By and For People Who Shape The Sport Of Dogs







Image and Public Relations

by Margaret Shappard (About The Author)


Mrs. Shappard is known for her keen eyesight in the Group Rings but she displays uncanny vision in this observation from a decade ago!  This breeder/judge's point of "view" is now acknowledged and seen by everyone.


"The fancy cannot produce enough puppies for everyone who wants one."  Is this a bad thing?


Over the past six months we have heard and read various forms of the statement "the fancy cannot supply enough puppies to satisfy the American public." How many of us think of this as a good thing?


Not everyone who "wants" a puppy should have one! Looking at shelter and rescue statistics, can we not see the results of having puppies available for everyone who wants one? How many of us have backed off of our own breeding programs because there are not enough good homes?


Why would anyone believe that it is necessary to "conference" with puppy mills? They already know what the AKC requires; that is why many are suspended. We have set the minimum standard for compliance in order to register puppies with the AKC; can you even imagine them ever going the extra mile for health screenings? Just because "they are here to stay" does not mean we should ever consider giving our approval to what they do or how they do it.


I am reminded of the phase "the appearance of impropriety." What will the public think of the AKC if given the "appearance" that the AKC is encouraging puppy mills? The general public will not be interested in the fine print; they will care if we appear to approve of the mass production of puppies.


My definition of a puppy mill is anyone whose primary motive for breeding is money -including some in the fancy - whether he breeds one litter a year or one hundred. We have developed canines as companions; they are not livestock and they should not be bred or raised as such.


Over the years most of us in the fancy have supported the AKC, even when we have felt that an error was made; thousands of us at no financial gain, year after year, have supported the activities of purebred dogs (i.e., the AKC) through our volunteer efforts. For this we as ethical breeders get a slap in the face, and it could not be more blatant. Being told that we are recognized as the backbone of the sport and other verbal pats on the head are not enough.


Find out from those in the trenches (many of our delegates) how best to educate the general public regarding the advantages of acquiring a puppy from a private, ethical breeder and get this information out using very basic language; for example, how we make breeding decisions, health clearances, puppy rearing and socialization, how to find us, and what will be expected of them concerning responsible pet ownership. Televised dog shows may be entertaining, but they certainly do not bridge the gap between the fancy and companion dog owners. We want the best homes for our puppies, and a good, effective AKC public relations program can help us to that end.


If the AKC is to remain true to its commitment to the welfare of dogs, registration revenues cannot be the driving force!


AKC expenditures can be cut to help off-set the loss of registration revenues; how about moving out of New York City, which would also reduce the cost of board and delegate meetings. Why not let the handlers govern themselves under specified policies? To do so would not even require an AKC office, let alone a $300,000 per year expenditure. Why not reimburse directors for meeting expenses only, not $1000 each per month?


Many involved in AKC decision making have been out of "the trenches" for a long time; they need to take advantage of the information available that can be provided by those of us who talk to the public every day and learn of their concerns and interests.


Talk with the delegates and ask for their input before making decisions that affect all of us and how the public perceives us. We can all do a much better job if we work together.


Margaret Shappard; Working, Herding Breeds Judge EST 2005

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