The American Kennel Club (AKC) is the world’s brand name authority on dogs. It has such credibility that a holding company licenses the AKC name to sell AKC-branded pet insurance, much the same way the AARP sells its endorsement to United Healthcare to brand its Medicare insurance.[i][ii]

However, a three-month investigation by The Canine Review found that the go-to authority on dogs is designating thousands of breeders as “Breeders of Merit” without any prerequisite onsite inspection, even as the AKC assures the public on its website that it considers them “the most conscientious and most committed breeders.”[iii] The AKC’s business model and simple math reveal that terms like “routine” and “thorough” are misleading. In fact, even if only the 11,000 Breeders of Merit were subject to inspections, “routine” and “thorough” would be a stretch, as The Canine Review’s examination will show.
The oldest, largest, and most prominent dog registry in the world, the AKC attracts about 2 million visitors every month to its online Marketplace.[vi] There, they can use the AKC’s “Puppy Finder” to search for AKC-registered puppies and breeders, including the approximately 11,000[viii] AKC “Breeders of Merit” who all supposedly meet the AKC’s requirements.[ix] The AKC’s credibility is such that, according to the AKC Board of Directors’ published minutes of a November 2016 meeting[x], “[ is] the number 1 content site among all dog sites.”[xi]
However, The Canine Review has found that the world’s authority on dogs is making promises on its website about its quality controls that it cannot possibly be keeping. For example, the AKC promises visitors to the Marketplace that all puppies listed “receive health care, good nutrition, socialization, and love from day one” because all breeders listed “are subject to routine kennel inspections….”[vii]). Yet the math behind the AKC’s business model, explained in detail below, makes such quality controls impossible….
CEO Dennis Sprung and other AKC officials would not comment when asked to discuss the Marketing Plan cited in the July 2015 Board Minutes. Brandi Hunter, the AKC’s spokeswoman, provided an answer presumably intended to address several questions, including our questions about an apparently top-secret Marketing Plan: “There will be no divulgence of marketing plans, internal case reviews or operating costs that are not already publicly available. Those are internal documents and are confidential.”