A slightly modified tale:
One summer in the village, the people gathered for a picnic. As they shared food and conversation, someone noticed a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel in the river, struggling and yelling. The dog was going to drown!
Someone rushed to save the dog. Then, they noticed another yowling Cavalier King Charles Spaniel in the river, and they rushed in to pull that dog out. Soon, more dogs were seen drowning in the river, and the townspeople were pulling them out as fast as they could. It took great effort, and they began to organize their activities in order to save the Cavaliers as they came down the river. As everyone else was busy in the rescue efforts to save the dogs, two of the townspeople started to run up the shore of the river.
“Where are you going?” shouted one of the rescuers. “We need you here to help us save these dogs!”
“We are going upstream to stop whoever is throwing them in!”
I recount this story because of the great irony associated with a putative act of kindness being done by well-meaning dog owners.
The short story here is that a group of people on a "breeder' Facebook page got themselves ginned up about the fact that an "Amish" puppy mill operation was putting 96 Cavalier King Charles Spaniels up on the auction block.
This was, of course, horrible and someone had to do something, and so "let's raise money," and things spiraled up and out from there.
When the dust finally settled, over $400,000 was raised and all the dogs were purchased "to save them from a horrible life of being caged and bred to death."
Anyone know where this story is going? Get out the Rustoleum -- some irony may be involved!
Let's start with the good news and the good intentions.
The good news is that the dogs -- who are without sin -- were rescued from a very bad situation. Full applause!
Let's also note that all of the people in this rescue effort had good intentions.
In fact, what occurred here is a classic story right out of the Bible.
In the parable of the good Samaritan (Luke 10:29-37), Jesus says that the way to heaven is to come to the aid of those who are battered, hungry, and destitute.
The set up to this story, however, is generally lost due to poor translation.
The Pharisee is not asking Jesus what he should do in any specific situation -- he asking what is good policy?
The distinction is not a small one.
Yes, if you come across a person who is bleeding in a ditch, bind up their wounds and invite them in for a hot meal.
But what are we to do with scores of thousands of people bleeding in ditches? Who has the bandages, the iodine, and the rooms to accommodate them all? What do we do in that situation?
And so we come back to a first movement question: How is it that all those Cavaliers ended up being sold by one puppy mill owner to an auction that catered to other puppy millers?
And what could that possibly have to do with so many of these very same people now riding in to play "Rescue Ranger?"
The answer, of course, is the AKC and their complete and total lack of ethics. As I noted in a previous post about the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel:
It's often been said that Kennel Club breeders are trying to "breed to a picture."
Nowhere is that more true than in the case of the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, a breed cobbled up in the 1920s and 30s to "recreate" the type of lap dog seen in the oil paintings of aristocrats painted by Titian, van Dyck, Stubbs, and Gainsborough.
While owners of Cavalier King Charles Spaniels like to wrap themselves up in the pretension of having an ancient breed related to British royalty, this particular dog was in fact created in the late 1920s and 30s at the Crufts Dog Show. . . .
. . . . The AKC admitted the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel into its "Miscellaneous" class in 1962, and accepted the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel Club of the USA as the official breed club and registering body at that time.
The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel Club of the USA applied several times for full Kennel Club recognition, but was rejected each time, and after a number of years the CKCSC-USA simply decided to move forward without the AKC, creating its own stud book, establishing its own show system, and adopting its own code of ethics. The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel remained in the "miscellaneous" class of the AKC, but this was mostly done to allow those interested in obedience trials to compete in that venue.
Members of the the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel Club of the USA developed their own culture outside of that of the American Kennel Club, and that culture put a significant premium on their own lengthy code of ethics, which members had to agree to in order to join the club and register their dogs.
This code of ethics stated that "the welfare of the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel breed is of paramount importance. It supersedes any other commitment to Cavaliers, whether that be personal, competitive, or financial."
The code of ethics went on to say that members of the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel Club of the USA agreed to not sell dogs to pet shops, agreed to NOT breed bitches before 12 months of age or after age eight, and agreed to never allow a bitch to carry to term and rear more than six litters in her lifetime.
Finally, the breed club's code of ethics noted that "These exists a constant danger that ignorant or disreputable breeders may, by improper practices, produce physically, mentally or temperamentally unsound specimen to the detriment of the breed" and requested that members of the Club consult with other breeders in the club before a mating and to never breed "from or to any Cavalier known to me to have a disqualifying, or disabling health defect."
The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel Club of the USA prospered as an independent registry, with slow but steady growth in it membership. In 1992, however, the American Kennel Club decided that it wanted to clear out breeds that had been in the "miscellaneous" class for many years, and they asked the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel Club of the USA to become the breed club.
There was one caveat, however: The Cavalier King Charles Club Spaniel Club of the USA could NOT make acceptance of a ban on selling dogs to pet stores a prerequisite for dog registration. Nor could they require that breeders avoid knowingly crossing dogs with inheritable disqualifying or disabling defects. If the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel Club of the USA wanted to be the AKC's breed club, they would have to jettison their code of ethics and conform to the AKC's rules which said any dog could and would be registered provided it paid a fee to the AKC and could claim descent from a previously registered AKC dog and dam.
