The AKC'S Greatest Asset: The Stud Book

In our quest to increase overall registrations, we have put the accuracy of the stud book on the back shelf of our priorities and have allowed the validity of AKC’s most vital asset to come into question.

By Gretchen Bernardi | Posted: November 3, 2014 10 a.m. PST

Dog DNA Tests
DNA-testing frequently used sires ensures the integrity of the AKC stud book, but it also led to decreased AKC registrations. But which is more important, the stud book's accuracy or raising the number of registrations?
 

Few of us ever think about the registry — the AKC stud book — mainly because we hobby breeders are pretty confident in the accuracy of our own pedigrees and the pedigrees maintained by the people with whom we breed our dogs. But we should probably pay more attention, especially if we are members of breed clubs who have entrusted our registrations to the AKC (and also transferred all of those fees along with the registrations). We expected that the AKC would watch over the registrations with the same care that the founding members of the parent clubs used, but there have been some serious breaches. If we care about the American Kennel Club and its future, we should care about the registry.

 

The Stud Book’s Importance

The previous editor of The Canine Chronicle asked me more than 20 years ago if I would do a piece each year prior to the AKC Board elections, spotlighting the candidates and their opinions on the state of the sport and the organization. I believe I was the first writer, or certainly one of the first, to query the Board candidates, which has now become routine in several publications. I usually asked each candidate, What is your particular passion? What is the most critical issue of the day facing the AKC? What is the most important asset that must be preserved at the AKC? Every answer to that last question, almost without exception, included the preservation of the stud book, citing the registry as the organization’s greatest strength.

The registry was always sacrosanct, as it should be, because Article III of the Charter and Bylaws of the American Kennel Club, Inc., is unambiguous on the subject, listing it first. "The objects of the Club shall be to maintain and publish an official stud book, to adopt and enforce uniform rules regulating and governing purebred dog events.”

The mission statement is equally clear: "The American Kennel Club is dedicated to upholding the integrity of its Registry, promoting the sport of purebred dogs and breeding for type and function.”

In our quest to increase overall registrations, we have put the accuracy of the stud book on the back shelf of our priorities and have allowed the validity of AKC’s most vital asset to come into question.

 

The Frequently Used Sires Program

One of the most disheartening statements I read and hear often, even from sitting Board members and writers who should know better, is that the Frequently Used Sires program was one of the biggest mistakes AKC ever made. In 1998, the AKC board approved the DNA Compliance Audit Program as part of routine kennel inspections. Prior to establishing that policy, inspectors relied on careful identification of individual dogs and paperwork. Chapter 4, Section 3 of Rules Applying to Registration and Discipline states, "Each person who breeds, keeps, transfers ownership or possession of, or deals in dogs that are registered or to be registered with The American Kennel Club, whether he acts as principal or agent or sells on consignment, must follow such practices as, consistent with the number of dogs involved, will preclude any possibility of error in identification of any individual dog or doubt as to the parentage of any particular dog or litter.”

The DNA policy adopted by the Board was certainly, as the policy states, "a forward looking DNA audit developed to ensure the integrity of AKC’s registry” and represented an additional tool in maintaining the stud book, along with the traditional rules of identification and record-keeping. And when the use of DNA showed that most errors in parentage arose from those stud dogs that were used most frequently, the logical next step was the Frequently Used Sires Program, adopted in January of 2000: "Effective July 1, 2000, every sire producing seven or more litters in a lifetime or producing more than three litters in a calendar year must be AKC DNA Certified.”

It is true that the introduction of this program was one of several initiatives that caused the commercial breeders, especially through Missouri Pet Breeders, a large commercial dog breeding organization, to boycott the AKC and move its registrations to other registries, primarily American Pet Registry, Inc. But the alternative to this program was continuing to register dogs that had incorrect parentage while ignoring the best tool science could give a registry, DNA. And the alternative was continuing to corrupt the stud book.

It may be true that the program could have been introduced in a better manner, perhaps, as some have suggested, easing into it. But the truth is that most commercial kennels do not keep many male dogs for each breed, and remember, DNA isn’t collected every year or for every litter. It is a one-time certification done on dogs producing seven or more litters in a lifetime or more than three litters in a calendar year. Is that such a high price to ensure that the registry you are using to register your dogs is attempting to remain as valid as possible?

