Demand Better Health Standards for Show Dogs


Target: American Kennel Club Chairman Alan Kalter

Goal: Change harmful American Kennel Club breed standards to improve health

The show standards for the American Kennel Club (AKC) require a specific type of breeding of pedigree dogs that results in severe health problems, limited genetic differences and physical problems. Inbreeding increases the risk of disease, and AKC practices continue to encourage detrimental breed standards and subsequent health issues. Demand that the AKC take action to revise harmful breed standards, and encourage health instead of looks.

Breeding for conformation produces animals with skulls literally too small for their brains (as is the case of the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel), propensity toward hip dysplasia, shortened nasal passages that do not allow them to breathe adequately, and a host of other problems. Health has been sacrificed for aesthetics, and the quality of life for many dog breeds is severely impacted. Physical appearance to adhere to a standard is of more concern than breeding dogs with healthier physical traits that would improve their lives. The pug is the perfect example, with numerous issues resulting from a breed standard that calls for a flattened face. Many pugs suffer breathing difficulties, as the excess tissue of shortened airways impedes their breathing, are intolerant of heat, and are prone to eye prolapse, obesity, and hip dysplasia.

Nor do AKC guidelines allow for extensive introduction of genetic lines that do not produce conforming dogs. Closed studbooks means inbreeding on a massive scale, with little chance of genetic diversity or introduction of bloodlines that might produce healthier dogs. Instead, rigid guidelines restrict breeding to conformation, no matter that such conformation might be actively harmful. When running wild or allowed to roam, dogs naturally begin to intermingle enough to breed out extremes in appearance. The lack of potential mates in AKC breeding, however, means there is no such balance; as such, dogs are prone to hereditary diseases and conditions such as hip dysplasia, heart abnormalities, and cancer. Many breeds already have a small number of founding bloodlines—some have as little as 20 founding members—which greatly increases the risk of these disorders, as AKC-registered individuals are frequently from the same lines.

Though the AKC does have health committees and encourages health testing for breeders, these measures are not enough. There must be broader, wide-spread change, perhaps even a complete alteration of breed standards to improve the health and quality of life of dog breeds.


Dear Chairman Alan Kalter,

Breeding dogs for an aesthetic value has had a disastrous effect on the health of the animals we call family. With limited genetic options, inbreeding, and show standards that call for unhealthy conformation, we are literally breeding dogs to death. Closed or restricted studbooks only exacerbate the problems, disallowing new bloodlines that would greatly help increase genetic diversity.

So many dog breeds face health issues because of breeding for conformation—from dry eyes to hip dysplasia to incredibly painful malformations of the brain—that we simply cannot continue this practice. Conformation standards must change. Such an alteration would profoundly impact the appearance of many dog breeds, but it is a necessary step to address the wide-spread health problems in registered breeds. We cannot continue to breed dogs to a standard that is detrimental to their health, subjecting them to painful disorders or diminished quality of life, solely in the name of aesthetics.


[Your Name Here]

Photo Credit: Beckilee via Wikimedia Commons

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