The AKC has launched an American version of the UK Kennel Club's "Assured Breeder Scheme."
The AKC version is called the Bred with H.E.A.R.T. program, and to be included breeders have to have their dogs tested for breed-specific health issues.
As part of AKC’s century-long commitment to advance the health and welfare of all dogs, the AKC has a new program called Bred with H.E.A.R.T. The program gives AKC a new way to engage, encourage and recognize ALL breeders who meet specific health testing standards and who participate in continuing education. Click on the links below to learn more about the specific commitments that an AKC Bred with H.E.A.R.T. breeder makes to the health and well-being of their dogs.
Breeders who sign up and test their dogs will be able to put "Bred with H.E.A.R.T." banners and logos on their web sites, get $5 off per litter on registrations, and get a discount on microchips.
Will that be enough to launch a sea-change at the AKC?
Time will tell, but I doubt it.
That said, is it a good move in the right direction?
With registrations falling through the floor (now down 75%), the question is whether half measures and tepid actions are enough.
When your brand is this badly damaged, is there any saving it?
Does the AKC have a sensible economic model that is actually based on selling healthy dogs as pets, which is what most people actually want?
Up to now, the answer is NO, and I do not think this step -- however much it is in the right direction -- is enough to change that answer.
But let's see what happens.
The program is new and perhaps it will get stronger and better positioned.
Positioning is critical. For example, the new program is not mentioned on the AKC Breeders page at all (as of 7/24/2015), nor is it clear how the lay public is supposed to tell this program from the "Breeder of Merit" program. Perhaps they are not. If that's the case, then this new program is destined to be little more than a fig leaf used for window dressing.
The H.E.A.R.T. name itself is a bit problematic. What does it stand for?
Apparently it stands for "Health, Education, Accountability, Responsibility, and Tradition."
But what does that mean?
Is the AKC saying it is going to be accountable and responsible for producing healthy dogs?
Or are they going back to the old saw: "we only register dogs," which has always been nonsense.
As I have noted in the past:
It is the AKC that mandates that dogs be bred in a closed registry system in which increasing levels of inbreeding are the inevitable byproduct.
It is the AKC that green lights the standards which select for defect and which mean that most members of some breeds suffer their whole lives.
It is the AKC that credentials judges who have no idea of what they are doing because they know nothing about working dogs or even the basics of anatomy.
It is the AKC that gives show dogs zero points for health, zero points for work, and zero points for temperament.
It is the AKC that not only allows puppy mill dogs to be registered -- it goes out of its way to solicit their business, giving them cheaper registration deals, creating special computerized registration programs for them, and even inviting them into their guest suites at Westminster.
It is the AKC that refuses to allow any breed club to mandate health tests as a requirement for registration.
It is the AKC that refuses to allow any breed club to mandate working tests as a requirement for registration.
It is the AKC that refuses to allow any breed club to delay registration until a dog is an adult and is actually proven to look like the breed it is supposed to be.
Will a web sticker change all that? Not a bit of it. And that remains the root of the problem.