Success. It’s what everyone wants to achieve and at AKC, our success depends on the integrity of our registry and the ongoing work of thousands of breeders nationwide.
AKC puppy buyers want assurance their new family member has been raised with appropriate care and in appropriate conditions. This is a lofty goal with so many litters registered each year, yet the AKC’s Investigations and Inspections program provides feet on the ground to give accountability for breeders and offers training and resources to encourage success.
Developing Working Relationships
I turned the GPS off as I exited the highway; I knew my way and was looking forward to reconnecting with this breeder. It had been a year since our last inspection, and I thought back to our first one more than 15 years ago.
The breeding program had just begun and although enthusiasm and ambition were apparent, the new breeder needed information and resources to be successful. I did my best to assure this breeder that our job was to help her be successful and to be an ongoing resource. Helping a breeder set up a sustainable system to streamline the details of their breeding program is a rewarding part of the relationships that our team of inspectors develop with breeders.
From the beginning, this breeder put the welfare of her dogs first and was anxious to listen to recommendations for additional exercise areas, realized the value in using microchips for positive identification of dogs, and, over time, the three-ring binders of detailed hand-written records that transitioned to our online record keeping system in AKC Breeder Toolkit.
The time saved by streamlining these processes allowed her to concentrate on working with her dogs and improving her breeding program. AKC resources helped her identify important genetic testing for her breed and, after recognition as an AKC Bred with H.E.A.R.T. breeder, her puppy sales through the AKC Marketplace continued to increase. The pride in her dogs was apparent and even between inspections I would often hear from her with concerns or questions.
Then the unthinkable happened. She was in a terrible accident and it would be weeks before she could fully care for her dogs. I was relieved to hear that the required emergency plan we worked on together had been initiated, and all the dogs were being cared for, puppies on the ground were easily identified, older dogs were in chosen ‘foster care’ placements, and vet appointments were being kept. She would be able to focus on getting back on her feet, knowing her dogs were all safe and her breeding program would stay on track.
Interpreting the Rules
The work of the AKC Investigations and Inspections department is to ensure appropriate care and accurate lineage of registered dogs of all breeds. Pet, show, and performance breeders each have a unique role in the sport of purebred dogs, but the AKC requirements remain the same. The written Rules Applying to Registration and Discipline is very detailed and at times can be confusing; our goal as a team of inspectors is to help every breeder better understand and follow them.
By using AKC’s registration services, breeders agree to the possibility of an inspection. In general, there are two ways an inspection of dogs and facilities may transpire. The first and most common is a routine inspection generated by the breeder’s registration activity during the previous year. In this instance, the inspector assigned to your geographic area will reach out to you via email and/or phone call to schedule an inspection and answer any immediate questions you may have. The second is a verifiable complaint generated inspection. In this instance the inspector will perform an unannounced inspection following the same procedure as a routine inspection.
What to Expect from an Inspection
So, what should you, as a breeder, expect when AKC knocks on your door? First, expect any inspector to provide photo identification, identifying themselves as a representative of the American Kennel Club. Be assured all inspectors follow a strict bio-security protocol. Secondly, recognize that they are not just there to verify compliance with the rules, but to help you understand them and to be a resource for you as an AKC breeder. Each inspection consists of three parts:
- Inspection of Dogs and Facility
- Review of Records
- Compliance Report
Inspection of Dogs and Facility: All breeders must meet the requirements laid out in AKC’s Care and Conditions Policy. This policy concerns standards of care for dogs and the conditions in which they are kept. The purpose of the Care and Condition Policy is to ensure the well-being of all dogs housed in a breeder’s kennel. The bottom line is that all dogs deserve to be well cared for, and we expect a certain standard to be upheld in order to use AKC registration services.
During the inspection, all dogs must appear healthy, be housed in safe conditions, and are required to have on-dog identification such as a collar, tattoo, or microchip. The identification method should easily correlate with written records in the record keeping portion of the inspection.
Review of Records: This is the area where we often find room for improvement. There are many acceptable methods of keeping records as long as the appropriate information is kept. Printable forms are available in the online AKC Breeder Toolkit; however, a binder with handwritten information can do the same job as electronic records kept on a computer. Regardless of how they are kept, they should be readily available and provide the required information. Dogs will be randomly selected in the earlier phase of the inspection to match with written records to verify accuracy.
Accurate records are required for all matings, the litters that are whelped, as well as ownership records for both owned and co-owned dogs regardless of where they are housed. A complete disposition of each dog, whether sold or deceased, is required to be kept for five years after a dog dies, has been sold or given away. Although record keeping can often be a challenge, this is the area where an AKC Inspector can often provide the help by making suggestions for stronger organization and refer the breeder to available resources. The AKC Breeder Toolkit is a great resource for all breeders and can be found on our website at www.akc.org.
The Compliance Report: The goal of the Investigations and Inspections program is to help ensure the integrity of the registry. This means that, in addition to providing support for breeders who are complying, actions are taken when significant areas of non-compliance are noted.
If there are minor omissions, the inspector may simply point out areas for improvement and require changes to be made before the next routine inspection. Otherwise, a warning letter of varying degrees may be issued depending on the area and severity of non-compliance.
In some cases, the infraction will be noted, and the breeder given a period of time to correct the issue with a follow up inspection to verify compliance.
In more severe instances the breeder may be placed on referral until a reinspection shows corrections for all areas of concern. This means the breeder cannot register a litter or transfer ownership of individually owned or co-owned dogs. Once the problem area has been corrected and verified by a reinspection, the referral is removed, and the breeder is able to use AKC services. In the instance where no corrections are made, the breeder may face suspension of all AKC privileges.
One hundred ninety-seven distinctly different breeds, thousands of individual breeders, 10 field staff conducting inspections throughout the country – this is the Investigations and Inspections department of the American Kennel Club. As an AKC breeder, the future of your chosen breed and sport depends on you, and our department is in place to help you succeed. By allowing us into your homes and kennels, sharing your concerns, letting us problem-solve with you, and holding a high standard for the care and condition of dogs, we become partners to ensure the sport of purebred dogs is around for future generations. Because every new family pet, performance companion, therapy partner or canine workmate begins with a breeder like you!
Marcus Bach is the director of AKC Investigations and Inspections.