The dog in the picture above exemplifies just how much is wrong with the way the American Kennel Club, which touts itself as a champion of dogs, goes about its business.

She was recently rescued from an AKC breeder in Caldwell County, North Carolina, along with more than 30 other dogs. When her rescuers found her, she was all skin and bones, riddled with parasites and lethargic. She was also pregnant with seven puppies, four of whom died at birth; the remaining three required hospitalization and round-the-clock care to survive.

This dog is now receiving all the TLC she needs at the Caldwell County Animal Shelter where staff members are doing their best for the animals. But her suffering hasn’t ended yet. North Carolina has no clear laws to protect dogs like her, in part because of the AKC’s strident lobbying against any commonsense laws cracking down on puppy mills. So, the court that will decide her fate could very well return her to the same mill from which she was rescued.

[Bill introduced in Senate to end worst practices in puppy mills]

It was an even worse story at another former AKC-linked puppy mill in Person County, also in North Carolina, that made the news last year, after the owner was found dead on the property. When the sheriff’s office called us for help, we found more than two dozen dogs in dire shape with no access to food or water, many surviving by feeding off the decaying carcasses of other dead dogs. The AKC had suspended the breeder for a year in 2015 because of the animals’ poor living conditions, but her website showed AKC registration papers for multiple dogs and litters, at least one of which was fairly recent.

That an organization which proclaims its devotion to dogs should be party to such animal suffering is outrageous, but it is not surprising. We have told you many times before about the AKC’s double standard on dogs, including its strong support for puppy mills. Some of the worst commercial breeders in our country wear their AKC credentials like a badge of honor, diverting consumers away from better sources of dogs, such as animal shelters, rescue groups and responsible breeders. In the past, we’ve unearthed numerous instances of AKC registered dogs at problem puppy mills where animals live in terrible conditions. The reality of their lives couldn’t be further from the pictures of well-groomed, healthy dogs that these AKC-approved breeders put out on their websites for public consumption.

The organization also fights laws designed to regulate puppy mills. In 2018, for example, the AKC helped kill a bill in New Hampshire that would have protected dogs raised, mistreated and neglected by unscrupulous breeders. The bill was introduced with the HSUS’s support, after our high-profile rescue of 84 Great Danes living in squalor in a mansion in Wolfeboro, New Hampshire. We managed to successfully push for—and helped to pass--an upgraded commercial breeder law in New Hampshire last year, despite strong opposition from the AKC. This year, the AKC is working hard to undo the progress we’ve made in New Hampshire, and it continues to lobby against hundreds of other bills designed to protect companion animals across the United States.

[New Hampshire fight reveals American Kennel Club as a champion of puppy mills, not dogs]

We now await news concerning the fate of the dogs rescued in Caldwell County with some concern. The animal shelter there has done a tremendous job investigating, documenting and caring for them, and that has not been easy since many have serious health issues. It would be only right for these dogs to be released from the breeder’s custody so they can be adopted into loving homes, instead of keeping them hanging in legal limbo. Some of the breeder’s associates and former puppy buyers are rallying to her defense, but most of them never saw the conditions her dogs were in when they were seized. That’s one of the reasons we are sharing this photo now.

The breeder has been charged with two misdemeanor counts of animal cruelty, and we strongly encourage the Caldwell County District Attorney’s Office to take these charges seriously, to consider additional charges, and to prosecute her. This so-called professional breeder is nothing more than a puppy mill operator and she should be held accountable for mistreating the animals in her care. North Carolina has bonding and forfeiture laws that should be used to require the breeder, not the shelter, to continue to pay for the needed veterinary, housing and medical needs of these dogs as the case proceeds. ​

We also urge North Carolina to pass a strong commercial breeder law to fight its puppy mill problem. Organizations like the AKC have deep pockets and the ability to win some lawmakers over, but it does not have the best interests of animals at heart. Americans are also increasingly demanding that their lawmakers act against those responsible for raising and keeping animals in misery and squalor, and puppy millers are at the top of that list. This is not a contest the AKC can win.