are registered as Norwich, but are of questionable ancestry. AKC has declined to do so. DNA identification of humans is proven science today, but identifying breeds of dogs based on their DNA is not yet a perfected process. However, NTCA members have gathered DNA samples from about 100 dogs, including purebred Norwich, Norfolks and Cairns, as well as numerous rescues believed to be Norwich/Cairn mixes. Members of the NTCA committee believe that analysis of these samples contributes to the reliability of the DNA test, and that, because the Norwich Terrier gene pool is relatively quite small, the test is accurate enough to help weed out dogs that should not be registered as Norwich, thus protecting the integrity of the AKC Stud Book for Norwich.

As Esquibel notes, “People that are dedicated to their breed, who are passionate and committed, are and should be the guardians for their breed and must do whatever it takes to protect the registry and make it pure. Please help us get the word out that AKC’s current registry procedures are not working to protect the Norwich Terrier registry.”

Written by

  • Carol Suggs June 13, 2012 at 10:08 AM

    Wonderful job on this article!! I only have one correction. Snickers is a purebred Cairn Terrier. The Wisdom Panel Purebred Test was not yet available when we tested him and so we had to use the Mixed Breed Test. The only breed the test
    results showed was Cairn Terrier, this made him 100% Cairn, not 50% Cairn.

    Thank you for putting our story out to the public.

    Carol Suggs, Chairman Registry Integrity Committee
    Norwich Terrier Club of America

  • Janice swofford June 13, 2012 at 12:11 PM

    I show Cairn Terriers and I am appalled at the Cairns being sold as Norwich. I found a breeder in FL who I am sure is selling Cairns as Norwich. I turned them into AKC but have no idea if they did anything about it

  • Katherine June 13, 2012 at 1:32 PM

    WOW…. Thank you for the article. Really well done and very informative. I had no idea.

  • Joan Gardner June 13, 2012 at 1:48 PM

    OMG….thanks for opening my eyes….It is hard to believe that AKC would allow this to happen.

  • deb munyan June 13, 2012 at 4:16 PM

    i wonder how to get AKC reps out to breeders of Silver Labs? Silvers are being registered as purebred chocolates. It is long suspected that Labs were crossed with weimaraners to get that silver color. Silver is not an acceptable color & the Lab parent club has denounced silver colored Labs stating there is no genetic basis, yet this practice is still allowed. Silver Labs are ruining the breed.

  • Sarah June 13, 2012 at 10:12 PM

    And how about those red Boston Terriers too, people have to willingly lie on registrations when they choose colors the dog is obviously not and does not nor has not occurred naturally in the breed.
    I’ve called on ads in Hawaii for red/white Boston’s and asked flat out what they put on the papers, of course mostly they hang up on me :)

  • Lydia Hutchinson June 14, 2012 at 6:47 PM

    Thank you, thank you for publicizing this most unfortunate situation. Having been involved with trying to help the Norwich folks for a number of years, I know how frustrating it is for them. Although the integrity of Cairn bloodlines has not been impacted the way the Norwich have, it still is most disheartening. The Board of the Cairn Terrier Club of America has sent a letter to AKC supporting the efforts of the Norwich Club.

  • Theresa June 15, 2012 at 6:35 AM

    Very disheartening indeed. I am an Australian Terrier breeder and through my research for my first Australian Terrier, several years ago, I visited a very undesirable kennel. They are inspected and licensed by the AKC each year. They breed Cairns, Aussies, Rat Terriers, Borders and now Norwich. I wondered how some of their dogs, which looked to me, a mixture of breeds were registered. Now I know how it is possible. This kennel has been reported to the AKC on numerous occasions, sadly, nothing has changed. Thank you for this very informative story. I hope it makes a difference!

  • Colleen June 16, 2012 at 5:49 PM

    Sadly this is not only a problem with Terriers it is rampant in the Pointing Breeds. Performance dogs are often crossed to Pointers and Setter to “improve” performance for trials. It has caused a general breed drift that is very obvious in Brittanys by the change in head shape, body length, and coats. Parent Breed clubs should get on the wagon and hammer AKC to more research and support in this area to protect the studbook and the “real gene pools”

  • Norma Braun June 18, 2012 at 10:41 AM

    So glad we have people dedicated to saving our breed. I was appalled at what has even happening. Thank you, thank you to all involved in getting these dogs unregistered.

