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The American Kennel Club
And Other Breed & Club Registries

Probably one of the most misunderstood concepts, when purchasing a puppy, is whether or not the dog is or may be 'registered.'  Just what, exactly, does registered mean and what are those 'papers' everyone talks about?

In order to understand the terms registered and papers, it's important to understand just who and what the American Kennel Club is, when it was founded and how it has changed over the years.

The History of Kennel Clubs

Believe it or not, the showing of dogs was once thought of as a sport. With all its pomp and circumstance, dog showing was originally for the elite and those with money.  The first kennel club originated in Europe in 1859 and its first show, a social affair held by English aristocrats, was hosted for the purpose of raising funds for charity.  During the Victorian era, only the most affluent could afford to breed dogs and those in clubs began not only to document the family history of championship dogs but to also create the standards by which all other dogs would eventually be categorized and judged when exhibited during a dog show.

The American Kennel Club (AKC)

The American Kennel Club began in Philadelphia in 1884 and has grown into one of the largest canine associations in the world.  The Club maintains strict standards as to exactly how each breed is to look and also registers hundreds of thousands of dogs annually for the purpose of documenting the lineage - or family history - of countless litters. 

Unlike the first kennel club of 1859, the kennels clubs of today - including the American Kennel Club -  do not raise funds for charity. The money raised from dog show admission fees, annual membership dues and the registering of commercially bred litters, now pays salaries and, according to the AKC mission statement: 'promotes the sport of purebred dogs and breeding for type and function.'

The Skinny on Registering Dogs

In 2006 the AKC registered over 870,191 dogs.  The basic fee to register a dog with the AKC in 2006 was $15.00.  The AKC easily realized profits in excess of $13,052,865.00 for basic registration fees.  As you can see, registering dogs is big business and kennel clubs have come a long way since their profits were donated to charity.

But Isn't A Registered Dog Better?

A 'registered' dog, or a dog with 'papers' in no way guarantees or indicates that the dog has come from a healthy or show quality blood line.  It simply means that the name of the dog's mother and father are listed somewhere in the AKC registry.  The AKC inspects very few kennels and even fewer litters and, until recently, largely depended upon the honesty of the person completing the registration papers to provide accurate and true information to the organization in order to preserve the integrity of the AKC's 'stud book.'

Upon registering a dog the owner receives a certificate - or 'papers' - that documents the dog's family tree and a confirmation of the registration with the dog club or kennel association. In many ways, papers are like a birth certificate. 

AKC Attempts to Validate the Registry

In the late 1980s the popularity of dogs, and dog ownership, coupled with the dawn of the internet and its ability to convey and communicate information and news, allowed the public access to the workings and details of the commercial breeding/puppy mill industry. The AKC and its approximate 90,000 members quickly realized that their ongoing registry of literally millions of dogs was diminishing the Club's credibility and it was decided that something had to be done. 

In 1998, much to the dismay of those in the commercial - or puppy mill - breeding business - the AKC began requiring DNA testing for all 'Frequently Used Sires.' The AKC began random testing at kennels to insure that entire litters, as well as individual puppies, REALLY WERE the offspring from the bloodline that the breeder claimed them to be.  When randomly tested puppies failed to match the DNA on file, breeders were fined. Large commercial breeders - or puppy mills - who had, in the past, taken advantage of the Club's dependency upon their honesty when completing the registration paperwork were furious, and many, especially those in Missouri, left the Club in droves.

New Breed Registries Begin to Appear

Upon departure from the AKC, large commercial breeders began looking for new kennel clubs so that they might register their litters and puppies and they didn't have to look far. A variety of new breeding registries began to pop up almost immediately looking to capitalize on the registration fees and annual membership dues that were no longer going to the AKC. These registries include:

ACA (American Canine Association)  allows online completion and print out of 'official' health record for any dog

APR (American Purebred Registry)  offers to 'help overcome problems with lost registration papers whatever the reason.'

APRI (America's Pet Registry Inc.)  registers 'those that do not have documented pedigrees.'

ARU (Animal Registry Unlimited)  provides 'a place where all pets and animals can be registered.'
 website is currently hosted on a photo sharing website and not its own domain

CKC (Continental Kennel Club)  links directly to known puppy mills

FIC (Federation of International Canines)  willing to register any dog

NAPDR (North American Purebred Dog Registry)  links directly to puppy mills

USKC (United States Kennel Club)  no known website - complaint regarding club may be found online

WKC (World Kennel Club
links directly to known puppy mills - possibly run by one individual

WWKC (World Wide Kennel Club)  a family owned association recently relocated to New York

At both pet shops and puppy mills, it's not unusual to find an assortment of dogs registered with a variety of the above relatively new registries and this should be one of the first indicators that you're not dealing with a reputable breeder.

Commercial breeders - also known as puppy mills - have long depended upon the American public's gullible nature and belief that a registered dog is somehow better than an unregistered dog and this is simply not true.

Is the AKC About Dogs or Money?

In September of 2006, the AKC, having realizing a tremendous financial loss since implementing of its DNA policy, decided to strike a deal with PetLand - one of the largest pet store chains in the nation that sells puppies - from the largest puppy mill in the United States - The Hunte Corporation in Goodman, Missouri.

Individual AKC members and local AKC chapters across the nation voiced their discontent with the Board's decision to engage in this newly inked deal much so that the AKC eventually had to renege on its arrangement with PetLand/Hunte Corp but not in time to prevent a public relations disaster.  Even with the deal now dead, it was too late; the damage was done and the AKC name was further soiled by it's intention to collude with both a well known puppy mill and a pet store infamous for obtaining dogs from puppy mills across the nation.

Interested in seeing exactly which dogs were registered by the AKC in 2006?  Click HERE

The Bottom Line

Unless you're planning on showing or breeding a dog, both of which are lifestyles - not hobbies, the papers you receive from a commercial breeder or a pet store have about as much value as those already read newspapers you plan on using when house training your new puppy.  Additionally, and unless you have actually seen
the mother and father of a puppy WITH YOUR OWN EYES, you have absolutely no idea where the dog is from and, more than likely, if you're buying from a pet store, the dog was born at a puppy mill.

Those who have given considerable thought to showing and breeding and wish to pursue these choices should attend several professional dog shows, take the time to talk with owners of champion and show dogs and then ask for a referral to a reputable breeder versus going to a pet store or responding to a newspaper or internet advertisement.  Reputable breeders usually don't have puppies immediately available and you should expect to have your name placed on a waiting list in anticipation of the next litter being born.

Please Consider Adoption

Every year millions of companion animals are euthanized, usually through no fault of their own, due, primarily, to homelessness. It would be a mistake to believe that all dogs who are surrendered or rescued have behavioral or medical problems. Shelters and rescues house many dogs who may have become lost or who were surrendered for a variety of reasons including the death of the owner, allergies, the birth of children or an employment relocation.

Filled with an assortment of wonderful dogs - including many purebreds, shelters and rescues should never be discounted when considering the addition of a pet to the family.  Without a doubt, there are many advantages to adopting a dog who has graduated from 'puppyhood.'  Many times housebreaking skills and basic commands, such as sit and stay, have already been mastered allowing you to spend more quality - versus training - time with your new friend. If you're having difficulty adopting a pet, don't know where to go, or are seeking a specific breed, click HERE to contact us and we'll be happy to help.