 

Increasing Registrations Corrupts the Stud Book

But in our relentless effort to register more dogs, our interest in the integrity of the stud book took a hard left turn as more programs were introduced to register more dogs, including the Conditional Registration Policy and especially the Administrative Research Registry policy.

The Conditional Registration Policy, sometimes called "Q” registrations, is explained on the AKC website. "When unknown parentage is indicated via DNA testing, the status of the registration will be downgraded to ‘conditional’ until a three generation pedigree is established. ‘Unknown’ will be noted on the registration or pedigree for the ancestor in question. This will only occur in cases where the dogs are believed to be purebred, but a registered parent is found to be incorrect.” "Believed to be purebred” is an ominous statement.

A more worrisome initiative is the Administrative Research Registration service. From the notice from the Breeder Relations Team:


Free ARR Service: Do you have breeding stock that is currently registered with another registry? Our free Administrative Research Registration (ARR) service allows AKC staff to conduct pedigree research to determine registration eligibility for dogs upon customer request. AKC can register dogs originating from AKC registrable stock. Dogs may qualify for registration if pedigrees show no break in AKC lineage and all dogs originate from AKC registrable stock.

AKC Registration of Breeding Stock: Is some of your breeding stock not currently AKC registered? If registrable, we will register them for you at a special discounted price.

Discounted Litter Coupons: Register your AKC litters for only $20, with no additional puppy fees! Our $20 flat rate litter coupons are available by request to assist you financially.

Waived Late Fees: Have you forgotten to register your dog or litter? Don’t worry — your Breeder Relations Team will waive any late fees for you.

 


 

We talk a lot about other registries "pirating” our dogs, registering AKC puppies with APRI, ACA or one of the other five or six important alternative registries. But we have caught onto that tactic and are, in fact, "pirating” registrations from other registries ourselves, by the use of the above service. Under that program, dogs are being registered that do not have AKC sires and dams and sometimes have no AKC dogs in their pedigrees for several generations. This initiative violates several requirements in Chapter 3 of Rules Applying to Registration: There is often no litter registration (Section 4); no fee is required for late litter and individual registrations (Chapter 4); no DNA requirement if the sire is not an AKC dog, etc. This program causes dead ends in AKC programs and allows into our registry dogs of questionable parentage and even of questionable breed purity.

We don’t hear a lot about the problems that certain breed clubs have with impure dogs being registered and the great difficulty these clubs have in getting the dogs out once they’re in. By the time ample proof is supplied and sufficient complaint rendered, there are usually hundreds of dogs affected, dogs that clearly should be removed from the registry. The many people who purchased them in good faith are the "innocent third parties” often given as the reason not to remove the dogs from the registry.

Every time we register a litter and then register our individual dogs, we pay for that privilege. And, in order to have a certified pedigree on those dogs, our dogs, which we paid to be registered, we must pay another fee. A printed and mailed four-generation Certified Pedigree is $32, and a five-generation online research pedigree is $17. Oddly, one can agree to accept a "partially completed pedigree.”

 

Same Registry Service, Different Treatment

How ironic that the same level of care and scrutiny that is required of breeds entering into the FSS (Foundation Stock Service) program is not used to preserve the stud books of those breeds already part of AKC. To have their breed become fully recognized by AKC, breeders are admonished: "One of the most serious concerns for any breed is the integrity of its pedigree and ownership records. For many fanciers, the ultimate goal is full AKC recognition. There are several criteria that must be met in order to achieve this plateau. Often, the biggest hurdle is creating and maintaining accurate records.” Right!

And even more ironic is the program established cooperatively with the National Global Kennel Club, the Chinese kennel club that enlisted AKC’s help in promoting the sport and the breeding of purebred dogs as part of AKC’s Global Services. Why would we recommend tactics for a foreign registry that we steadfastly refuse to employ in our own? In the Cooperation Between AKC and NGKC agreement, the AKC states, "In order to ensure the integrity of their registry, NGKC signed an exclusive contract with The American Kennel Club (AKC) to provide registration services that include positive microchip identification of the registered dogs and DNA testing to assure the correct parentage of all NGKC registered litters and all dogs being exhibited at NGKC shows.”