  • Dana Esquibel
    Dana Esquibel June 21, 2012 at 5:42 PM

    Thank you, Best In Show Daily, for the great job you did covering this issue. It is something no one thinks could happen. It is too shocking and they don’t want to believe it. Afterall, the mission of the AKC is to register purebred dogs. Unfortunately, it is true. I hope exposing the problems will help bring about changes to prevent more impure dogs from entering the registry in addition to changes to get the impure ones that are currently registered out of the registry permanently.

    Dana Esquibel
    NTCA Registry Integrity Committee

  • Joan Eckert NTCA RIC and NTCA Rescue Chair June 22, 2012 at 1:19 PM

    OMG!! Thank you , thank you, BIS. I am the rescue chair for the NTCA and 95% of what I am asked to rescue are Cairn or Cairn/Norwich mixes. It all comes down to education and the willinness of AKC to expose these millers and the unknowing breeders that doing so much damage to the purity of this lovely breed.. Thanks to Lydia Hutchinson for valadating our plight. And Theresa you are so very right and I know exactly who you are talking about and she is STILL at it! I think AKC is going to HAVE to take plenty of action or completely loose face.
    AKC started with a registry for purbred dogs so I hope they put their money where their mouth is. They have done some but not enough to keep up.

  • Lisa Sons, Norwich Terrier Breeders, Taliesin Norwich Terriers June 23, 2012 at 7:42 AM

    Thank you BIS for taking our issue to the public! I am shocked to hear that this is happening in other breeds and I am beyond disappointed in the complete lack of support from the AKC. The AKC states on it’s web site that one of it’s core values is: “We are dedicated to maintaining the integrity of our Registry”. The AKC needs to put their money where there mouth is.

    I have been telling puppy buyers to challenge these so-called breeders by telling them they want the dog wisom panel tested and if the dog is a mix the breeder will refund their money.

    Can’t thank everyone who has been involved with issue enough!! Thank you, thank you, thank you!!

  • Heather Tomlins June 23, 2012 at 1:12 PM

    As so many above have done – Thank you Best in Show for this informative article. It still saddens me that this is happening but I’m so PROUD of all the folks involved who are working so hard to ‘clean up’ the registry. Articles like this cause people to sit up and take notice, and hopefully realize that there are unscrupulous people out there who do not care about our breed or Cairns!!!

    Kudos to all involved!

    Heather Tomlins (Amblegreen Norwich)

  • Estelle Crawford June 23, 2012 at 5:46 PM

    Wonderful Article, thank you Best In Show for bringing this problem to everyone’s attention. Our NTCA Registry Integrity Committee has been working very hard to clean up our Norwich Registry.

  • Carole Cason June 24, 2012 at 11:44 AM

    Great article! AKC needs to step up to the plate and do the job we all pay for them to do and that is to maintain the integrity of their purebred dog registry. There is no reason for AKC not to accept DNA testing as the solution to this problem.

  • Judy Laffey June 25, 2012 at 5:48 PM

    Thank you BIS Daily for publishing this article. If the main mission of the AKC is maintaining a registry of purebred dogs, how is it that they’ve allowed the integrity of that registry to be compromised? With access to DNA it seems that the solution to this problem would be simple. As a breeder of Norwich Terriers I sincerely thank all those involved with uncovering this fraud, and I am truly shocked to learn it happens in other breeds as well.

  • Lynne Davis June 26, 2012 at 1:41 PM

    Thank you so much for speaking out on issue!!!!!

  • lana cox June 28, 2012 at 6:59 PM

    Thank you so much for this great article. Most show people of other breeds have no idea what has been going on and the general public is completely unaware. I applaud your efforts to shed light on this problem which I have always maintained amounts to fraud, a criminal offense. This is a wonderful breed and deserves to be kept that way. Mixing with other breeds indescriminantly not only destroys the best qualities of the breed, the people who are doing this pay absolutely NO attention to the genetic health of the dogs they breed, spreading epilepsy, breathing problems and other issues found in the breeds they mix with.
    Again, thank you so much.

  • Susan Tarbuk-Moore June 29, 2012 at 7:34 PM

    With applause to BIS. We made a concious decision to own Norwich Terriers 5+ years ago for two reasons: 1) personally the size fit our retirement in that they are very portable, durable and ready to travel 2) most importantly we considered the integritiy of the breed in that the breeders were responsible to the degree that they could be. We felt secure that having Norwich we were completely aware of well documented potential health issues and that every effort was being taken by responsible breeders to test for potential problems and breed out these issues, thus a continuum to an even healthier breed. Seeing some undersireable efforts to substitute mixes for purebred Norwich is clearly disappointing and fraudulant. We would support any effort to resolve the dilemna, however we feel strongly that it would take action by the AKC to be successful. There is no better time than the present to take action, especially in light of cost effective DNA testing. Again, we personally chose to be stewards of purebred Norwich Terriers and are dissapointed to see the underbelly of dog breeding taint the Norwich Terrier Breed.

