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Sunday, October 10, 2010

What’s in a registration anyway?

This is my Forrest Gump, he was a pet store puppy
with an AKC registration and although you can't see it
here, his hips were so deformed he had a hump in the
middle of his back like a camel. His markings and his
personality were beautiful:)

This is a big sound off for me, sometimes I just need that!

When I was a youngin, long, long ago, I was an extremely shy gal who never opened her mouth. (Hard to believe I know!) Even when something didn’t make sense to me, I didn’t speak up and ask questions. Well, my friends, times they are a changin’! I now find myself needing to speak out or find answers that do make sense to me. And if it doesn’t make sense I hop right on the Judge Judy train when she says, it probably isn’t true. I am not an expert in many areas, and don’t pretend to be, but I just can’t let some things go without questioning them.

With all the progress we have made in the dog field, new health alternatives such as acupuncture and chiropractic care, health insurance, recognition that the family dog is indeed a part of the family unit, and the quest for healthier diets leading to better dog foods, there is still one little question, which has lead to many other questions, that is very bothersome to me and has been for a long time.

Has our delusion to create the perfect breed of dog actually done harm to the species? Could we have loved our dogs so much that we actually harmed their genetic markers terribly in the long run? Why are there so many sick or deformed dogs with an American Kennel Club (AKC) registration? A club which once represented that one was getting the best of the best! After all you were paying the price!

To those who are in business of breeding dogs or have show dogs, or those who want quality dogs, they should want to see more than just an AKC registration. They should want to see health certificates for both parents which include hips, eyes, and heart certifications and are usually done around the age of two years old. As well one wants to see a sound health record against breed prone illnesses. They should want to see a champion background and a sound stud or bitch. This I believe was the intent when American Kennel Club first started out. There is no doubt that they wanted to see the best paw of a breed put forth, however somewhere down the line it became impossible to know what each breeder was breeding for or with, or what lengths they would go to get the best looking dog in their breed group.

Tell me, how does a pet store puppy get an AKC registration when we know that 99.9 percent of dogs found in a pet store generally come from puppy mills where inbreeding and lack of care run amuck? Why do I say only 99.9 percent? Because once long ago in my children’s youth, in a pet store on Long Island, I found a puppy that was for sale for $70.00, no papers, no certifications and one that was nothing more than your basic mutt, so I bought it! My friends and family will fondly remember this dog as Maxi, the Chow/ Lab mix with the Elizabeth Taylor eyes.

I don’t believe that the AKC title holds what it once did or what it was intentionally made to stand for when it got its start back in the 1800’s. I also believe this is the case with most breeders. I don’t believe they want to make the perfect healthy breed, but possibly the best looking breed.

I believe that the human race can be a very vain group as we know many of us over the years have been lead to believe that prettier is better, bigger is better, shinier is better, etc. Let’s face it, for many, many years the human race has had health issues because of the prospect of looking better, molding ourselves to be prettier, getting food faster, or looking to make fast money. So why should we expect dog breeding to be different?

But how do you judge reputable? Seemingly if we look at pet stores, any dog can be AKC registered with the exception of those from a litter with a limited registration. How do you know if the breeder you are seeking is truly knowledgeable and caring for the breed itself and not out to make a buck? Even if they care enormously for their breed, does that mean they did it right?

How do you feel about culling? This is done a lot among breeders. Is culling a physically healthy puppy because it does not meet a standard the right thing to do? I say not! For those of you who do not know what culling is, it is the process of removing animals because they do not fit specific criteria for a breed standard. In other words, healthy puppies are being killed simply because they don’t have the desirable traits/markings that they are supposed to according to the breed standard. How sick is that?

When I registered my litter I took seriously the statement from the AKC that I had to keep a record of where my litter went so if AKC called I would be able to tell them who bought the pup and where they were located. I honestly thought that they might call one day! What an idiot! To date I still have phone numbers and addresses of each of the people who took one of my pups. (I also call them now and then or I run into them locally and ask how the dog is doing.) Obviously AKC does not have the same interest in my litter as I do. They did not shed the tears that I did at each pup’s departure with its new family.

So if puppies in pet shops are registered AKC, and we know those pups come from puppy mills, whose minding the store at the AKC headquarters? How can they possibly keep track of all the pups out there being bred and sold?

How about the inbreeding of dogs? Some “qualified” breeders will tell you it is okay to breed father to daughter, son to mother, and brother to sister. They call it “line breeding.” But many scientists will tell you the ramifications when we do this within the human race, yet in the dog world they say it is okay because they call it ‘line breeding’ to get the best of both dogs!
What??? Sorry, but give me a break! I think people are smoking something out there they shouldn’t be!

Once you start mating parents and siblings the greater risk you take of passing a bad genetic marker. My thought is that this has been done so much over time that we are now bearing the consequences of less healthy pure bred dogs. The list of prone diseases per breed of dog continues to grow yearly and mostly among the popular breeds. As of 2009 the Labrador Retriever was the number one dog registered in the USA according to the American Kennel Club. Yet on a well known vet animal website I counted 33 possible or known diseases they could get. They ranged from something as simple as allergies to the debilitating Centronuclear Myopathy which is a genetic trait.

I do admire the whole limited registration that the AKC had put in place a number of years back as it does give the breeder the right in writing to prevent the new owner from breeding the pup they purchased and then have its litter registered with the AKC. It does not however prevent a person from breeding them and registering them with another dog club and still get paid a greater amount than one would get for a standard purebred dog without papers. Thus they can still advertise that a dog has a registration, they just might not say from what club.

Which brings me back to my quandary, what’s in a registration title?

Are we so hung up on titles and prestige that we are willing to risk unsound puppies? By unsound I mean both mentally and physically.

Honest to God my blog originally started out to be about the different registry clubs one could register their dog with and what makes one club sounder than another, but when doing a little research I came upon a very disturbing video which apparently was broadcast on TV. (I’m sorry I missed it!) It does put the same question into play that I have been wondering about for a long while regarding registrations and dog breeding.

Sadly, I don’t think as yet there is a real answer to many of the questions I have, although I am sure some dog breeders would tell you in a mumbo jumbo garble of wording, how they keep track of everything or how line breeding is perfectly legit, but really, until we can take ourselves down a notch or two of always being in need of having great, greater, or greatest, our dogs will always suffer at our hands. It is totally impossible for one club to monitor millions of dog’s that register with it and I am not just talking about physical attributes, but I also mean mental stability. This not only puts the dogs at risk but also innocent humans who believe they are paying a high price for an ‘all around sound dog.’ There are just too many people in the world breeding and selling dogs to ever keep track.

This video to me is concerning and sad, and answers my question, that no one club can certify a million dogs to be sound. Watch at your own risk. It is with a heavy heart as a dog lover and a human being that I post this video put out by the BBC, however it is so important that everyone view it so hopefully much needed changes can be made. I believe this “line breeding” is really just another name for inbreeding, and we should call for an end to it, we should look at each individual breed traits, be happy with them, and not try to change them to our liking. To say this video sickens me puts it mildly.


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