AKC eNewsletter

AKC Canine Health Foundation:
A Decade of Research and Helping Dogs

By Jeff Sossamon, AKC Canine Health Foundation director of development

The AKC Canine Health Foundation has awarded more than $13 million to fund canine genetic research.
The AKC Canine Health Foundation was born out of the desire to help dogs. Since its formation in 1995, the AKC Canine Health Foundation has become the world’s largest funder of canine genetic research and a principal force in the advancement of health in our canine companions.

Founded by an initial American Kennel Club contribution of $1.6 million, the AKC Canine Health Foundation set out to “develop significant resources for basic and applied health programs with emphasis on canine genetics to improve the quality of life for dogs and their owners,” according to the Foundation’s mission statement.

In little more than 10 years, the AKC Canine Health Foundation has awarded more than $13 million to fund non-invasive, canine genetic research. More than 275 studies in locations across the nation and world are helping breeders identify carriers of breed-specific ailments.

“Because of our findings and well-deserved high profile in the dog world, the AKC Canine Health Foundation can collaborate with researchers, breeders, individual donors and members of the corporate world who are equally passionate about the health of dogs,” said AKC Canine Health Foundation President Wayne Ferguson.“The founders had the vision and foresight to know that eventually, the genetic research leading to tests and cures for disease in purebred dogs would ultimately identify links and correlations to human research as well,” Ferguson said. “Because humans and dogs share much of the same genetic makeup, it was inevitable that parallels and subsequent human studies would occur. For instance, funding by the AKC Canine Health Foundation led to a landmark $50 million genome sequencing project at the National Institutes of Health.”

Double the Dollars for Dogs

The AKC Canine Health Foundation is accepting endowment contributions from our canine companions. You read right, CHF is now acknowledging donations from our dogs who will be listed on our “Honor Roll of Donors” in magazines dedicated to the fancy such as the AKC Gazette and on the Foundation’s website.

The “Double the Dollars for Dogs” endowment campaign is well on its way to raising funds toward the challenge issued by the American Kennel Club late last year. The AKC kicked the campaign off with a generous $500,000 donation. As the Foundation raises money marked for the Endowment this year, the AKC will match those funds dollar-for-dollar up to $500,000. In all, that adds up to $1.5 million to support the Foundation in perpetuity.

“The Honor Roll of Donors is one small way we can recognize the hard work and dedication of our donors and the financial leadership they show toward eradicating canine disease,” says Nina Schaefer, director, AKC and CHF boards. “What a great way to showcase the contributions our dogs make in our daily lives as well.”

Contributions to the “Double the Dollars for Dogs” campaign can be sent to AKC Canine Health Foundation, PO Box 37941, Raleigh, NC 27627, or you may contribute online at www.akcchf.org.
Foundation-funded researchers are directing the charge against canine cancer. For instance, researchers in California are developing drug therapies and a DNA test that identifies dogs that are more susceptible to contracting cancer. Studies of a bleeding disorder called von Willebrand’s disease led to tests for many breeds that identify dogs that will develop the disease. Also, Foundation-funded researchers have identified genes causing progressive retinal atrophy in Siberian Huskies and Samoyeds as well as genes causing narcolepsy in Doberman Pinschers.

These and other studies have led to faster, quicker tests that give breeders the tools needed to identify affected or carrier dogs and possibly remove them from their breeding stock. For instance, in 1998, Paula Henthorn, PhD, of the University of Pennsylvania developed the test for cystinuria in Newfoundlands. Through CHF funded research, breeders are now able to perform a simple genetic test that will identify whether or not their breeding stock carries the gene for this debilitating kidney disorder.

“In addition to funding research, the AKC Canine Health Foundation distributes published information and educates the public about the initiatives we sponsor and the genetic tools that can help them as breeders,” Ferguson added. “The Foundation shares this news at various Breeders Symposia co-sponsored by the AKC throughout the country. In addition, CHF representatives and our ambassadors (members of the President’s Council) help us communicate with other dog owners and breeders at local shows and during national events such as the AKC/Eukanuba National Championship.”

Foundation affiliates also distribute a wealth of canine health information on the Internet. The Canine Health Information Center (CHIC) provides a source of health information for owners, breeders and scientists that assists in breeding healthy dogs. CHIC provides a reliable source of information regarding dogs that breeders may use in their breeding programs. In the future, breeders can begin to analyze the pedigrees of a proposed breeding for health strengths and weaknesses as well the traditional analysis of conformation, type, and performance strengths and weaknesses. Breeders may access CHIC here. The Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) is another source geared toward helping educate breeders about health concerns in dogs. OFA’s main objective is to collect and disseminate information concerning orthopedic and genetic diseases of animals.

But, this research and education comes with a price. For this reason, creative and traditional fundraising efforts are employed to help support the Foundation’s invaluable work. The Foundation has a strong alliance with Nestle Purina PetCare Company, where, throughout the year, Purina Pro Club members who have declared their participation in the Purina Parent Club Partnership (PPCP) program submit weight circles from the Purina products they use. Pro Club tracks the value of submitted weight circles and, at the end of the year, awards 10 percent of that value to each of the participating AKC Parent Clubs (national breed clubs). The PPCP program requires 50 percent of each of the Parent Clubs’ earnings be donated to the AKC Canine Health Foundation through the CHF donor advised fund. The remaining 50 percent is used by the club for education, rescue or additional canine health research. Last year alone, weight circles accounted for a check in the amount of $189,000 to the Foundation with an equal amount going back to the clubs! This is a pain-free way for breeders to contribute to canine good health. (For more information on the PPCP program, call toll-free (877) PRO-CLUB or visit www.purinaproclub.com).

“In this, our 10th year, we have the opportunity to look back on our success while envisioning what the future holds,” Ferguson says. “We will continue to strive for the identification of only the top researchers dedicated and committed to helping our breeders identify genetic tests and therapies that will improve the overall health of our canine friends.”

  Ronald N. Rella, director, Breeder Services
Theresa Shea, editor | Email: AKCbreeder@akc.org
Customer Service | Phone: 919-233-9767 | Email: info@akc.org

© The American Kennel Club 2005