Ethical Practices: Providing AKC Registration Paperwork

by Joyce Johanson

It is just a little slip of paper, actually-about one-third the size of a standard sheet of paper, certainly not printed on anything closely resembling expensive certificate paper stock, yet that AKC Registration Certificate is the sum of much more than the information printed on it. From a breeder perspective, the Registration Certificate represents the right to breed our Lhasa to another AKC registered Lhasa and the right to register the litter of puppies and later to register the individuals in the litter. The Registration Certificate says, "AKC recognizes this Lhasa Apso as a purebred whose ancestry can be traced for generations." From an exhibitor perspective, the Registration Certificate allows us to enter our Lhasa Apsos in a variety of AKC competitions and to earn (or at least attempt to earn) their title(s).

But what about from a pet owner perspective? How important is the Registration Certificate to a pet owner? In spite of what you and I know -and what AKC comes right out and says-about Registration Certificates NOT being indicative of quality-there is value in them for pet owners, a value recognized for years and years by the proud words, "My dog has papers!" This value is one AKC seeks to perpetuate as the nation's premiere dog registry, and one that those of us who have AKC dogs should honor as well. After all, if our dogs had no "papers," where would our breeding programs be and how could we possibly show our dogs?

In my 35 plus years experience showing, breeding, and selling Lhasas, I've found that pet owners can be categorized in at least three ways when it comes to their perspectives on AKC Registration Certificates:
(1) They want proof that their Lhasa is a purebred and register-able with AKC. If they had wanted something without papers, they'd have gone to the local dog pound to get it. That piece of paper means something very important to them.
(2) They want a purebred Lhasa but don't really have a desire to register him since they are not going to breed or show him anyway. They just want to have the paperwork in case they decide to register the dog or in case they want to tell their friends, "My dog has papers!"
(3) They don't care one way or the other. They'll take the puppy's Registration Application if you insist on sending it to them when the puppy is neutered. They may or may not register the puppy. All they want a nice, healthy representative of the breed to love and to be part of their family.

Let's take a look at the issue of providing (or not providing) AKC Registration Applications according to practice recommended by AKC. First, the majority of us require pet puppy buyers to sign a spay/neuter contract agreeing to furnish us with proof of spaying/neutering by a certain date. We withhold the puppies' AKC Registration Applications until we receive that proof. AKC has no problem with us doing that, but when we do it, AKC requires that we provide the buyer with identifying information about the puppy: sire's and dam's names and AKC numbers, puppy's date of birth, color/markings, and litter registration number on the bill of sale and spay/neuter contract. AKC cautions buyers to be wary about purchasing a puppy from a breeder who does not furnish such information on the bill of sale or contract. The problem is that too many buyers don't read the AKC warning before they buy the puppy. When they discover they might have a problem, it is often too late for anything but hard feelings.

If your intent is to sell a puppy on a spay/neuter contract yet never fulfill your end of the bargain by furnishing the puppy's AKC Registration Application when proof of spaying/neutering is provided, then your tactics border on unethical. Why would you do that? Because you can sell the puppies more easily? Because you can ask for more money if you promise AKC paperwork? Because you didn't feel like registering the litter? Whatever your reasons, examine them. If you know you have a litter of pets, and you don't want to waste the money to register the litter, then be honest with your buyers. Sell the puppies without papers and do not lead buyers to believe they will receive AKC registration paperwork from you later.

Recognizing that there are times when a breeder does not want to furnish registration paperwork, AKC tells us that it is okay to withhold AKC papers only if the buyer signs a statement agreeing that papers are to be withheld. The breeder's records also must indicate no papers will ever be furnished for the dog. In such a case, AKC suggests that the breeder withhold all identifying information and provide only the basics, such as puppy's birth date and health records.

The thing is, it is perfectly acceptable to withhold AKC papers as long as buyers know they are being withheld and agree to it. Then everything is above board and honest. It is not okay to tell puppy buyers you will furnish their puppies' AKC paperwork when they furnish you with spay/neuter proof and then not follow through on the promise. And it is even less okay to sign an agreement with them saying you will provide papers when you do not intend to do so.

We all have a right to be protective of our puppies, our breeding lines, and the future of our breeding programs. No one denies that. Just don't lie or misrepresent yourself and your intentions to your puppy buyers. That little scrap of paper with the purple border is a puppy's birthright. As his/her breeder, you can withhold that paper from the new owners. Just be honest about it. If you don't want to furnish registration paperwork, then tell the buyers up front, ask them to sign an agreement saying they realize they will not get AKC registration paperwork for their puppy, and keep a copy of that signed agreement with your other AKC records.

It's all about honesty, integrity, and trust.

Please note: Permission to reproduce and/or circulate information in this article is granted. However, the article must be disseminated in its entirety and credit must be given to Joyce Johanson, Joyslyn's Lhasa Apsos. Thanks!

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