AKC Inspections and Investigations: 2005 in Review

As AKC Assistant Vice President of Compliance Tom Sharp and Inspections and Investigations Director Steve Robinson sit in Sharp&##8217;s office at the AKC NC Operations Center to discuss what the AKC Inspections and Investigations department has accomplished this year, one could expect to see some signs of fatigue.

Instead, excited faces, enthusiastic voices and a contagious sense of pride fill the room on the sunny December morning.

Continuing the momentum of 2004, during which the Inspections and Investigations department completed 5,000 inspections, the number of annual completed inspections fast-approaches the 5,000 mark once again. Department management and field agents, often called &##8220;inspectors,&##8221; coordinated and carried out an unprecedented disaster relief effort in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. And staff attended, made presentations, and met with thousands of breeders face-to-face at nearly a half dozen breeder association seminars throughout the Midwest.

AKC inspectors work to educate and help breeders.
Arliss Paddock ©AKC

&##8220;Our focus over the last couple years has been increasingly to educate people more about the AKC, better breeding and breeding practices. We focus on helping people improve,&##8221; said Sharp. &##8220;Our inspectors love to be proactive and positive and have taken to this change in attitude like a fish takes to water. And the breeders have embraced it with open arms.&##8221;

It&##8217;s understandable that many people have some anxiety about undergoing any kind of inspection, whether it&##8217;s for your car or luggage at the airport. Getting breeders to embrace a thorough inspection of their dogs and kennels is no small feat. But an emphasis on education and cooperation is succeeding to combat negative connotations and bring about a significant shift in perception and attitude.

&##8220;This July, I experienced my first AKC inspection,&##8221; said Lynne Brinkley, who breeds German Shepherds and Havanese. &##8220;At first I was nervous, since I was not certain what to expect, and our four-legged children and their children mean a great deal to our family.&##8221;

&##8220;Before setting one foot on the ground, our inspector donned disposable, protective boots in order to keep diseases and germs from entering our kennels and house,&##8221; Brinkley added in an unsolicited e-mail sent to the AKC. &##8220;When I saw him take such care and time with just his boots, I gave my first sigh of relief. I could tell that he cared as much about the health of our kids as we did.&##8221;

&##8220;Not only did we pass (the inspection), but we received compliments about our care and concern for our critters as well as suggestions about things we had not previously thought about,&##8221; Brinkley added.

The AKC is unique among the purebred dog registries in the world in that it maintains a systematic and sustained inspection effort to ensure compliance with standards that support the health, safety and welfare of dogs and the environment in which they are maintained. These inspections serve as the cornerstone of the AKC registry by ensuring its unparalleled integrity.

Scores of other breeders echoed Brinkley&##8217;s sentiments. In a survey completed earlier this year of more than 1,300 breeders who underwent an AKC inspection, more than 97 percent of respondents said their overall experience with AKC inspectors was positive. More than 90 percent of respondents viewed AKC inspections, requirements and regulations as necessary to ensure proper breeding practices. And 92 percent of respondents saw the AKC as providing valuable services to puppy buyers and valuable resources to breeders.

&##8220;Inspections are a simple process. Inspectors are courteous and respectful. The system is designed to help breeders come into compliance with AKC policies and regulations,&##8221; Robinson said. &##8220;Every aspect of our inspection program encourages compliance with AKC rules and regulations regarding recording the identity of dogs and the care and condition of dogs and their kennels.&##8221;

In August, while continuing about the work of its daily inspections, the devastation wreaked when Hurricane Katrina struck the U.S. Gulf Coast earned the attention and efforts of the Investigations and Inspections department.

&##8220;Work on Katrina was huge for this department,&##8221; Sharp said. &##8220;AKC coordinated or played a role in at least seven airlifts of dogs out of the disaster-stricken region. AKC sent dog food, batteries, water, crates, fencing&##8230;the list goes on. I don&##8217;t think any one person knows everything we did for Katrina,&##8221; Sharp said. &##8220;So many people in Inspections and Investigations as well as throughout the AKC worked so hard for so many days.&##8221;

While the AKC had been involved in providing disaster relief support for forest fires in California and other events, AKC inspections staff had never before been used in disaster relief efforts, Sharp said.

&##8220;When we found out how bad it was, we saw the need to have people on the ground. We had AKC inspectors on the ground in Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and Florida and knew we could be at the disaster-stricken areas in a relatively short time,&##8221; he added.

Robinson and AKC Companion Animal Recovery Director Jason Miller flew to Louisiana and met John Thomas, an AKC inspector. The three visited animal shelters, met with shelter coordinators and government leaders. Meanwhile, AKC inspectors Chad Jamell, based in Florida, and Chuck Robey from Alabama met and drove together to coordinate similar efforts in southern Alabama and Mississippi.

&##8220;At LSU (Louisiana State University), Parker Agricultural Center was in desperate need of perimeter fencing &##8230; to keep dogs from escaping while being moved for exercise and cleaning&##8230;and to keep the curious public from wandering in and out and possibly taking dogs or cats without permission,&##8221; recalled Susan LaCroix Hamil, an AKC Delegate who volunteered at the shelter hosted by the Louisiana State University vet school. &##8220;AKC was on-site and agreed to donate the temporary fencing &##8230; and to provide follow up to make sure the fencing was in place as soon as possible. By the time I left &##8230; the fence was up, an AKC banner placed on it and everyone was so pleased and grateful to have this security in place to protect the animals.&##8221;

The AKC effectively got people on the ground in shelters to assess needs and offer assistance. AKC staffers made contact with the people running things and got a first-hand account of what was happening. They communicated with AKC staff in New York and North Carolina at all hours of the day and night to get critical supplies delivered to the places that needed it most.

Even before staff was on the ground in devastated areas, local breeders received word that AKC cared and was there to help. AKC inspectors in and near the stricken region started calling AKC breeders soon after the storm.

&##8220;While people in the most devastated areas were without phone service, we were able to reach people in the next band,&##8221; Sharp said. &##8220;We called them and said, &##8216;AKC is concerned about you. We want to help in any way we can. And if you&##8217;re in good shape, could you help board some dogs?&##8217;&##8221;

Inspectors took notes about each phone call and passed the information to AKC office staff who then addressed the needs.

In addition to this year&##8217;s unexpected but necessary efforts dedicated to Hurricane Katrina Relief efforts, AKC Inspections and Investigations staff of 15 inspectors continued to maintain its high productivity level of inspections and the department personnel networked with breeders at a variety of breeder association seminars.

&##8220;Our participation at the breeder seminars gave us the opportunity to tell breeders about AKC services and programs and how we can help them and, more importantly, for breeders to tell us what they would like to see from AKC,&##8221; said Sharp. &##8220;The seminars presented another educational opportunity to take advantage of.&##8221;

&##8220;Our staff does a great job,&##8221; Sharp said. &##8220;Each year we build upon what we have and make it better.&##8221;