Saturday, March 28, 2009

Battery Cage Dogs are the AKC's Cash Machine

ABC TV's Nightline program will be featuring a "state of the art" puppy mill tonight.

Some promotional video is up right now, however. Check it out.

The owner of this establishment is correct, in that he is running a state-of-the-art commercial dog breeding facility with a high-tech waste management system.

This is what a pretty good commercial dog breeding facility looks like: Small dogs (toy breeds and terriers) raised like chickens in battery cages.

And, for the record, this is what the AKC wants more of ... provided they are all AKC registered puppies, of course.

And why does the AKC want more commercial facilities breeding AKC dogs?

Simple: it needs more commercial kennel registrations in order to subsidize dog shows, which are not paying their way.

In the minutes of the September, 2006 AKC Board meeting (link to PDF file), Ron Menaker notes that the AKC has been registering puppy mill dogs "for the past 122 years" and "we have collected millions of dollars" as a result.

In short: Get over it!

And why does the AKC snuggle up to the puppy mill industry?

The Board of the AKC is rather blunt about the problem: though the AKC made a profit of several million dollars last year, it is not enough, as registration numbers are trending sharply downward and "events" are costing millions more than they are bringing in.

"Events," of course, is a euphemism for dog shows.

In short, because rosette-chasing is a money-losing proposition for the American Kennel Club, they need more puppy mill registrations in order to subsidize dog shows.

As recently as September of 2008, AKC President Ron Menaker wrote:

Today, there are at least 30 All-Breed registries in addition to the AKC, whose combined registration numbers exceed that of the AKC. If this trend is allowed to continue, if we do not stop the hemorrhaging of declining registrations, we will no longer be the premier registry in the world, let alone in our country.

Management has been directed by the Board to aggressively pursue all dogs eligible for AKC registration....

.... AKC used to dominate the marketplace. Even places like Macy’s and Gimbels sold AKC puppies. Many pet owners who bought these puppies, and I was one of them, tried their hand at showing and breeding. These owners who purchased their first purebred from a retail outlet, not only added to AKC’s registrations, but those who wanted to advance in the sport, then sought out fanciers to continue their

....Last year less than one half of our revenues came from registrations. Dog registrations peaked at 1.5 million in 1992. By the end of 2008 it is projected we will register only 725,000 dogs. This is a staggering 53% decline....

.... If the current trend continues and dog registrations decline to 250,000 over the next several years, AKC will face an annual revenue shortfall of $40 million. To put this in perspective, if this scenario occurred, and we relied solely on raising the event service fees to make up for this revenue shortfall, the fee would be a staggering $20 per entry.



Gina Spadafori said...

What would happen if the cost of putting on a dog show was fully covered by the entrants? (That's true in the case of hunt tests, by the way, where entries are $70ish per dog for maybe 10-15 minutes of competition time.)

Right now, dog show entries fees are chump change compared to the cost of campaigning a top dog with the professional handler. ($25 entry, of which the AKC gets a fraction for a "recording fee. Handler fee? $75-$100, more if the dog wins the breed, the group or goes Best In Show, plus boarding for every day your dog is with the handler, plus covering your share of the pro's travel expenses, not just gas but also dry cleaning.)

So what if the AKC charged $25, in addition to the $25 the hosting club charges? Still cheaper than having a professional handler on your dog.

I say have the shows pay for themselves. Fewer competitors? Good ... fewer "cheap champions." More owner-handlers? Good ... fewer dogs given top honors because of who's holding the lead.

Maybe the changes would help the AKC restore the "brand" the way it wants to.

Signing up more puppy mills isn't going to do that, even if the "nice" stores put the misery pups back in their windows.

Anonymous said...

Battery cage dogs?

I wonder what this "state of the art facility" does with its waste. There are huge sections of rivers in the Midwest and North Carolina that are covered in algae blooms from these wastes.

PBurns said...

