American Kennel Club Criticized for Connections to Bad Breeders

Pressure mounts as more A.K.C.-registered breeders are charged with animal cruelty.


The American Kennel Club is the place to go to register purebred dogs, and it’s also the governing body for dog shows, including the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, which is currently in New York.

But some breeders who sell dogs registered with the club have been raided by police on animal abuse charges, and critics believe that the Kennel Club does not do nearly enough to inspect breeders it supports, according to a startling expose in the New York Times.

Take the example of Margaret and James Hamilton, described as a “dog power couple” in the story. Margaret was a breeder and a dog show judge who owned prizewinning Chihuahuas. James was prominent member of a local A.K.C. Rottweiler club.

Yet in 2011, according to the story, police “found 38 dogs that were under James’ care, mostly Chihuahuas, living in small crates filled with fur and feces, the cages stacked on top of one another in a dark basement, according to court documents. A radio was blaring, drowning out the sound of barking, and many of the dogs were malnourished and had eye diseases and overgrown toenails, according to investigators. Thirteen dogs were euthanized the night of their rescue because of incurable health problems, including severe periodontal disease.”

“It was a Silence of the Lambs scene down there,” Kim Koon of Pasado’s Safe Haven said. “Those animals were in horrible shape.”

That same day, police seized 62 dogs from the Hamiltons’ residence in Issaquah, WA. One was later euthanized.

The A.K.C. acted swiftly, stripping Margaret of “all A.K.C. privileges” including judging and fined her $2,000.

According to the Times, critics say that the A.K.C “is lax in performing inspections and that it often lobbies against basic animal rights bills because they could cut into dog registration fees,” which make up roughly 40 percent of the A.K.C.’s $61 million annual revenue. “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.”

One of those critics is the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

President and and chief executive Ed Sayres said a majority of the commercial breeders in the raids the ASPCA has participated in “have had ties to A.K.C.-registered litters.”

“The irony to the consumer is that they’re paying a lot for a fake Rolex,” he said, adding that some of the dogs are “genetically compromised” and come from “traumatic environments.”

Puppy mills? Traumatic environments? When you went with a breeder that registers dogs with the A.K.C., that’s not what you signed up for, is it?

The A.K.C., meanwhile, disputes the allegations, and says that it is not a law enforcement agency and can’t be responsible for all breeders, but it is “proactive in ferreting out animal abuse,” says Lisa Peterson, the communications director for the A.K.C. The group has nine field agents who inspect breeders.

The Times story goes on to give examples of breeders who were shut down after raids, with one owner even sentenced to prison, despite repeated inspections by A.K.C. field agents in previous years, who found the kennels “in compliance.”

A.K.C.’s associations with low-quality, high-volume breeders are causing some people to distance themselves from the group. Will you be next?

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