On Sunday, the first day of the American Kennel Club’s world-famous Westminster Dog Show, the New York Times published a takedown of the club, which we wrote about here. The Times story linked the A.K.C. to bad breeders, including puppy mills, describing how some registered breeders have been charged with animal cruelty, even though the A.K.C. had inspected their operations in recent years.
The next day, the A.K.C. fired back with an letter, charging the Times with using “unsubstantiated, anecdotal episodes to paint a grossly misleading and biased picture of dog breeders who register their dogs and litters with the AKC.”
You can read the rest of the letter here.
The A.K.C. felt that two quotes were particularly onerous, both by ASPCA president and CEO Ed Sayres:
The letter argues that there are no facts, proof, or numbers to back this up. “Both of these statements are opinions that were printed erroneously as fact,” the letter reads.
The article also disputes this line: “As recently as 2010, roughly 40 percent of the A.K.C.’s $61 million in annual revenue came from fees related to registration. Critics say a significant part of that includes revenue from questionable breeders like the Hamiltons, or so-called puppy mills, which breed dogs en masse with little regard for basic living standards.”
The A.K.C.’s letter claims that, “In fact, less than 5 percent of our total revenue comes from commercial breeders who register dogs and litters with us.”
The letter also says that the Times story presented an incomplete picture of the breeders it proflied, who were charged with animal cruelty while selling dogs registered with the A.K.C.
Concerning James and Margaret Hamilton, the A.K.C. says that the Times “inaccurately portrays Hamilton as a high-volume breeder or ‘puppy mill.'” In the letter, the A.K.C. counters that “hoarding is likely a factor in what was occurring as the Hamiltons were clearly unable to part with dogs that they had collected over the years.”
Concerning another breeder, the A.K.C. charges that the Times failed to make the connection between the deplorable state of one breeder’s operation and the fact that police found 200 marijuana plants on the property, “a vocation which likely led to the deterioration of his kennel and his overall ability to care for his dogs in the two years between his last AKC inspection and the raid of this property.”
That’s right: The A.K.C. is saying that it is “likely” that growing marijuana led to one breeder down the road to animal cruelty, within two years. Sorry, but that’s an absurd claim to make without any facts to back it up.
The A.K.C. letter then defends its kennel inspection program, which it says it “spends millions on.” It also seems to put down the bad breeders in the story as simple bad apples in an otherwise good program, saying, “It is important to note that in any enforcement and regulatory program, there will be those who approach the regulated activity with a disregard for compliance with the rules.”
That may be true. But when those breeders show a “disregard for compliance with the rules,” we hope outfits like the Times will cover it, as it did here.
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