A battery cage is normally used for chickens (quite literally a bird-brained animal), but in this case it fits for dogs as well. As the Wikipedia (yeah, I know, but let me be lazy once) article on battery cages notes:

_ _ _ _

"An early reference to battery cages appears in Milton Arndt's 1931 book, Battery Brooding, where he reports that his cage flock was healthier and had higher egg production than his conventional flock. At this early date, battery cages all ready had the sloped floor that allowed eggs to roll to the front of the cage, where they were easily collected by the farmer and out of the hens' reach. Arndt also mentions the use of conveyor belts under the cages to remove manure, which provides better air control quality and eliminates fly breeding.

"Battery cages were an extension of the technology used in battery brooders, which were cages with a wire mesh floor and integral heating elements for brooding baby chicks. The wire floor allowed the manure to pass through, removing it from the chicks' environment and eliminating manure-borne diseases."
_ _ _ _

So there you go; dogs crowded into cages, wire floor, poop removed from the below, and the only thing described as healthier for the animals and good management too. Any different from what we see from this "state of the art" puppy mill? Not much. Actually, just about none at all.


FrogDogz said...

Patrick, you should what was just sent to me - minutes of the most RECENT AKC meeting, which have not yet been released to the public. Unbelievable as it sounds, the AKC plans to set up a 'registry' for cross bred dogs.

The minutes should have been out by now, but are only trickling through to a few of us. I think this will be the AKC's death knell - why pay their outrageous fees, for a registry that will effectively be no different than the Continental Kennel Club?

I'll send you a copy of the minutes later in the week. They make for amusing reading.

Pai said...

A 'whopping' 20$? How stingy are these people?

Maybe if they downsized their ridiculous HQ and over-the-top fancy shows like Westminster they could keep some more of the profit.

babysweet said...

Gina - good point - but what really needs to happen is that the remainder of the breeders (I believe the estimate is 75%, no?) needs to boycott registration until the AKC requires some kind of ethics reform.

And no worries - once they cave, they will happily register last year's litters. $$$$$ Ah, well.

Gina Spadafori said...

Pai ... the AKC doesn't run Westminster. The Westminster Kennel Club does. I believe the AKC gets the same per-entrant fee for Westminster as for the Podink, Nowhere, show.

Now, the AKC/Eukanuba Invitational ... that's different. That's the AKC's.

Also ... they long ago downsized, moving most of the operations to Raleigh, NC.


That crossbred registry ... wow. Great way for the AKC to dip its beak into the puppy-mill Puggle trade.

HTTrainer said...

There is a company in Oregon that is holding breed shows under the name of IABCA in several venues across the country. The entrants compete for an "International" Title. There are winners and what AKC American breed champion can compete against this "International" champion.
Some of your readers may have heard of their European style judging program. NO competition against champion dogs in another country, just your locals showing in another show ring. The parent company is the Union Cynologie International, not the FCI.
I am willing to bet the AKC will approach this group, include this another title and soon all dogs imported from the puppy mills of Europe and eastern Europe will be eligible for AKC registration, too.
Dogs be damned, full speed ahead.

Justa GWP's said...

AKC does not put on dog shows, or hunt tests, nor field trials. Clubs do that, it may be a single breed club, or a multi breed club.

That club makes all the income (or takes the loss) from it's show and then pays AKC a fee per dog to keep the records.

It's true AKC registers puppies from some very nasty places, but not nearly as many as in the old days. Many of these sub par breeders have opened their own registries, mostly to avoid having AKC come and inspect their facilies. Good riddance and I am not sad to see that income gone.

How about going after some of those registries? Why isn't Nighline investigating them?
Bernee Brawn
Justa GWP's

PBurns said...

Just GWP's:

The AKC's logo is right on the ribbon, the AKC collects the per-entrant licensing fee and sets what that fee is, and the AKC sets all the rules for how the shows are run. Pretty hard to say that the AKC is not running the show!

And since Nightline did not mention the AKC in this show, I guess you are simply leaping to the conclusion that these are AKC dogs. You are probably correct, but not necessarily so. In fact, many of these commercial puppy mill breeders which the President of the AKC seems to be so enamored with (he says he remembers fondly the good old days when puppies were sold in department stores) are dogs that could be registered under the AKC, but for a few dollars less the breeders will register them with any registry you want.