  • Paula Smiddy K-Town Norwich Terriers July 1, 2012 at 6:31 PM

    I have experienced this problem first hand and have actually helped a gentleman that bought a “Norwich Terrier” from The Breeder Network prove that it was a Cairn/Cairn mix and absolutely no Norwich Terrier in the dog. After seeing the dog in question, and me telling him that is was not a Norwich, he disputed the charge with his credit card and we sent off a cheek swab to the Mars Wisdom Panel which showed that the dog was a Cairn mix. We then submitted that proof and some photos of Norwich Terriers and Cairn Terriers and info from the website to the credit card company. The gentleman was refunded the money for the dog and also kept the dog. The credit card company went after the sellers. It was not AKC registered so we could not get it removed from the registry, but it was still a happy ending for the gentleman, except he still does not have a Norwich. I hope people will not be in such a hurry to find a Norwich and do their homework before purchasing one.

    Thank you BIS for publishing this article.

  • debsheddan
    Deb Sheddan, Kaeva Norwich Terriers, New Zealand July 2, 2012 at 1:31 PM

    I absolutely applaud the effort and dedication by those who have been working so hard to clean up the registry and alert potential buyers to the risks of purchasing these ‘mixed’ Norwich Terriers. I second all the comments made above and hope that this article makes cleaning up the Registry even easier for those who have put so many hours into protecting our breed. Thank you BIS for publishing this article, well done.

  • Fraya Katz, ARIEL Norwich July 12, 2012 at 12:16 AM

    Norwich are a fairly rare and precious breed .Legitimate breeders struggle with small litters, c-sections etc.which makes breeding them an expensive and difficult endeavor.
    Real Norwich breeders love their breed, try to improve it and never think about financial gain because there isn’t any.
    To have someone come along who would pollute our already tiny gene pool and ruin the stud books for money infuriates those of us who love our breed. To have the AKC, whose function it is to guard the integrity of the stud books treat this situation so casually, is even worse.
    One member of the Registration Integrity Committee said that perhaps we needed a new registry. After seeing the comments this wonderful article provoked from breeders of many breeds who were unhappy with AKC’s guardianship, perhaps we do.

  • Leandra Little, Littlefield Norwich April 8, 2014 at 6:29 AM

    Thank you so much for this article which brings attention to a pressing issue in our breed. I have been contacted many times by unsuspecting Norwich puppy seekers who have gone on-line and found these fraudulent breeders. One “fauxwich” producer even had a photo of my long deceased Mazie on their site and were promoting her as their stud dog “Jake.” They had stolen the photo right out of the AKC Dog Book for Kids. I reported them to the AKC for theft and copyright infringement but to my knowledge nothing was done. The AKC never responded to my e-mails.
    The Norwich Terrier Club of America has warnings posted on their website but many prefer a “bargain.” I try to advise inquirers but unfortunately many are fooled. The AKC needs to get tough on this. To send someone to “eyeball” a sire and dam and pronounce their integrity begs the issue when we have DNA as a tool. Whose side is the AKC on?

  • Heidi Evans April 9, 2014 at 4:21 AM

    Thank you BIS for a good article on this subject!
    In the same vein is AKC’s Conditional Registration and for that matter PAL Registration for performance dogs.
    Conditional Registration allows these people a back door into AKC’s Registry. And PAL Registration even though those dogs are spayed or neutered it presents a unfair advantage for Purebred dogs in various performance events. In the case of PAL Registration it is totally unnecessary since AKC has a mixed breed classification in some performance events which could be expanded on. These alternative “Registrations” effects all AKC Breeds.
    AKC needs to listen to breeders and put the “Integrity” back into their registry.

    “Thank you to the Norwich Terrier Club of America Integrity Committee for their tireless work on this issue!”

  • KJ July 19, 2015 at 4:05 AM

    What is the problem? ACK is just a registry that only cares about earning money by registering dogs. But why cannot the Norwich terrier be merged with Cairn Terrier since they look almost identical?

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