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Back in 2008, I noted that Ron Menaker, Chairman of the AKC, was worried about the 20-year collapse in AKC registrations. In his Chairman's report to the AKC board, he noted:
“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.”
Right. Boost entry fees, because collapsing AKC registrations is only a revenue problem, not a problem that reflects a fundamental change in how Americans see dogs and themselves, or a rejection of the sick and inbred animals that are selected for defect and celebrated by the AKC.
Over at The Canine Chronicle, the web site of the show dog set, Lisa Dubé Forman notes that
"AKC’s 2011 Annual Report citing registration revenues were $2 million (8%) less than 2010 which was 563,611."
In fact, I have been told privately that AKC registrations have now fallen below 500,000.
But is that fact being shared widely with the show dog set?
Nor is the data being presented in an honest fashion. As John Mandeville notes in the March 30, 2012 issue of Dog News:
The AKC continues to add new breeds in order to shovel sand against the tide, but still the overall numbers fall, and at a precipitous rate.
When new breeds enter the AKC, their gene pools are often small and that gene pool is further reduced through sire selection. What follows next is as predictable as gravity: increased rates of disease, and eventually a serious health disorder named after the breed itself. As I noted on this blog back in 2006:
And yet inbreeding is not an option with the Kennel Club -- it is required. The option of outcrossing a Lakeland Terrier to a Fox Terrier is not possible within the confines of a closed registry, nor is the crossing of a Curly-coated retriever to a Flat-coated Retriever, or a Greyhound to a Saluki.
Along with an increase in the incidence of serious genetic problems within a closed-registry population, you have other problems that may not be clear to an individual pet owner, but which become obvious to those studying canine demographics: increased neo-natal mortality, shortened lifespans, and increased infecundity (dogs that are sterile or barren). All of these characteristics are endemic to deeply inbred populations, and are showing up with increased frequency in the Kennel Club.
Of course, as I have observed in the past, the AKC cannot easily change its ways and, as a result, is more likely to go extinct than to embrace reform:
Why then has the Kennel Club not changed its policy?
The short answer is economics.
The Kennel Club is a huge money-making bureaucracy dependent upon selling people on the "exclusivity" of a closed registry and a scrap of paper that says a dog is a "pure breed". So long as people are willing to buy Kennel Club registered dogs that have predictably higher chances of serious physical impairments than cross-bred dogs, the Kennel Club (and Kennel Club breeders) have little motivation to change the way they do business.
Let me hasten to say that the Kennel Club is not filled with evil people intent on doing harm to dogs. It is, in fact, filled with regular people who are different from the rest of the world only in the degree (and the way) they seek ego-gratification and are status-seeking.
This last point is import: the Kennel Club is not primarily about dogs. Dogs do not care about ribbons, pedigrees, titles, and points. These are human obsessions. The reason a human will drive several hundred miles and stand around all day waiting for 10 minutes in the ring is not because of the dog, but because the human needs that ribbon, that title, and that little bit of extra status that comes from a win.
Unwittingly adding sauce to this line of thinking is Lisa Dubé Forman over at The Canine Chronicle who does not suggest that the AKC could produce healthier dogs, but instead suggests the AKC could change its shows in a way that would result in twice as many ribbons being handed out!
Well yes, they could do that, and I actually do salute the notion of getting rid of professional handlers.
That said, where is the DOG in that equation? Nowhere! Where is the pet owner in that equation? Nowhere!
And, of course, if things keep going as they are, that is exactly where the AKC will be as well, and I can hardly wait. Every dinosaur has its day, and at the AKC that day is approaching with speed!