Since the AKC has no health care standards for its dogs (many AKC breeds are actually LESS healthy than mutts), and since most people are not intersted in breeding, no one really cares if they get AKC paper or any paper. What's the paper good for unless you have a parrot cage to slip it into? Beats me! It is certainly not a sign of a healthy dog or a quality dog or a quality breeder. And that is why AKC registration are down 55% in the last 15 years, and why they continue to decline -- because AKC is meaningless. All it means is that the owner has an ego that needs a ribbon.


HTTrainer said...

For Gina: The AKC may not run Westminster but look at it the other way around without Westminster there would be no AKC. Go to the WKC site find "about wkc" on top and go to "Past presidents and show chairs", look who was show chair from 1990 to 2001.

Heather Houlahan said...

Re: the mixed-breed registry

This has been in the works for a while.

What I saw earlier was not an APRI-style mutt "registry," but an expansion of the ILP type program to frank mutts.

This is so they can get the mixed dogs into their agility, rally, obedience events and kill the traditional open-to-all-athletes venues.

Last I heard, they were trying to work out how to keep the mutts and rare breeds in the back of the bus -- sure, you can compete, but not for the top titles, or at the top venues, or in separate classes. Not sure what they decided.

Of course, the impure would have to be sterilized in order to compete.

I'm quite concerned about the effect on athletic non-AKC breeds. Once the open-to-all competition venues are killed by Walmart tactics, dogsports-oriented owners will be heavily pressured to sterilize their dogs if they want to continue their hobby.

I know of a genetically diseased (epileptic) dog that is being kept intact because the owner wants that championship. That's just one face of the insanity that is the dog show system. The opposite "gentle coercion" -- you can't play your sport until you sterilize your impure dog -- is no less mad.

yucatec said...

Dear Patrick,

The true costs of sheepdog trialing are travel costs and time away from job/work/family.

Entry fees for the Edgeworth trial you visted were $35 per open dog per run. That's typical in the US and Canada. From each entry $2 goes to the USBCHA which sanctions trials. This money (the USBCHA has no paid employees) funds the National Sheepdog Finals. ABCA (the registry) has three paid employees and returns a percentage of every registration fee to the district where it originated for trials, clinics etc. It also funds and provides the prize money for the Finals.

Donald McCaig

Viatecio said...

Regarding the clip online:

If this is a "State of the art" kennel, then what is defined as a "puppy mill"? The cages did not look overcrowded, the dogs were wagging their tails and happy to see the people, and the clean presentation of the kennel doesn't really lend itself to the standard Triple-D ("Dirty, Diseased, and Dead dogs") definition of a traditional puppy mill. While I do question the whole "I don't let them outside because it's inhumane and they can get sick" argument, I have no doubt that the dogs are well-cared for and cared about.

I take issue that they decide to tour a "licensed" kennel, that has a clean facility and good presentation. I think of it like gun control: if you make legislation to restrict gun ownership, then the good people will be disarmed and the criminals will just continue to run amok. If a kennel truly is unlicensed (such as the ones featured on the Oprah show as well as the ones mentioned in the clip who debark dogs and keep upwards of 500 of them in one barn), then how will they be weeded out and who will turn them into authorities? Not every kennel or rescue has the privilege of being as clean and spotless as the white walls in the Main Line Rescue facility.

I don't want it to sound like I'm standing up for puppy mills and commercial kennels, but I'm seeing a vast discrepancy on how they're being labeled. If a puppy mill is simply meant to be a place where dogs are bred over and over, then why don't we say so and eliminate the stereotypical mental images that are associated with such words? Or why not have the USDA stand up for those kennels that they license, that those kennels are somehow better than ones shown on the news under the "Puppy mill raid!" label? It's no wonder there's such an ethics battle when the lines really can't be drawn because they're all over the place.

PBurns said...


Absolutely Don!

Believe it or not, I have actually shown dogs in the AKC and done AKC trials too. A long time ago!!

