Is there anything we can do to counter PETA’s incredibly effective
campaign that makes people want to “save a life” by adopting someone else’s reject instead of buying a healthy, socialized, gorgeous purebred from a breeder?
How can we overcome the image HSUS projects of genetically defective purebred dogs? Since AKC absolutely refuses to market the concept of well-bred purebreds, is there any reason to stand up for what we believe in? Are we too crippled, too browbeaten, and too alone to change the direction of purebred dogs?
Dear. Ms. Andrews
There is a great deal we can do. First and foremost, STOP blaming all
the ills of the dog world on 'puppy mills'! Just STOP.
Doing this creates a false story line that is exploited to pass laws
that hurt hobby breeding right along with -- often before --
commercial breeding. Pet limit laws and anti-'hoarding' laws because
"We don't want puppy mills HERE!"; breeder licensing laws that drive
some of us away because of the invasion of privacy and the costs and
create the niche for a terror campaign by incompetent and corrupt
animal control, and that above all leave a stench in the public mind:
"Dog breeders are bad people."
Talk about what good breeders do when you can; point out bad ones when
necessary, making clear exactly what IS bad. But DO NOT use an
all-purpose non-specific smear term to apply to any breeder because
you ARE smearing all of us when you do.
The AKC has come many miles in the last five years. But yes, they
could still do more. The AKC needed to deal with issues coming from
larger kennels and nearly all of those are now commercial. That was
good (more like 'essential,' actually) but when a registry enforces
standards for care and conditions that increase customer costs it
needs to show corresponding value. The AKC did NOTHING to show its
customers that those added costs were justified, the attitude was "If
you don't already know why you need the AKC, then don't let the door
hit you in the backside."
The result was utterly predictable: New 'just a registry' registries
sprang up. The quality was widely variable but what they had in
common was lower costs and a willingness to treat the customer as a
CUSTOMER. As in 'is always right,' rather than 'needs us.'
All is not lost. The AKC owned -- still largely commands -- the
marketing high ground. It still has name recognition that the others
only dream about. It could use its position to tell the public why
'AKC registered' is the mark of quality in dogs. It is at last taking
steps in that direction but needs support, encouragement, and as we
see progress, more of our MONEY.
The continual talk of puppy mills would be merely a distraction for
the AKC if it didn't generate so much waste and ill-feeling. How can
it help us that every Board of Directors has 'Puppy mills are the
problem!' members? Answer: It can't -- these people keep the AKC from
focusing on the real enemy, namely the animal rights movement. THEY
are a major reason the AKC has done such a poor job of marketing.
Just a couple more comments. First, we really DO need commercial
breeding. Yes, Ms. Andrews and others, the AKC was RIGHT about this.
Hobby breeders would have to expand production by three or four-fold
to supply the annual requirement for puppies at current prices. Do I
need to tell my fellow active breeders that "THAT AIN'T GONNA HAPPEN"?
(Or rather, it could only happen if the number of hobby breeders were
greatly expanded. Since the AKC is only just discovering the idea of
recruitment and the laws really ARE unfavorable, that expansion is at
best well in the future.)
If visible and legal commercial breeding is eliminated, it will be
replaced by INvisible and ILlegal commercial breeding. Some of this
will be back in the hills, some will be overseas; how can we imagine
that any of it will meet reasonable standards for ANYTHING? How
can that be better for ANYONE? HOW CAN IT BE ANYTHING BUT A DISASTER
FOR THE DOGS?
And finally, if quality home hobby breeders are having trouble selling
puppies then either they're in a breed which is not in demand as pets
-- a reasonable choice but not a justification for whining about poor
sales -- or they aren't doing a good job of marketing. Do you tell
your prospective customer who you are and what's important to you? Is
what you say about yourself what buyers would want to hear? (Hint:
Your show wins are pretty far down your pet buyer's list ...)
'Marketing' is the lamp by which your prospective customer sees you.
If your number one priority is a healthy, happy dog that is everything
your breed standard says it should be but all you talk about is your
show wins, you are hiding your light under a basket. If you don't
bother returning referral phone calls, if you hang up if someone asks
the price right up front, you're kissing some potentially great
owners good bye before you've even said 'Hello.'
Do you have a whole bunch of rules about who you won't sell to? Do
those rules really identify homes that would be unlikely to succeed or
do they just reinforce your feeling of superiority?
Do you have a clear up-to-date web site giving the reader information
about both your breed and your breeding program? Do you focus on
helping a good family get together with a good dog, even if that means
a referral to someone who has puppies right now? Or puppies of a
certain color? Or sells for less than you do?
ARE YOU NICE TO YOUR PROSPECTS AND CUSTOMERS?
Or would you rather blame all your troubles on 'puppy mills'? That's
certainly easier ...