Thursday, September 11, 2008

It Is What It Is

And right now, what it is is BULLSHIT, plain and simple.

Forgive me, but there are times when frustration demands an outlet. And right now my blog is about to get the full venting my frustration level demands. Yesterday I received an email from the American Kennel Club, an entity that has made me more than a little uneasy over the last 3 years with it's apparent decline in ethics and integrity. This email was entitled "September Chairman's Report" and was an epistle from Ron Menaker. A gentleman that I've never met, but who must have his head right straight up his ass if this missive is any indication. I am sure this same report is on the AKC's web site should you care to read it.

For the past few years, all that's been heard from the AKC management is how poor they are; how they're losing so much money; how the organization is doomed if there's not more revenue. This from a nonprofit with over $60 million in their reserve fund. An organization that has its finger in every animal-related retail endeavor it can find. With the September report, Mr. Menaker has increased the level of AKC whining 1,000 percent.

"The American Kennel Club faces enormous challenges in reversing the continuing decline in registrations. Today, we are losing market share at an alarming rate, especially in the retail sector."

"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 don not stop the hemorrhaging of declining registrations, we will no longer be the premier registry in the world, let alone in our country."

Boy, have I got news for him. The AKC is not the "premier" registry NOW. And why is that? Because of the imbecilic behavior of a Board that has abandoned quality for quantity. The AKC has determined that it's more important to register anything that walks than it is to uphold its own mission. Mr. Menaker goes on to say, "Management has been directed by the Board to aggressively pursue all dogs eligible for AKC registration (emphasis mine)." He refers to the registered AKC puppy as the "gold standard". HUH? How can that be when just a few months ago the Board approved the "Administrative Pedigree Research Service" which will very probably include "puppy mill" dogs and/or pets specifically sold "without papers" by AKC breeders? Lord knows, the AKC has already registered THOUSANDS upon THOUSANDS of backyard bred dogs of marginal quality over the years. Somehow I don't think this is what those gentlemen in New York had in mind over a hundred years ago when the AKC was formed out of the Westminster Dog Club.

Back then, dog breeding and showing was the same as horse showing is still today: for the well-heeled who could afford to keep kennels, hire staff, oversee the quality of their dogs. As time went on, the sport became more democratic, but reputable breeders still went to great lengths to insure and safeguard the quality of their dogs. That still holds true today. Quality dogs come from quality breeders. The kind of breeders and owners that the AKC says is its core constituency. Ah, but we know better. We are now just window dressing to make the AKC look good to the general public. Behind the scenes they are going after anything canine to make sure the treasury stays full and black. And they are sacrificing the very people they purport to support while doing it.

Menaker spouts on with the party line: "Our Compliance Program allows us to educate breeders about puppy socialization, genetic health screening, grooming, exercise requirements and adherence to breed standards. This is the benchmark of excellence we expect of all AKC breeders whether under mandatory or random inspections." (Again, emphasis mine.) Ron, Ron, Ron, the crap that flows from your mouth could fill a dozen septic tanks. I really wish that this were true. But I have severe doubts that it is. This is why you guys are in such a panic now. Yes, in 1996, the Board did pass care and condition policies. It was great. But guess what? That's when the rats started jumping the AKC ship in droves; hightailing it to other registries that weren't so tight and didn't demand so much from them. Then, when the handwriting was on the wall (which by the way, didn't ANY of you see that coming?), instead of standing your ground to make sure the AKC brand actually stood for quality and integrity, what did you do? You got a yellow streak up your backs. You started looking at relaxing your standards. And here we are.

"We can and will be aggressive in pursuing all AKC-registrable dogs and do so while upholding our values and high standards." Nope, won't happen. In my opinion you can't have it both ways.

Let's face facts. The face of the dog fancy is changing. Registering any warm body you can find is not going to make those 30 other registries go away. The only way you can hope to be a viable entity in the future is to return to what the AKC used to stand for. Yes, dog show entries will have to go up. Yes, there will be lots of people who can't afford to participate. But when somebody says with pride, "Yes, she's registered and her parents were champions," it will MEAN something and be true. Does the AKC want to be "premier" or does it want to be just another Continental Kennel Club? A laughingstock?

One last thing: ditch New York. Those offices up there are costing major money. You and Dennis Sprung will just have to get used to a more genteel lifestyle in Raleigh.