Your point is exactly what makes the AKC's position so silly. They have people traveling great distances, putting out for gasoline, wear and tear on cars, time away from work, time out of life (God ain't making any more of that!) hotel accomodations, meals out, etc. (to say nothing of all those who pay professional handlers), and their idea of how to handle their financial problems and collapsing registration base is puppy mills? It's insanity on stilts unless it's a religion, in which case insanity is supposed to be givenn a pass, because we are supposed to check all logic and observation and simply nod while mumbling that "Father knows best." The border collie trials are run as they should be -- like the JRTCA, I would offer -- and are proof that you do not have to wink at puppy mills in order to keep things going. Of course that office on Madison Avenue is not free, is it?


PBurns said...

You are asking a good question Viatecio.

What exactly is a "puppy mill"? Do the dogs have to be diseased?

Or is it enough that the dam and sire are kept in a cage their whole life and "bred until dead"?

Do we have an obligation to give dogs a stimulating mental environment, or is enough to simply give them food and water?

How much space is necessary?

Is it OK to raise dogs in the kind of cages we would nornmally reserve for chickens?

You saw cages that did not look overcrowded. I saw crowded cages.

Is the glass half full or half empty?

But perhaps that is the wrong question. As a friend of mine put it, he hardly cares if the glass if half full or half empty if there is a turd floating in the water glass! And so, with that in mind, let's ask ourselves this: Do we want dogs raised in cages at all.

And, at what point is a "kennel run" simply a large cage? How big does it have to be to be OK, and how often does the animal get let out of it?

A dog in a solid-floored kennel run that is let out for a long jog in the park every day is one thing, I would argue, but it is quite another when the dog is never let out, is rarely handled, and has never felt grass (or even a solid floor! beneath its feet.

But I recognize different people will draw the line at different places.


Heather Houlahan said...

I find the cage normally reserved for chickens unacceptable for chickens.

Spend a little time with mentally normal free-ranging hens like mine -- see how they spend dawn to dark scratching, foraging, exploring, interacting, busy busy busy birds. How they like their nests just so. How they get crabby and bored when they are cooped (with over 4 sqare feet of floor space per bird -- 3 times the commercial standard for lifetime confinement -- plus deep litter, scratch grain, kitchen scraps, and a cabbage tetherball for entertainment) for even a day during bad weather. The pleasure they show in dustbathing, roosting, inept flying, and all the other avian pleasures. And then tell me that it is perfectly okay to deny them outlets for every single natural behavior and instinctive motor pattern, cram them into wire crates for two years of egg production, until they are spent.

The contrast between the life of a well-cared-for pet and puppymill breeding stock is just about exactly as stark. One difference is, a dog -- not even a setter -- cannot live for several months without a brain.

A clean, gleaming, automated puppymill that is duly licensed and passes inspection is every bit as much of a hellhole for the dogs who never leave their cages as anything featured on Animal Cops.

It is also every bit as unacceptable as a way of producing puppies who are to live in homes with people. Seriously, you really do not want that puppy. It has not had the benefit of a normal developmental environment; nor can anyone determine anything meaningful about its parents' temperaments.

Filth and physical neglect and disease are, to some extent, red herrings.

The abuse is inherent in the business model. Bleach is a possible element of good husbandry; it is not the definition of it.

cat said...

be entertained

FrogDogz said...

What I saw earlier was not an APRI-style mutt "registry," but an expansion of the ILP type program to frank mutts.

This is something different - an actual 'registry'. I'm digging for the minutes as we speak...

Caveat said...

Around here, the standard entry fee is $25 per dog (CKC). I believe entering for exhibition only (neutered dogs, non-show dogs) is $20 but it might be $25. I've only done it a couple of times to support the CKC charity show.

So, $20 is hardly astounding and as Gina points out, handlers average $80 per dog per day.

Maybe some owners should take some handling classes, it ain't rocket science. That might end the corruption whereby the most popular handlers (who bring in the most dogs) usually win, regardless of what's at the end of the leash.

We have one show where pro handlers used to be barred from participating - much more fun in every way. I think they scrapped the policy though, which is too bad.

