The Today show segment May 1 implying that AKC is somehow responsible for sick puppies and substandard breeders was yellow journalism at its worst. Here is the response we sent to the president of NBC and the producer of the Rossen Reports.
Stephen B. Burke
Chief Executive Officer
30 Rockefeller Plaza
New York, NY 10112
Dear Mr. Burke:
As our country slides deeper into crisis, the importance of news media integrity becomes ever greater. Viewers gain trust in a source by evaluating information on which they’re experts. The Rossen Reports segment on the Today show focusing on AKC inspections and blaming it for the existence of substandard breeders cost the Today show many viewers with direct knowledge of the AKC and its policies and actions concerning dogs.
Many of the several-thousand members of the Virginia Federation of Dog Clubs and Breeders (VFDCB) are among those. We have worked closely with AKC for more than 40 years and know its fanatical commitment to not just purebred dogs but ALL dogs.
Your program was extremely biased and poorly researched. Some of the errors made are inexcusable. For example, even a cursory look at the organization would tell you that AKC does not have individual members and it does not register breeders. It registers dogs. Any breeder who claims to be an “AKC approved” or “AKC registered” breeder is one who should be avoided – there is no such thing. By perpetuating this myth throughout the program, Mr. Rossen managed to spread his ignorance to how many more prospective puppy buyers? Will they now go looking for “AKC registered breeders” and fall victim to unscrupulous people who claim that mythical title?
The AKC’s efforts during disasters have helped thousands of pets and their owners. During the weeks after 9/11, AKC paid all the vet bills for the search and rescue dogs at the site and provided an X-ray machine and other supplies for the veterinarians working with the animals. The AKC Canine Health Foundation has donated over $24 million to canine health research, which benefits all dogs, purebred and mixed. AKC organized the largest rescue network in the country through its breed parent clubs. The list goes on and on.
The kennel inspection program is limited to breeders who register their dogs with AKC. Most large scale breeders do not, because of the high standards. Even among those who do, no inspection program can manage quality on a daily basis and all sorts of difficulties can all result in a kennel going downhill quickly.
The AKC has no police powers; however, when their inspections show serious issues, they report them to enforcement authorities. Many of the raids and seizures publicized by the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) start with reports by AKC inspectors to animal control.
Which brings us to the source your reporter used for his wrong information. The HSUS is a radical animal rights/vegan fundraising machine that’s smart enough to present a conservative front to the American public. It criticizes AKC for not supporting its “animal welfare” legislation but these bills are ‘feel good’ that when enacted generally do serious damage, first to breeders and owners, then to the animals themselves.
For example HSUS’s much-publicized ban on horse slaughter has led to horses being shipped to Mexico for slaughter, where the process is often inhumane, as well as to horses being abandoned by their owners to starve or die of disease.
Animal cruelty and neglect is a local problem and problematic kennels should be regularly inspected by animal control. The number limits on commercial breeders have resulted in breeding dogs being turned in to shelters or killed as their owners attempt to come into compliance. Other breeders have gone underground to avoid the law, which means they’re no longer inspected by anyone; they probably don’t pay taxes either. And because the number limits are almost always too low to allow a full time income the breeders who comply lose their jobs. The same is often true of family members and kennel staff.
The AKC’s position is that the quality of care is what matters, not the numbers. What’s wrong with that? Why does it matter how many dogs you have if you are caring for them properly…or how few you have if you are not? Why would HSUS disagree?
Laws against bark softening (wrongly called debarking by animal rightists) result in owners giving up beloved but noisy dogs, who could have been saved by a simple veterinary procedure less painful and dangerous than a spay or neuter. Dogs who have had this surgery can still bark, just more softly, and their lives are much less stressful. Why does HSUS think this is a bad thing?
To use HSUS as the main source for information about the AKC is akin to asking only Hillary Clinton about Benghazi. The result was a hatchet job on an organization that has done more good for dogs in the past 130 years than any “humane” agency in this country. Your staff spent an hour with AKC before the program aired, but chose to ignore their side of the story. Unconscionable.
This show was a huge disappointment to dog-skilled Today show viewers and am sure the Today show will lose audience because of it. We hope you will consider a re-do presenting things primarily from the AKC side. And if you are interested in exposing a true scandal may I suggest a segment on the HSUS and ASPCA’s RICO lawsuits, their investigation by the IRS, and perhaps a discussion of how a full-time lobbying and lawsuit organization can be tax exempt?
cc Dennis Sprung, AKC
Alan Kalter, AKC
Robert Powell, NBC