Fees (I’m not sure what fees these are, but they definitely are not registration fees, recording fees or event service fees) and the sale of certified pedigrees contribute a very healthy amount to the annual income of the AKC, having brought in $6.25 million in 2013. That income in itself is ample reason to continue to sell them but surely requires that they are as accurate as possible, even though my latest Certified Pedigree states: "The Seal of The American Kennel Club affixed hereto certifies that this pedigree was compiled from official Stud Book records on January 7, 2011.” So it only means something if the Stud Book records are accurate.

These programs are being administered by AKC staff who should not be blamed for doing what they have been directed to do. The push for registrations of any dog at any price to our registry or our reputation comes from the top and began in earnest about 15 years ago when the sitting Board voted to increase registrations at any cost. Did that Board really include in that cost the degradation of one of our greatest assets?

It is now impossible, in almost everyone’s opinion, to fix the stud book, to render it valid at this point in our history. But couldn’t the AKC that advertises itself as the country’s biggest and best registry finally adopt the recommendation of the High Volume Breeders Committee submitted to the Board in November 2002: "setting a 5-year goal of having DNA on file for every sire and dam in the AKC registry”? Forget the errors of the past and the "innocent third parties” and state that beginning January 1, 2015, and going forward, we will use the same modern tools used by most other premier purebred animal registries — cattle, goats, alpacas — and own the best, the most accurate, the most reliable stud book possible.

As I write this, it has been exactly 10 years since Eddie Dziuk, the Delegate for the National Beagle Club, who also heads the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals, wrote in the Delegate newsletter Perspectives, "With the rapid scientific advances being made in the area of DNA research and analysis, DNA will surely continue to be a hot topic of conversation, one that the Delegates should be prepared to discuss further as we answer ‘What’s Next.’”

What is next?

 

From the November 2014 issue of Dogs in Review magazine. Subscribe to receive 12 months of Dogs in Review magazine, or call 1-888-738-2665 to purchase a single copy.


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Give us your opinion Give us your opinion on The AKC'S Greatest Asset: The Stud Book

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Diane of the dogs   Claremont, New Hampshire

1/6/2015 8:07:06 AM

I have written the AKC multi times asking them to institute DNA profiles for EVERY new full registration to uphold the stud book
integrity.
Many horse registries now do
this

All it would take would
be:
Limited registrations no change in price or procedure (unless dog later converted to
full)
Full registrations would be about $75 total and include registration and a DNA
profile

Simple as pie and not at all a big deal

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Melian and Tiny   Etna, CA

1/2/2015 11:57:24 PM

Actually kind of scary.

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Carol   Freeport, Illinois

12/16/2014 11:00:03 AM

I am a member of the Norwich Terrier Club of America's Registry Integrity Committee. Since 2005 (at that time we were the NNTC) we have been working to remove non purebred Norwich from the Norwich Registry and because of our determination have seen several hundred removed. The non purebred Norwich that were being registered by the AKC were Cairns with docked tails or Cairn mixes. When it became obvious that the AKC's Impure Breeding Committee could not tell the difference between these dogs (unless they were black) and a purebred Norwich we turned to proving their pedigrees were frauds.


Those pedigrees were created by unscrupulous individuals, both in the US and abroad. Now we are facing a new kind of fraud, AKC's Administrative Research Registration Service. These pedigrees include import pedigrees that are only two generations (three generations is required) a sire who was 3 months old when the breeding took place that produced the black Cairn bitch who was registered as a Norwich with the AKC and one example after the other of poorly trained employees and just plain we don't care. The sires and dams that are a part of these pedigrees are in the Norwich Stud Book with no Registration number and no Stud Book date of their
own.

I worked with David Roberts for several years, at that time the execution of a removal request usually took a week or so. Since Mr. Roberts' transfer to AKC's Commercial Breeder Dept., we have been working with Mari-Beth O'Neill and the removal requests now take a month or more to
execute.
This gives more time for more ARR dogs and their offspring to enter the Norwich Registry, which of course adds to our
dismay.

There is one point in Mrs. Bernardi's excellent article I disagree with, AKC's DNA parentage test is flawed, not the test itself, but AKC's application of it. A number of dogs that have been removed from the Norwich Registry because they were not purebred Norwich had AKC DNA numbers. For example Lto Rage, a Black Cairn who was registered with the AKC as a Red Norwich, AKC DNA # V513852. When Rage was removed he took 71 dogs out of the Norwich Registry with him.


This abuse of the Norwich Stud Book and Registry has gone on for so long that there is no simple fix. One thing is obvious, if there is a way to "right these wrongs" it has to start at the top.

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