As for the AKC being the premier registry in the world, I would think FCI would hold that title but to be honest I'm not 100% sure.

Lisa said...

What is the real cost base of a true "fancy" -- for people who breed and show their dogs in conformation, agility, obedience, etc? What is the true cost of maintaining a breed registry and keeping track of points. How much would entry fees need to be for that?
What would the entry fees need to be if the AKC didn't have to pay for the masses of puppy mill dogs it registers? Or pay for the inspectors to inspect the mills? Or pay for the lobbyists to fight against any legislation aimed at the mills? Lobbying is really where their $$ is going because we know the AKC isn't spending much on inspections or monitoring the mills. So, if one were to look at the true cost base needed to support the fancy, the AKC's business -- their costs and revenues needed to cover the costs -- would certainly be a lot smaller. And then the AKC is worried that they would become "irrelevant". Fact is, they already are irrelevant because nobody is going to them for information. The Fancy would be much better off flying under the radar -- like other purebred organizations such as the UKC, ASCA, etc. -- rather than trying to align with the mills. The mills will be the death of the AKC. The writing is on the walls.

Barb said...

I keep hearing that the AKC loses money on events, but I'm not sure how they are losing money.
For conformation shows, obedience trials, agility trials and tracking trials (these are the events that we compete in so are the only ones I am sure about) the club hosting the event pays for the venue, and the judges, and the stewards, and the show secretary or superintendent, and the ribbons, and the equipment, and the insurance. The entry fees are supposed to cover all of this (and usually do) with a small portion of each entry fee going to the AKC as a recording fee. Which is supposed to pay the expense of the data entry and record keeping. If the recording fee isn't covering the costs, raising the fees again wouldn't be that difficult I wouldn't think. As others have pointed out here, the entry fees are always the least of your expenses when you show dogs. But it doesn't have to be a highly expensive hobby - we usually stick to local shows and trials and we handle our own dogs.

Linda said...

Didn't catch how to contact you privately, but thought I'd share this with you:

Another breed about to be threatened by "recognition" by the ACK.

Viatecio said...

I know I'm late to the party with this comment, but it needs to be said.

On the video (sorry, I know nothing about AKC shows and whatnot, so I'm just keeping my comments related to what's at hand), they show a clip and tell you how the dogs are kept in "chicken-wire" cages.

Do take a second look at the cages and call that "chicken wire." As mentioned, chicken wire mesh by itself would not support the weight of dogs, plus it would make paws look MUCH worse than that one GOlden's (at the end). Instead of being perfectly smooth, the weight of the dog pressing onto the thin wire would show a horribly cut-up paw...I don't see that. I see dogs kept in appropriate-sized (in terms of wire gauge) cages and floors that seem to be some type of epoxy-coated metal that is not bending or bowing under the weight of the dogs, which is something that chicken-wire mesh would be doing because it is not meant to hold that kind of weight.

Also take a look at the cages in the clip when the woman is telling how the cages are stacked on top of each other, "so that the dog's waste falls into the cage below."

PAUSE right around 31-33 seconds (or anytime really) and in Exhibit 2, please notice how each cage has a black pan below it meant to catch waste and make cleanup that much easier. I do not see any waste accumulating in the cages, nor on any of the dogs.

Again, I'm being nitpicky and not meaning to stand up for puppy mills or condone keeping dogs in cages their whole lives. I'm just sick of the mindless propaganda that can't stand up to what the images show. If these small nitpicks can be countered just by watching the clip, what else are they telling us that isn't true?

Again, keep in mind that these are mostly "licensed" kennels MainLine is visiting. I have no doubt that far worse things go on in the 500+ dog barns, but where is the video to prove it? I'm sick of hearing emotionally-charged empty words that actually might turn out to be incorrect!

PBurns said...

I am not sure there is an "appropriate-sized wire gauge" for the floor of a Kennel.

Also look at 6:42 and 6:46 and you will see that the waste does fall straight through in the built-in cages (there is a small hard surface for the dogs to get off the wire).