The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel Club USA declined to join the AKC as the parent club of their breed, and so the AKC reached out to a small set of breeders who were a little less ethical and a little more rosette- and cash-hungry. These breeders formed the American Cavalier King Charles Spaniel Club, and this club was waved into the AKC in 1995.
What happened next?
The short story is that Cavalier King Charles Spaniel registrations shot through the roof.
As the AKC's own web site notes, Cavalier King Charles Spaniels were "among the biggest movers" in the last 10 years with a 406% increase in registrations. In fact, Cavalier King Charles spaniel registrations are up 800 percent from what they were 14 years ago, and the Cavalier is now the 25th most popular breed in the AKC (up from 70th 1997) out of a list of 157 breeds in all.
And what has happened to the quality of the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel?
As could be predicted, it has fallen through the floor.
A breed with an already bottle-necked gene pool due to its peculiar history and recent origin, was further choked down in 1995 when the AKC recruited a small subset of Cavalier King Charles Spaniel owners to serve as the foundation stock of their new breed club.
The small number of dogs owned by these breeders is as wide as the gene pool of the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel is ever going to get in the AKC.
And because so many small AKC dogs come from puppy mill situations where sires may be used hundreds of time, and dams may be pregnant nearly all their lives, the gene pool of the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel (never strong to begin with) has contracted very rapidly.
Read the whole post to understand the full history here, and to get a complete run-down of the very serious health care problems associated with this breed.
None of this is the irony part.
The irony part is that a lot of the folks who said "MY GOD Cavaliers are in puppy mills," and MY GOD they are being sold at auction to the AMISH (those people!), are themselves associated with .... wait for it ... wait for it ... the American Cavalier King Charles Spaniel Club.
Yes, that's right, many of the people now swaddling themselves as "puppy mill saviors" are actually dues-paying members of the ethics-free breed club that was knighted by the AKC to represent the breed provided they salute the Devil's Bargain of allowing puppy mill registration and pet store sales.
But wait, there's more.
You see, the mass "rescue buying" of puppies does little more than throw gasoline on to the fire of puppy mill sales and auctions. As I told one person involved in this particular rescue:
You guys were like the vegans who show up with a roll of cash to buy spring lambs. After the second bid, everyone at the auction knows what's going on on. You got played.
This kind of thing fuels the puppy mill business. It becomes legend -- the $220,000 or $400,000 sale that they will talk about for years.
The Amish can get as many Cavaliers as they want, because the people who breed dogs crank them out like goldfish for the bait trade.
The funny part here is that it was a "breeders group" ginning up the money. I have been on a lot of these group boards over the years, and it's a lot of rosette chasers and check-cashers.
And Cavaliers? That breed needs to be completely banned; it's that much of a genetic mess.
People are free to waste their money, but you might look into the role of the AKC when it comes to Cavaliers and puppy mills.
And, of course, the response was simply to say that people could spend their money as they see fit. Which is quite right!
But let's not act as if AKC members are not complicit in puppy mill misery, eh?
The AKC itself says it is economically dependent on puppy mills, and Cavalier puppy mill registrations are a big part of that dependency.
A news story about all this quotes one of the rescuers:
"Between all of us, we got all the dogs. I feel relieved. I was more worried about the ones we [initially] didn't get. We said no Cavaliers left behind."
Leave no Cavalier behind?
That's a good sound bite to use for raising money, but that's not an achievable mission so long as people keep registering their dogs with the AKC.
It's certainly not an achievable mission so long as people rush to every Amish dog auction with big sacks of cash in order to scoop up stock at massively inflated prices.
This is not to say that the folks who were trying to rescue these dogs are bad people. Far from it!
But let us be clear that the folks who are putting all those Cavaliers in the river are not nameless, faceless people who live on roads without names in houses without numbers.
The folks putting all those Cavaliers in the river are not "the odd other" wearing black coats and driving horse-drawn buggies or living in trash-strewn trailer homes jungled up in some hillbilly holler in Alabama or West Virginia.
The single biggest part of the problem is the AKC whose corporate headquarters are on Madison Avenue in New York City.
The problem people here are AKC breeders and ribbon chasers who keep the AKC afloat and look the other way when the AKC itself says it depends on puppy mill registrations to subsidize shows and its corporate headquarters.
This fact is not ancient history or a deeply hidden truth.
The New York Times has written about it, as have dozens of other newspapers and blogs. Major network television shows have done features on it.
And now the AKC is about to do it all over again with the Coton de Tulear which it is adding to its roles for the express purpose of boosting puppy mill registrations.
Once again the AKC has elevated a particular breed club because it is notably ethics-free.
Once again, we shall see a surge in registrations.
Can pump and dump breeders rushing to Amish auctions be far behind?
This is the AKC. This is what your registrations support.