Bo Bengtson At Large
"Purebred” or Not — Does It Matter?
I realize that the headline may be incendiary, but please read on and decide for yourself. It is always difficult to foresee how major changes in policy will affect the future. That doesn’t mean that such changes should not be known and discussed by the people who will be affected by them. Not to get too high falutin’ or anything, but this type of discussion is what a free society is all about… so it’s a little disappointing to find that there seems to be remarkably little awareness of, or debate about, some major changes in AKC policy.
The changes — some of which have apparently already been implemented by AKC staff, following a Board vote (since no rule change was involved, the delegates did not have to be consulted) — concern three areas: the ability to change a dog’s registered name; the possibility of non-purebred dogs participating in AKC events; and the registration of dogs whose parents (and even further ancestors) are not registered by AKC.
Below I will outline, to the best of my ability, what these changes involve. It is not my intention to argue the pro’s and con’s so much as to raise awareness of how these changes, if or when implemented, may affect the future for those of us who care about the sport of purebred dogs.
Change of Names
The new name-change policy is easy to deal with because any concern about it (and I’ve heard from several breeders) is due to a notice in the May issue of the AKC Gazette which did not tell the whole story. “A new policy allows owners of AKC-registered dogs to change the official name of their pet for a $25 fee. Dogs are eligible if they were born in the United States, have never been bred, or have not won awards at AKC events.” What was not mentioned was that in changing the name of such a dog that was individually registered by its breeder, the breeder’s permission will — as in the past — be required.
In other words, if you sell a puppy without completing the individual registration, the future owner(s) may — repeatedly, should they so wish — change the dog’s name without consulting you. Obviously, by not registering this dog individually you have already made it clear that its name is not important to you, so I can’t see anyone having a serious problem with this. The rule is mainly introduced as a way for the owners of a beloved pet to give it a name they like, and it won’t affect a serious breeder who has individually registered his or her future show and breeding stock.
Non-Purebreds at AKC Events
This one’s a little trickier. AKC is suggesting that non-purebreds should be permitted to participate in “stand-alone” AKC companion events (obedience, agility) — in other words, those that are not held with a conformation show.
For a strong voice against such a change, please read David Merriam’s article (“AKC With Mixed Breeds: An Oxymoron”) elsewhere in this issue. David feels it would be a “catastrophe” for AKC and that the potential benefits are so slight as to be easily outweighed by the danger.
On the other hand, as has been mentioned many times, the British made this change several years ago, seemingly without any damage to their purebred dog show scene, which is, if anything, thriving better than ours. There’s also the question of our “snob” reputation: a lot of people find it difficult to accept that we who are involved in purebred dogs may love a mutt just as much. I’m not sure if incorporating non-purebreds in AKC activities would help counteract this feeling, but I’m trying to keep an open mind.
This is a big one, no question about it. AKC has always had the authority to register dogs originating from AKC registerable stock — e.g. a puppy from a litter that was not registered, although both its parents were, could be registered after consultation with the breeder. What AKC has already started to do now, however, goes much further and involves the registration of dogs whose parents, even grandparents and further ancestors, may not be AKC registered “if pedigrees show no break in AKC lineage and all dogs originate from AKC registerable stock.”
That sounds fine, and the owner will be required to provide parentage documentation for the dog, but exactly what this should consist of is not specified, so how do you determine what’s acceptable? Either you use information provided by the non-accepted registries whose very existence is the given reason for AKC’s drop in registration revenue, or you go to what must be almost insurmountable troubles of recreating a pedigree in hindsight. AKC says it chooses the latter route, which raises the question not only of how that is practically possible (“Well, I think we had a litter from Polly in 2001, or maybe in 2002. And let’s see, was it Bucky or Strike we bred her to?”), but also of cost-effectiveness. It is reported that AKC gets 400 inquiries from people with non-registered puppies each week; that could mean 20,800 extra registrations per year — but AKC also says that two-thirds of the first month’s applications had to be turned down, which means that the financial incentive for jeopardizing both the Stud Book and AKC’s reputation is pretty small. And how can AKC possibly claim to set itself apart from the competing “paper registries” after such a change?
But perhaps, and this gets back to the headline, we’re making a lot of fuss about nothing. Perhaps, just perhaps, we have been taking this whole “purebred” idea too far. I’ve taken some heat for disparaging the idea of accepting a “new,” cross-bred variety of my breed... and sometimes I feel like a relic from the past for caring about generations of documented pedigrees. In cats and horses, not to mention other livestock, new “varieties” are created constantly simply by crossing one breed with another... and FCI in Europe is doing a bang-up job in accepting new “breeds” which hardly fit the description most of us hardliners would use to define that term.
AKC needs more money, we know that. I would think that more lucrative and less irresponsible means could be found than those suggested, but perhaps it is time to re-think what “purebred” means. Certainly AKC seems to be doing that.
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