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General Statement Regarding Stakeholder Discussions of AWA Priorities

Founded in 1884, The American Kennel Club is the world’s largest purebred dog registry, the nation’s largest purebred rescue network, and the only not-for-profit purebred dog registry devoted for more than 130 years to the health and well-being of dogs. We work actively to educate about responsible dog ownership and advocate for humane treatment of all dogs. We actively demonstrate our commitment to responsible dog ownership and breeding through a variety of educational programs, humane programs, a multi-million-dollar commitment to canine health research through the AKC Canine Health Foundation, and by conducting thousands of kennel inspections each year.

AKC strongly supports improving USDA enforcement of the Animal Welfare Act (AWA) and providing additional resources for the USDA to accomplish this. AKC supports strict enforcement of the AWA when it comes to facilities with substandard practices or outcomes.

The American Kennel Club is dedicated to advancing the health and welfare of all dogs and protecting the rights of responsible dog owners and breeders.  Fair, effective and nondiscriminatory legislation and regulation are one way to accomplish this.  However, it’s also important to remember that AWA regulations are intended to be minimum standards, not best practices.  Use of minimum standards in conjunction with incentives to encourage innovation to improve well-being and outcomes is more effective than a one-size-fits-all government mandate, which may limit innovation. Non-governmental programs that raise the bar for responsible breeding and incentivize high standards such as AKC’s Bred With HEART can be more effective in improving breeding practices and the well-being of dogs, than new static government regulations.

U.S. dealers that cannot meet current USDA standards are unlikely to change their practices because of arbitrary new standards. We believe this issue needs to be addressed through improved enforcement combined with incentives for improvement. Otherwise, new regulations risk creating a bigger problem for animal well-being by pushing marginal breeders away from quality practices and into producing pets for unregulated black markets for random-source, so-called rescue pets.

There is significant demand for dogs as pets in the United States.  (Many estimates suggest a replacement rate for current owned pets in the U.S. at 8 million/year.) If this demand cannot be met by American breeders due to unproductive regulatory interference, we are likely to continue to experience an increase in the import of animals from far more troublesome and potentially unsafe, random foreign sources such as street dogs and unacceptable-quality breeding facilities rarely subject to regulation and oversight. Imports of such animals have been documented as having falsified health records; no accurate information on health status or origin; and contagious parasites/ diseases such as canine rabies, canine influenza, brucellosis and a variety of other major health threats.

AKC is interested in discussing these topics with other stakeholders with animal husbandry experience to improve enforcement and enhance existing AWA regulations where appropriate.