AKC Goal: Working to Reduce the Need for Animal Shelters

Dog lovers all over the U.S. have reason to celebrate news from the National Animal Interest Alliance (NAIA), which recently concluded one of the most in-depth studies of shelter data yet, and found that the number of dogs entering U.S. shelters has dropped to new lows. Digging deeper into the matter, NAIA also learned that only about three percent of dogs in our country’s shelters are purebreds.

The study paints a new picture of the current state of shelters, often perceived as overcrowded dumping grounds for unwanted and indiscriminately-bred animals. In fact, many of today’s shelters must turn to overseas sources to fill a growing demand for rescue dogs, relying on a widespread but little known importation practice called “relocation”.

Fortunately, the evidence points to light at the end of the tunnel for homeless U.S. dogs. But how did it happen? Education about responsible dog ownership has been AKC’s message for more than 130 years, and it seems the message is getting through. Today, more than 83 percent of pet dogs are neutered and microchipping has become commonplace. Here are just some of AKC’s educational initiatives that have laid the foundation for healthy, happy and lifelong relationships with our dogs:

  • AKC’s Responsible Dog Ownership (RDO) Days campaign in the month of September guides the public toward choosing the right pet for one’s lifestyle and understanding the lifelong commitment of owning a dog. RDO Days are “edutainment” for the whole family. Find an event near you this September.
  • Every February, New York City “goes to the dogs,” when AKC Meet the Breeds® brings together responsible breeders and dog lovers for hands-on learning experiences and advice about how to responsibly choose and own a dog.
  • The AKC Canine Good Citizen® (CGC) program, now in its 25th year, is the leading behavior-based dog training curriculum in America. The CGC program upholds positive reinforcement methods to help puppies and dogs achieve important skills to make them the best pets they can be. The program has proven that trained dogs have the best chance of staying with their owners and out of shelters. A recent survey showed that one year after CGC training, 99 percent still owned their dogs. Click here to learn how to train your dog to become a Canine Good Citizen.
  • AKC actively develops and promotes continuing education for purebred dog breeders. Our programs such as Breeder of Merit reward and acknowledge breeders who uphold codes of ethics and routinely perform health tests on their puppies.
  • Through our compliance department, the AKC inspects kennels to ensure that our standards for care and conditions are met before puppies leave for new homes. AKC’s compliance department has been visiting kennels and educating breeders since the 1970’s.
  • AKC advises new puppy owners about spaying and neutering dogs not intended for breeding programs. Read more about the do’s and don’ts here.
  • AKC Reunite is dedicated to microchipping as many dogs as possible in order to keep them safely under their owners’ care and to help reunite lost pets with their owners. AKC Reunite has donated more than $6 million in microchip scanners, disaster relief trailers and search and rescue assistance to communities nationwide.
  • The AKC Canine Partners program offers opportunities for mixed-breed dogs to participate in a variety of AKC events that promote a healthy and active lifestyle.  Designation in the program has increased adoption potential for many mixed-breed dogs.
  • AKC’s nationwide network of not-for-profit dog clubs provides rescue and rehoming services for dogs in need of forever homes. These active volunteers work to ensure that purebred dogs do not languish in shelters but are fostered responsibly, often with assistance from the AKC Humane Fund. Learn more about the AKC Rescue Network.

Continually innovating programs to educate dog breeders and owners has been our most effective tool in the fight to reduce euthanasia in shelters. Though evidence points to the preponderance of mixed-breed dogs over purebreds in a dwindling shelter population, our advocacy is as active as ever because all dogs – regardless of their source – deserve homes with responsible and dedicated owners.