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What Does AKC/UKC/
(fill in your own letters here)
Registration Really Mean?

A discussion of breed registries

(Click on any photo on page for larger view and caption)
Indy, a dog whose People thought AKC papers guaranteed a healthy pup.

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        Raising sound, healthy, well socialized puppies is difficult work with very specific demands. Quality breeders care about the animals they produce, and are justifiably proud of their puppies' pedigrees. These responsible breeders, members of legitmate, long-established breed registries such as the American Kennel Club (AKC), the United Kennel Club (UKC), and comparable registries in other countries, take pride in producing sound, happy puppies/ dogs who are the best examples of their breed that they can be. We appreciate these Breeders With Pride, who have supported efforts to eliminate puppy mills. (Please see Breeders With Pride: Responsible Breeders Speak Out: for some of their personal insights into responsible pet breeding. )

       Unfortunately, there are also the commercial and "backyard" breeders whose only motivation is profit.


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What is the connection between breed registries (aka "papers") and Puppy Mills?

       Most people who breed purebred dogs claim some affiliation with a registry as a seal of quality for their puppies. Many use that affiliation as a marketing tool, but buyers often learn the hard way that an AKC/ UKC puppy purchased from a pet store or a backyard breeder is highly unlikely to be of the same caliber as an AKC/ UKC registered puppy purchased from a reliable breeder. They may also encounter a bewildering array of different registries such as American Canine Association, Continental Kennel Club Inc. or others that they are told by the seller are "just as valid" or even better than the AKC or UKC.


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What does "registration" really mean?

       All breed registration means is that breeders of the puppy's parents, grandparents, and antecedents back a specified number of generations paid a fee and got the pup's name listed in an archive. Period. That's all it means. Registration is neither a guarantee nor even an indication of quality. Nor does it tell you WHERE your puppy came from, if you buy it from a pet store, even if there is a kennel or breeder name listed. It certainly doesn't guarantee that the puppy didn't come from a "puppy mill" -- you know, those horrible places you hear about where the dogs live in deplorable conditions and are bred solely for profit, with no thought to the pain and suffering inflicted on these poor animals -- because some puppy millers make up their own registries!


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Who is the AKC and what do they do?

       The American Kennel Club, established in 1884, was formed originally to promoting the sport of purebred dogs and breeding for type and function. The organization maintains a purebred dog registry, sanctions dog events, and promotes responsible dog ownership. AKC registration means a dog, its parents, and its ancestors are purebred, but it does not indicate health or quality.

        Note the words "Kennel Club." The origin of the established breed registries such as the AKC and the UKC (United Kennel Club) was just that -- basically, a social club for dog afficianados to get together and enjoy their animals. Both have their own websites, and you might be interested in taking a look for yourself.


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Registration and the "Quality" of your Pet Shop Puppy

       There is a widely held belief that registration "papers" guarantee quality. This is just not true. A registration certificate identifies the dog as the offspring of a known sire and dam, born on a known date and NOTHING MORE.

        "Papers" DO NOT indicate quality or promise a healthy dog. Commercial and large-scale breeders and many "back yard breeders" who breed dogs for profit, don't really care about the quality demands of meeting a breed standard -- this is proven again and again by millers who breed for "rare" non-standard colors, even though these colors have been proven to be linked to genetic disabilities such as deafness. We have also discovered over the many years we have been dealing with these profiteers that they will actually keep puppies with known physical and genetic defects as breeders, if they cannot sell them to unsuspecting pet shoppers.

       Too many people believe that if they buy a dog that is "registered," it means that it came from a responsible, knowledgeable breeder who actually "cared" about the puppies they were breeding. Don't be mislead. See "Indy's Story" elsewhere on our website for one example.

       By the way, buyers are responsible for getting the registration paperwork from the seller. When 'papers' are not available at the time of delivery, it is a red-flag warning sign to exercise extreme caution.

       Please see the Dog Registration FAQ page and Rules Applying to Registration and Discipline for the full American Kennel Club explanation of their Registry and how it works. This is interesting reading, addresses many misconceptions, and also spells out the AKC's responsbilities, the breeder/seller's responsibilities, and the buyer's responsibilities.


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A Note on Other Breed Registries:

       The AKC, founded in 1884, is the oldest and largest breed registry organization in the US; the UKC or United Kennel Club, was established in 1898 and is the second oldest breed registry in the US. Both emphasize breeding for elimination of genetic disabilities, have club-wide codes of ethics for breeding and competitions, and now actively work to discourage irresponsible breeders. (Please see and/or for more information.)

       While some alternative breed registries were legitimately formed to promote and register established breeds, including those not recognized by the AKC, many new registries have been formed by puppy millers whose registry privileges have been revoked by the AKC or UKC due to complaints about breeding practices, who are breeding so-called "hybrid dogs," or who just don't want to be bothered with the fees or paperwork required by the traditional kennel clubs.

       For more on the topic of breed registries, and a list of questionable breed registries, please see About Dog Registries and Kennel Clubs on one of my all-time favorite informational websites, This website also features an outstanding satire on the proliferation of "new" breed registries (also known as "paper mills")


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Rascal the liver Boston Terrier was rescued from a dumpster at a puppy mill auction. His coloring is considered an automatic disqualification by the AKC

When Breed Registries can actually harm dogs:

       Breed registries not only register the ancestry of pure-bred dogs, they also define what the dogs should look like, how they should hold their tails, what their temperament should be, etc. The stated purpose of disqualifying non-desirable traits is to eliminate them from the gene pools. This is often a good thing, as in the case of some colorings and markings that appear to be genetically linked with disorders such as deafness, etc.

       A scrupulous breeder will generally sell animals exhibiting "disqualifying" traits as pets only, on a spay/neuter contract. However, a puppy miller will either breed with total disregard for the consequences, or destroy the puppies (generally by less than humane means). The liver Boston Terrier pictured on the left is an example: he was rescued as a puppy from a dumpster at a puppy mill auction -- back before millers discovered that they could charge premium prices for non-standard colors! (You can read about him here.)


The dogs on this page:

Indy's Story   *   Mr. Peabody's Story   *   Rascal's Story


 pawprint bullet point   Finding Your New Best Friend   pawprint bullet point

 pawprint bullet point   Before You Buy or Adopt   pawprint bullet point   Guide to Finding a Pet   pawprint bullet point   Red Flags: Disreputable Breeders   pawprint bullet point

 pawprint bullet point   Identifying a Quality Breeder   pawprint bullet point   Breeders With Pride: Responsible Breeders Speak Out   pawprint bullet point

 pawprint bullet point   DATCP: Essential Questions to Ask Before Buying a Dog or Puppy (pdf)   pawprint bullet point   DATCP: Puppy Shopping (pdf)   pawprint bullet point

 pawprint bullet point   DATCP: Shopping for a Puppy   pawprint bullet point    DATCP: WI Licensed Dog Sellers Listing   pawprint bullet point   DATCP: Information for Consumers   pawprint bullet point

 pawprint bullet point   What Does Breed Registration Really Mean?   pawprint bullet point   Rehoming: Free To Good Home?     pawprint bullet point

What Is A Puppy Mill?
What Can I Do?
Laws/ Legislation


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P.O. Box 926    *    Sheboygan, WI 53082-0926   *

Article Copyright © 2005, by Michelle Crean and the Wisconsin Puppy Mill Project. All Rights Reserved..
Photos Copyright © 2003, 2005, by Pat Crean, Pictures By Pat. All Rights Reserved. Used with permission.

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