5 On Your Side

Dog owner runs into problems over AKC registration

Posted April 2, 2009 4:54 p.m. EDT
Updated April 2, 2009 7:06 p.m. EDT

— For some dog lovers, only a purebred will do. They see American Kennel Club registration as proof and are happy to pay more for a registered dog.

When a Willow Springs man hit a roadblock in getting that registration for his new puppies, he called 5 on Your Side.

“Both of them are just about as loveable as they can be,” Carlton Holt said of his dogs, Sophie and sister Bella.

In August, Holt paid Carolyn Burnham $800 for the puppies.

“The granddaughter fell in love with one. My wife fell in love with the other one, so we purchased them,” Holt said.



Holt says Burnham promised AKC registration papers in three to four weeks. When they didn't arrive, he called Burnham who promised to get the papers to him. But Holt also made another call.

“I had called the AKC in Raleigh and they said they did not have any registration on the puppies born on this date,” Holt said.

Holt said months of repeated telephone messages left for Burnham were never returned

So what do AKC registration "papers" really mean? Based on what WRAL found out from the AKC and other canine experts, not a whole lot. While the club has mandatory inspections for breeders who produce seven or more litters and randomly inspects breeders who have at least four litters per year, that leaves out a lot of breeders. The papers simply mean the parents of the litter are registered with the AKC, and that the breeder registered the litter. Puppies do not have to meet any health, temperament or behavior qualifications in order to be registered.

Though the AKC requires DNA proof for some breeders, it generally operates on an "honor system" – meaning it trusts the information breeders provide is accurate – so papers also don't guarantee a purebred.

That information raised more questions about Bella and Sophie. Even though Burnham was associated with two Web sites that advertised as breeders – Shih Tzu by Burnwood and Pomeranians by Burnwood – she told WRAL by telephone that she was not really a breeder.

She said she sold only a "couple" of puppy litters. She also said she did not receive Holt's phone calls. Burnham then sent Holt a $100 refund along with AKC registration papers which list another name as the breeder, and a different birth date for Sophie and Bella than what Holt said he was told by Burnham.

As for the Burnwood companies, 13 complaints have been filed with the Better Business Bureau which lists an "F" rating. The Pomeranian Web site has since been taken down.

Holt said the findings were unsettling.

“Don't get me wrong, they're still just as loveable as if they had papers, but the papers do mean something to a lot of people,” Holt said. "I've learned an expensive lesson."

If AKC registration is important to you, the AKC says to get the papers when you buy the puppy. They say there is no reason for a delay.

While a pedigree is nothing more than a list of a dog's "family tree," experts say responsible breeders rely on it to make sure they don't breed dogs that are too closely related and to track genetic health problems. Papers and pedigree don't guarantee the quality of a dog, but are an indicator of whether a breeder is reputable.

Another indicator is having proper health certifications. Reputable breeders will have health certifications several generations back for genetic issues common to that particular breed. The AKC also says consumers should look for membership in parent clubs and finally, the breeder should be willing to take the dog back for life.

For more information, go to the AKC Web site.