Target: Dennis B. Sprung, American Kennel Club President and Chief Executive Officer
Goal: Discourage the use of inbreeding and expand breed standards to include healthy dogs.
Purebred dogs are often regarded as the gold standard of pets. However, this is simply an illusion that’s been crafted by dog registry organizations, such as the American Kennel Club (AKC). In reality, purebred dogs are often some of the least healthy pets available due to the practices required to keep certain breed traits prominent.
Although the AKC and other breed registry organizations do not explicitly encourage inbreeding, they also do not forbid it. In an effort to preserve or enhance iconic breed traits, such as droopy ears or a curly tail, breeders often opt to mate dogs with their cousins, grandparents, or even siblings. Beyond just the “ew” factor of inbreeding, this practice can lead to serious problems for the the resulting offspring.
Mating two individuals that are very genetically similar increases the chance of dangerous recessive genes coming together and surfacing as a malady. Furthermore, when breeders mate dogs with the intention of improving or exaggerating just one trait, they often ignore the genes that come “packaged” with the desired ones. This can result in surprising physical or behavioral problems developing over generations.
Generations of inbreeding to exaggerate the long, slender muzzle of the collie have drastically reduced brain size, resulting in what renowned animal behaviorist Temple Grandin calls “brainless icepick” dogs. Similarly, animals lacking pigmentation of the skin are known for fearful dispositions leading to behavioral problems. Dalmatians and other dogs that are bred for albino traits often end up with temperament issues that land them in shelters. Most shockingly, one third of all purebred cavalier King Charles spaniels suffer from a severe condition resulting from their brains being too big for their skull. These animals suffer needlessly just to fit a certain description.
Dog breeds do not really exist. Because all domestic dogs belong to the same species, Canis lupus familiaris, the precise physical attributes assigned to a particular breed are completely man-made. These traits are also impossible to maintain over time without drastically limiting the gene pool. By glorifying certain appearances and encouraging the use of minute gene pools, breed registries cause the suffering of the animals they claim to care so much about. Sign the petition below to urge the AKC to stop encouraging inbreeding and to broaden their “breed standards” to include healthy dogs.
Dear President Sprung,
Dog breeds have changed drastically over the past several hundred years. As people select animals for the traits they like, they often forget other genes come “packaged” with these traits, many of which lead to health problems. Owners of purebred dogs repeatedly find their animals suffer more and live shorter lives than their “mutt” dog counterparts.
I’m sure you’re familiar with brachycephalic bully breeds, or the prevalence of the horrific brain condition known as syringomyelia in cavalier King Charles spaniels. These maladies are just some of the direct results of heavy inbreeding. Yet, the physical appearances of these dogs fit the bill for breed standards. Allowing animals to suffer in order to adhere to a certain description is unethical and downright cruel.
Although the AKC does not specifically recommend inbreeding, it also does not forbid it. The result is a culture that values the physical appearance of dogs over their health and wellbeing. If the AKC truly exists for the love of dogs, it will stop being a ring leader for these harmful practices. I urge you to please stop encouraging inbreeding and expand breed standards to allow for the production of healthy dogs.
[Your Name Here]
Photo Credit: State Farm