At Large: What's in a Registered Name?

The regulation of kennel names comes under fire

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Dogs in Review

 

The April issue of the AKC Gazette records that one of America’s best-known kennel names has been subjected to an application to be registered, and another famous name has been granted registration — in neither case by the person, or for the breed, that most of us would associate with that name.

The Grandeur Afghan Hounds need no introduction to anyone familiar with show dogs, having produced a BIS winner at Westminster long ago and the all-time top Hound with over 100 BIS in more recent years, not to mention scores of high-profile champions for several decades up until a few years before owner Roger Rechler’s premature death in 2008. Yet a Poodle breeder with no connection to Mr. Rechler has now applied to register the Grandeur name.

The Deja Vu Briards, owned by Terry Miller in Ohio, are of more recent origins and still very active, having produced over a hundred champions since the 1980s, many Best in Show and SBIS winners, and the all-time top dog in that breed. Yet the Deja Vu Briards are in no way related to the nearly identical Dejavu prefix granted by AKC to a breeder of French Bulldogs.

The United States is one of the few countries in the world where kennel names are largely unregulated. We can pick almost whatever family name we like for our dogs and use this when registering our puppies without asking anyone’s approval. The AKC registers only a dozen or two kennel names per month (while e.g. the KC in Great Britain, in spite of overall lower numbers, registers at least a couple of hundred prefixes each month), and these are then protected for a period of five years, after which time — unless the breeder applies for and is granted an extension — the name goes back into general circulation.

The result, of course, is often chaotic. The same kennel’s name may be spelled several different ways, sometimes abbreviated almost beyond recognition to fit into the 30-space character limit for each dog’s name. Different kennels can have the same name, sometimes even in the same dog breed, and, as now, a high-profile, historically significant kennel name could be used by a new dog breeder who may simply be unaware of its past. AKC says they won’t register kennel names that have been used “more than incidentally and rarely by other breeders or owners in naming dogs in the past 10 years,” but as we see in e.g. the Grandeur and Deja Vu cases, that’s not necessarily always the case.

I was discussing this with a friend who has produced champions, specialty and Best in Show winners for years, and who is unquestionably one of the top names in her dog breed. She has always used the same kennel name for her dogs but, like so many of us, never registered it with AKC. When she realized that someone might simply pick her prefix off a list and get it registered, so she herself couldn’t use it any more… well, then she got worried. Me, too: I’ve used the same kennel prefix for almost 50 years, so long that it’s almost a part of me, and I would hate to see someone else lay embargo on it.

Yet there isn’t much either of us can do unless we step up our puppy production considerably, because AKC requires a minimum of five litters registered during five years for anyone to apply for a kennel name, and after five years we may still lose it if we don’t stay with the program. That may not be a problem for all dog breeders, but it certainly is for some of us. My friend breeds a large, rather rare dog breed and is lucky if she produces one litter every second year or so; I have almost stopped breeding but still show dogs descending from my “old” line, using the same kennel name as before, and I care deeply about the prefix I’ve been associated with for so long.

I bet we’re not alone, and there are lots of other breeders in the same predicament. So what can be done about this?

The solution is so obvious that it defies logic that AKC hasn’t adopted it already. AKC should, for a fee, simply register whatever kennel prefix anyone in good standing within the sport applies for, and then maintain that name on an annual basis as long as the breeder wishes. If the breeder has produced a clearly stipulated number of champions, the name should not be let into circulation again for at least a 25-year period after the original dog breeder stops using it. (Some “breeders” quit after a couple of litters without ever producing anything memorable; their prefixes can obviously be released much sooner.)

As a side benefit, AKC would get some welcome revenue from kennel name registrations and renewals. Sure, we dog breeders would have to pay up, but I for one wouldn’t mind if I knew that nobody else could lay their hands on my kennel name. You wouldn’t either, would you?

You may say that there would just be too many kennel names to keep track of, especially if they were linked to a person, not just to a breed. (I don’t know which I like least: that someone else might use my prefix for another breed, perhaps one closely related to mine, or that I might not be allowed to use “my” name if I should add a new breed.) However, most other countries have kept registering kennel names for decades, and the FCI now protects several hundred thousand individual kennel names from its 80-something member countries. I tried to get an exact count from their website, but my computer crashed in exhaustion before I had gone even halfway through A... If foreign kennel clubs can solve this problem, surely AKC must be able to do so, too.

By the way, why has the Afghan Hound Club of America not petitioned AKC to permanently retire a legendary prefix such as Grandeur? Most breeds have at least three or four historically important old kennel names that really, if we have any respect for the past, ought never to be used again. It is the parent clubs’ — and AKC’s — responsibility to protect these names, as part of guarding dog breed history.

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