Tuesday, June 4, 2013

AKC Canine Partner Program: From Morkies to Making a Better Future for AKC?

A Morkie Puppy:
Will AKC "Papers" from Pet Shops Help AKC's Future?

NOTE: This post is part of the Dog Agility Blog Action Day event on Improving Agility Organizations. Once you're done reading, please visit the other posts!

Last week, I posted a discovery that AKC Canine Partnership enrollments can be used by pet shops to to sell puppy mill dogs with "AKC papers". The only condition is an unenforced "promise" to neuter the puppy once it reaches an appropriate age. 

It's not just about mixed breeds: The enrollment can be applied to both unregistered "purebreds" and mixed breeds alike.

The problem? Uninformed buyers easily can mistake the term "enrollment" or "listing" for full AKC "registration". 

The incident that brought to this to light was a relative who described a second hand puppy she had purchased as an "AKC registered Morkie".

On inspection, the papers actually were from the American Kennel Club, not some off brand registry. The certificate came in the same AKC-logo emblazoned envelope that your dog's title certificates arrive in.

At the time I was writing the post, I also made a phone call to the AKC Inspections and Investigations Department. I received a phone call back the next day from one of their representatives explaining the rationale for the AKC Canine Partners Program.

Some of the reasons seemed worthy and valid:
  • The program exposes new puppy buyers to all the activities available to them as an AKC participant.
  • The program supports their development as responsible pet owners through a variety of communications.
  • It offers a coupon for low cost spay or neuter (which is not required or enforced).
But there are some portions of the program that could result in some potentially negative outcomes for both the AKC and its communities:
  • The "enrollment could be intentionally presented as "AKC papers" by unscrupulous puppy merchants to gain a price that is often in the $1,000 range.
  • The uninformed, impulse buyer could misinterpret the enrollment as an "AKC registration"
  • No enforceable neutering requirement could result in litters from these dogs being sold intentionally or unintentionally as from "AKC registered parents".
  • Puppies could be intentionally sold or resold as "AKC registered" by the uninformed or unscrupulous buyer/sellers.
  • The enrollment does nothing to support or protect the quality or origin standards of the puppies.
  • No barrier currently exists for unneutered Canine Partner dogs to participate in AKC Companion events such as agility and obedience. As long as the dog is not "caught," it can potentially participate and even earn titles and championships. AKC participants should not be put in the position of being default "neuter police" for this program.
I was told that the main reason for the Canine Partners program was to help shore up the sagging registration numbers for AKC registered breeds and entries in AKC conformation shows. 
The 2010 AKC National Agility Championship begins:
Agility is the bright spot in AKC growth today.

I understand the dilemma, and as an active participant in AKC agility, I don't wish to see the AKC fail. Instead, I would prefer to see future plans that strengthen both the AKC mission and its real support for the dogs it represents.

For this reason, I made the following recommendations to the AKC representative:
  • Provide a limited enrollment to all unneutered dogs. Provide full enrollment (including ability to participate in AKC events) upon proof of spay or neuter.
  • Shore up the language on the AKC Canine Partner online enrollment form to include language that states that an enrollment does not constitute an AKC registration.
  • Put penalties in place for sellers who are found to be misconstruing AKC Canine Partner enrollments as "AKC papers" or "AKC registration."
  • Include clarification of Canine Partner rights and privileges with owner communications including what the AKC Canine Partner program means and does NOT mean.
I requested these be forwarded to the Advisory Board for the Canine Pet Partnerships program. If you share concerns, I was advised that the best course for agility participants to pursue was to contact the AKC Agility Advisory Committee or AKC Director of Agility, Carrie DeYoung.

To be honest, AKC registration is not a super big issue for most agility trainers and competitors. Being a part of an organization that supports the true well being and future of dogs is. After all, there are other valid and established venues will happily accept our entry fees.

As a growing power within the AKC, the agility community needs to let their voice be heard on how we want this organization to grow. 

If you have further ideas that might improve this program or the future for AKC, leave a comment below.


Julie R said...

As a participant in AKC agility with my canine partner, I want to thank you for bringing this to the attention of the community. I am going to send a message to the AKC recommending the following changes to the program. First, eliminate the cute certificate with the AKC logo and the dog's name and number. Instead, send a simple letter stating, "The following number can be used to enter our events," from the Canine Partner program, without any mention of the AKC. Second, to make enrollment non-transferable to a second owner.

