Dear Dr. Fox:
The American Kennel Club is not, as you stated, “simply a registry issuing pedigree papers, essentially without policing the sources the dogs come from — notably puppy mills.’’
The AKC registers dogs. We do not register kennels or breeders. We are not a government organization. We can address only situations surrounding dogs that are registered with us. The AKC is dedicated to the well-being of all dogs; it in no way condones or supports substandard care or “puppy mills.’’ If we find anyone engaging in behavior detrimental to the health of any dog, we report them to the local authorities.
AKC’s compliance department conducts thousands of inspections every year of breeders who register their litters and dogs with us. We have strict policies. Breeders must adhere [to them] for proper care and conditions of the dogs.
The AKC has several options for breeder education and health testing, which include our Bred with HEART (Health, Education, Accountability, Responsibility and Tradition) program and various breeder education courses (akc.org/dog-breeders/bred-with-heart). These courses are free.
vice president of public relations,
American Kennel Club, New York
DF: Thank you for clarifying the scope of the AKC’s involvement in purebred dogs. When an AKC-registered puppy develops health issues that veterinarians have confirmed and consider to be of hereditary origin, who should the dog owner contact? Are these concerns thereafter passed to the breeder? What corrective measures are initiated? Is this data stored and available to the public, including scientists, veterinarians and prospective purchasers?
Dear Dr. Fox:
If someone buys an unhealthy puppy, there are state laws to protect consumers. Improper practices can be reported.
The AKC is not a government agency, and we cannot shut down a breeder, nor can we take dogs off property. We do, however, in any case where a dog is in any danger or being treated improperly, report the breeder to local authorities and sanction them where necessary. We do our best to inspect breeders who register with us. Ethical breeding is our ultimate goal; however, practices are the responsibility of the breeder.
Dear Dr. Fox:
After a crisis in December with my Saint Bernard, Mary, I found myself advocating alongside 22 families that bought dogs from a woman in upstate New York.
Our case has snowballed, uncovering 38 disturbing issues with a breeder who had assumed 20 business names — 76 percent of our issues are genetic abnormalities traced to one specific bloodline, which registered through the AKC.
I phoned the AKC and spoke with someone in case management. I relayed, as a genealogist, the findings. I offered the registry numbers for parent dogs; many of their pups were ill or had died. I asked whether the AKC offered medical testing on behalf of the breeder. I was told, “The AKC does not maintain health records for registered dogs.’’
I wanted data on litters registered to one sire in particular. He was a prime suspect carrier for renal disease and potentially had fathered 200-plus dogs. The representative could not help, but she suggested forwarding a complaint. She was very clear that the AKC investigation department could review, but at best, only be able to inspect premises and note care of current breeding stock.
She didn’t offer a database for owners to check breeder ratings, nor did she share the ability to reference credentials of the breeders who participated in programs such as Bred With HEART. There was no way she could provide assurance for me that our breeder was “in good standing,’’ without complaint or had been scrutinized for state licensing.
Later, we found that this breeder had been unlicensed by all authorities for 11 years. All the while, she registered many litters with the AKC.
To whose benefit are programs such as Bred With HEART if members are not vetted prior to accreditation?
After our ordeal, we set up an unethical breeder awareness website for advocacy purposes at unethicalbreederawareness.com.
T.V., Howell, N.J.
DF: You have my sympathy and support, as do all the people with dogs who have serious and costly hereditary diseases that might have been avoided by breeders following up on the health of the puppies they produce (called progeny testing).
Dear Dr. Fox:
We put a new flea collar on our 13-month-old mixed-breed dog last week. This dog has never chewed anything in our house, a shoe, slipper or anything. He is crated during the day while we are at work, and at night he sleeps on his bed (not crated).
Two days after we put on the collar, he destroyed an overnight bag sitting on the couch. He ate the bag, my husband’s sweater, his dog bed and other reachable items. Could the flea collar have changed his personality to make him aggressive?
A.R., Damariscotta, Maine
DF: Animals sometimes have unexpected and paradoxical reactions to certain medications and other products.
I have written repeatedly over these many years advising cat and dog owners not to use such chemical-releasing anti-flea collars and similar spot-on products. Safer alternatives are on my website, drfoxvet.net.
Your experience is notable. It means that one should not leave an animal alone after applying such products, in case the animal has an adverse behavioral or neurological reaction. I would like to hear from other readers with similar experiences.
Dear Dr. Fox:
My son adopted several homeless cats. He and my husband are currently not busy, so they think it is good parenting to feed them four times a day! As a result, more than one of them are now fat.
They give the cats wet canned food, and they leave out dry food continually. I do not want to see one or more of them get sick. How do I get two adults to use common sense and stop overfeeding these poor cats?
T.J., Newark, N.J.
DF: There are too many fat cats in the United States, and other countries, for multiple reasons. The main thing is feeding them the wrong kind of high-carbohydrate diet; about 5 percent should be the maximum for these carnivores.
Most dry foods have far too much. Some cats self-regulate, but others become addicted and pig out. Your cats should be fed four small meals a day. Cats prefer and are probably better at digesting small meals, rather than being fed twice a day, as is often the case.
It would be good to weigh the cats before you start their new feeding regimen. Give them a tablespoon of grain- and soy-free cat food (such as Orijen) and a tablespoon of good-quality grain-free canned or raw cat food. They might enjoy my home-prepared cat food recipe on my website.
The cats may initially protest and solicit their old food, so distract them with interactive games, grooming and places, such as a cat condo and padded window ledges to look out and entertain themselves.
Let me know your progress.
Michael W. Fox, author of a newsletter and books on animal care, welfare and rights, is a veterinarian with doctoral degrees in medicine and animal behavior. Send letters to firstname.lastname@example.org or write to him at United Feature Syndicate, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, Mo. 64106.