Partial welcome given mutts in AKC contests

By Scott Farwell Published: May 26, 2009
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Ho
oper fears the AKC’s about-face will legitimize unscrupulous breeders who, she said, are responsible for hybrids such as cockapoos (cocker spaniel-poodle) and labradoodles (Labrador-poodle). "Those breeders are not concerned about genetic issues,” she said. "My concern is that with AKC’s acceptance, it will give people a sales pitch.”

The danger deepens, she said, when celebrities such as Paris Hilton prance around with designer dogs in diamond collars, their heads poking from expensive Gucci handbags.

Lisa Peterson, an AKC spokeswoman, said the dog-advocacy group’s rule change creates an opportunity for mixed breeds and their owners to demonstrate their skills, often acquired in AKC-sponsored classes.

To be listed, mutts must be spayed or neutered and have up-to-date shots. After paying a $35 program fee, they may compete in stand-alone events against other mixed breeds. Competitions will begin in April, and titles will be awarded separately from the purebreds.

"As for now, they will compete separately,” Peterson said. "As for what the future holds, who knows?”

Cindy Leung, president of the Mixed Breed Dog Clubs of America, said time and increasing tolerance eventually forced the AKC to revise its century-old policy.

Why did it take so long?

"I think because they didn’t have to change, because they had enough money and the fanciers and conformation and pureblood people were being elitist,” she said. "But the AKC has fallen as registrations have fallen, and they’ve seen their legislative power wane.”

Without the change, she said, the AKC could not credibly claim to be the voice of the American dog owner. She described the policy shift in civil-rights-era terms.

"I can finally sit on the bus,” she said. "I can’t sit in every seat, but at least I can sit on the bus. For now, that’s enough.”

McClatchy-Tribune Information Services


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