I hope others will send in similar recommendations, and the AKC will make changes to end this deceptive practice by pet stores and puppy mills.

Julie R said...

As a participant in AKC agility with my canine partner, I want to thank you for bringing this to the attention of the community. I am going to send a message to the AKC recommending the following changes to the program. First, eliminate the cute certificate with the AKC logo and the dog's name and number. Instead, send a simple letter stating, "The following number can be used to enter our events," from the Canine Partner program, without any mention of the AKC. Second, to make enrollment non-transferable.

I hope others will send in similar recommendations and the AKC will make changes to prevent this deceptive practice by pet stores and puppy mills.

Anonymous said...

Interesting info, and proof that unscrupulous people will always find a way around regulations. Perhaps changing the language will help guide those pet owners who want to do the right thing. Having achieved a MACH with my Canine Partner, I'm thankful for the opportunity to play in AKC, and glad my region welcomed CPs to all trials.

ViewFr4Inch said...

I am happy that mix breeds can now run in AKC competitions also. I have had them in the past and may have one again someday. The main thing I'm worried about is the potential for misrepresentation and misinterpretation. I think a lot of the issue is not what Canine Partners aims to do, but lack of clarity in how AKC is handling it. If they really want to open up to mixed breeds with no disclaimers, they should do that and be up front about it so everyone has the same understanding. Doing something halfway or in a way that invites deceptive practices (whether intentional or not) serves no one and can even result in unintended harm to dogs and their owners.

Laura, Lance, and Vito said...

While I understand your sentiment, I fortunately can not support the requirement to have Canine Partners neutered/spayed. With most research showing that neutering increases the risk of most serious cancers, responsible owners need to have the right to make an informed decision. People who dog sports tend to be responsible owners and are not the ones letting accidental breedings occur. I know your post focuses more on pet store puppies which the owner is practically by definition an uniformed, impulse buyer. But forcing a spay/neuter requirement will hurt performance people and not even effect the pet store puppy people who will likely do nothing with their registration anyway.

ViewFr4Inch said...

You are right that the main concern I had was with Canine Partners being offered on pet shop puppies at the time of sale and the potential for misunderstanding that can come out of that. I previously was in full support of Canine Partners and even helped with enrollment forms at. CGC test event last week. I also understand what you saying about neutering. The main point is that the Canine Partners requires it, but with no way to enforce it. I would suggest a limited enrollment for puppies until proof of neutering that would then allow a full enrollment. If the AKC really doesn't see neutering of Canine Partners as important, they should do away with the requirement. It's the transparency and clarity of how this is laid out that's in question, not whether to neuter or not to neuter. That's a different question entirely! Thanks for your comment.

afinstrom said...

This is very interesting and something I had not considered with this program.

I recently registered my mixed breed with the AKC for the SOLE purpose of running him in CAT events -- lure coursing. As he is also going to be my agility dog I am keeping him intact for at least two years for health reasons. I may keep him intact indefinitely, again, for health reasons. Studies have definitely shown that the sex organs are linked to a longer life.

I would hate to be denied access to CAT event because of a choice I am making for my dog's health.

Sharon Normandin said...

Agree with "Laura, Lance and Vito" and "ViewFr4Inch", and surprised that the Canine Partner enrollment is being offered by pet stores! Yes, it is unscrupulous and designed to sucker the uneducated, average pet owner into thinking they have AKC registration, and some reason to think their puppy is worth a thousand dollars or more. I don't do AKC agility, nor do I support the AKC in any way, but I had assumed that the Canine Partner enrollment was only available to those who had knowledge of canine sports and wished to participate in the AKC version of such sports. How about maybe the AKC only accept enrollments of dogs at the minimum age for competing in their events? I know that's still something obscene like 12 or 15 months, but at least it would get the puppy mill racket out of the picture.

Jane P said...

I have made the decision not to participate in AKC agility despite it being the venue offering the most trials in my area as I have un-papered intact border collie. I originally chose not to neuter him as I wanted to wait, now he is nearly 4 and he has shown me no reason to have him altered.
I did contact the AKC to see if they would accept a vasectomy as a neuter but they would not. I will not be altering my boy just to compete in AKC we have other option.

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