Platinum Standard: Is it a Pipe Dream or a Real Possibility?

By Kim Colacchio

I have written this to start a conversation about the right standards for dog breeders.

While I have always been a dog lover, I recently became a dog owner. Anyone who knows me knows how carefully I do my research before making any important decisions. Naturally, I researched all things dog before becoming a dog owner.

Research led me to which breed was best for my family and me. It led me to fact-based answers about the kind of breeder I wanted and the conditions under which I expected the dog I was buying to have been bred, nurtured, and socialized.

My research made me an informed pet buyer and showed me the good, the bad, and the ugly sides of dog breeding. It also has led me to imagine a higher standard.

My Dream

I dream about creating a new seal of approval: The Platinum Standard to signify that a dog has been bred in a humane manner and raised under optimal conditions (well fed, well cared for, socialized, given access to top-shelf veterinary care, kept in a clean environment, adequately protected from the elements).

The Platinum Standard would recognize breeders who give their female dogs ample time to recover from a birth before breeding them again. It would recognize breeders who socialize puppies so well that they arrive “pre-spoiled”. It would recognize those breeders who practice good husbandry and follow the highest standards of bathing and grooming puppies and parents.

The Platinum Standard would become dog breeding’s equivalent to the Good HouseKeeping Seal of Approval. It would be not replace AKC, but complement it, by certifying breeders for the quality of care provided to puppies and parents.

*Please note: The information below is not intended to bash, diminish, or malign the AKC. I use AKC only as an example of a registration system that has existed for a very long time. AKC is a highly successful, highly influential organization in the world of purebred dogs.

  • AKC was formed in 1884. It is 131 years old.
  • AKC is a non-profit that registers purebred dogs in the United States
  • AKC registration indicates only that a dog’s parents were registered as one of the recognized breeds. AKC registration does not necessarily indicate that the dog came from healthy or a show-quality bloodline. Nor is registration a reflection of the quality of the breeder or an indication of how the puppy was raised (1).
  • AKC maintains approximately nine field inspectors.
  • Consumers are convinced that if a dog is registered AKC, it is show quality and comes from a healthy bloodline. However, AKC registration does not necessarily indicate either.
  • AKC registered dogs come from high-quality breeders, backyard breeders, Amish breeders, puppy mills and large-scale breeders. Good and bad breeders are allowed to register their dogs AKC.
  • Consumers drive the need for puppies. Pet stores, breeders, internet puppy sellers are all in business because consumers want to become dog owners.
  • Pet stores and internet sales fulfill the needs of the consumer who want/need to buy to satisfy an immediate need.
  • Consumers who buy dogs from pet stores and backyard breeders often are impulse buyers. The puppies they buy are often ill and in need of immediate veterinary care. At times, the financial burden of caring for a sick puppy is so great that families surrender these dogs to shelters and rescues because they cannot afford the care their new puppy needs.

Various breeders who registered their dogs AKC have been shut down, raided, and closed shortly after having been inspected by an AKC inspector (2).

  • Dogs are considered livestock and fall under USDA regulation.
  • Enforcing breeding standards using the USDA is difficult because the agency lacks the resources and inspectors to visit the large number of breeding operations that exist today.
  • Consumer demand for puppies is greatest during the Christmas season. Do buyers put enough thought into the purchase? Is it more likely to be an impulse buy?
  • Large Scale breeders, puppy mills, and back yard breeders are manufactures of puppies, many of whom fall short in the areas of quality control and quality assurance.

So, how could “The Platinum Standard” become a reality? It would require hard work. Here are, not in any particular order, some of the issue that would have to be considered:

  • Who would be the governing body? National Alliance for Dog Breeding Reform (NADBR)?
  • How could we get breeders to comply with the standard?
  • How do we tell consumers about the new standard?
  • How many breeders and vets would support a new standard?
  • Can we create a business plans that convinces breeders of all sizes that the Platinum Standard would be good for their business?
  • How do we get breeders that aren’t meeting the standard to change their behavior so they do?
  • How would we get trademark protection for the Platinum Standard?
  • Is the Platinum Standard a registration or a brand or both?
  • How much would we charge for the seal of approval?
  • Since it would be a non-profit, could we use funds for education and marketing?
  • Could we apply for grants to assist in the educational funding?
  • Would we have to work with USDA or other government agencies?
  • Could pet insurance companies assist us in establishing the Platinum Standard?
  • Could this be an offshoot of NADBR?
  • Could this become a solution to address the dark side of poor breeding habits?
  • How can the consumer drive the solution? (Education and demand for excellence?)

Who could we work with to establish the new standard?

  • Breeders who already meet high standards and want to differentiate themselves
  • Breeders who offer multi-year health guarantees
  • New breeders who want to establish themselves as different and better.
  • Veterinarians
  • Consumers through brochures? Bill Boards? Social Media? (Congratulations on your new AKC registered puppy! Is your puppy “Platinum Standard” registered?)
  • Companies that practice Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). For example, JM Smucker’s, a leader in CSR, recently acquired several pet food brands.

If the Platinum Standard were to become widely adopted and followed, dogs would be the main beneficiaries. We, as pet owners, would have reliable sources for healthy, happy puppies that have been bred under the best conditions.

We can make a difference by beginning the effort for a higher standard, a Platinum Standard.

Thank you for reading.

(1) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/American_Kennel_Club

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