AKC Announces New Fees

Dog registrations and co-ownerships will see an increase in cost

The AKC published the minutes of its monthly board of directors’ meeting on the AKC website (www.akc.org/about/board_minutes.cfm). The minutes are an excellent way to keep up on developments within the AKC. The October 2011 minutes in particular held some significant news of interest to all in the fancy.

Increase in Registration Fees
First, the minutes announce a major increase in the cost of registering and transferring a dog: the price goes from $20 to $30 effective January 1, 2012. This is the first fee increase since 2007. It is no secret that the AKC has been facing ever-increasing competition from other pedigree registries.

While Americans are owning more purebred pet dogs than ever before, smaller numbers of them are AKC-registered. Interestingly, the dwindling registration numbers are only among pet owners, not in registrations from those involved in AKC conformation and competition events.

The registration fee increase to $30 is hoped to result in increased revenue. It remains to be seen, however, if this fee increase will instead cause the number of AKC registrations to decrease even further. Pet owners could easily turn to other less costly registration services.

There are over 30 different registries (and counting) available for purebred dogs alone (and many more for increasingly popular “designer” dogs) and many have registration fees significantly lower than $30. The average pet owner can get confused as to which registry to use, or to understand why they might want the AKC’s registration over any other. For the owner only interested in a pretty certificate of registration, the $30 fee may well prove to be a disincentive.

Many show breeders find any fee increase distasteful (and believe that the show breeders should be granted a discount, if anything) and would have the AKC find another way to increase its revenue and/or control its spending. The debate is ongoing, in AKC meetings and elsewhere. The minutes of the monthly AKC board meetings and quarterly AKC delegates’ meetings provide useful insight on the issues at the forefront of these and other discussions.

New Fee for Co-owners
The October minutes also report that beginning January 1, 2012 the AKC will charge $10 for each additional co-owner on a registration or transfer application. The only exception will be where the co-owners of a bitch, who co-own a litter, seek to register the puppies from that litter to themselves, the litter owners. In other words, if A and B co-breed a litter, A and B can be on the individual puppy registrations for the base price, but adding on anyone else to any puppy will cost an additional $10 for each person added.

The AKC has often stated that it discourages co-ownership. We all know that co-ownership is a major cause of dog-related disputes. Indeed, the October minutes report that a good 14 percent of AKC compliance cases are co-ownership disputes. Interestingly, the AKC reports that only about a third of all AKC registrations and transfers have two or more owners on the dog. One would probably find a much higher percentage of co-ownerships when looking only at those dogs who place at the top of their breed rankings.

The minutes also report that “non-fanciers” represent 80 percent of all co-ownerships. The term “non-fanciers” is meant to refer to those who do not own/co-own a dog that competes in conformation or other competitions, according to Margaret Poindexter, Esq., general counsel for the AKC.

In other words, pet owners (usually a husband and wife combination) comprise 80 percent of all co-ownerships. The statistic may be misleading, however, since in fact about 85 percent of all AKC dog owners are “non-fanciers”: the number of litters registered by fanciers is about 55,000 annually, out of a total of 392,000 litters (using 2008 statistics).

The AKC has long held the position that all co-owners have equal standing with the AKC as “owners” and there is no significance to being the first owner listed on the registration. However, until now, only the first owner listed received the registration certificate. Under the new system, the “primary” co-owner receives the original certification of registration (as before), but each additional co-owner will now receive an email copy of the registration certificate, marked “COPY.” This email copy will not bear the certificate issue date, and will not have a transfer form printed on it.

Possible Effects of the New Co-ownership Fee
The new fee is intended primarily to require co-owners to bear some of the AKC’s financial burden resulting from co-ownerships. The co-owner fee may also have other effects. It may be a financial disincentive to co-own. It may also spur breeders to explore other ways of attempting to impose certain conditions on puppy buyers and co-owners.

Being listed as a co-owner on the registration is, by itself, a fairly ineffective way to exert any control over a dog, as a close reading of the AKC rules will reveal. For example, only one sire owner signature is needed to register a litter. The consent (or objection) of any sire’s co-owners is irrelevant.

A similar, lesser-known rule exists with bitches: unless the seller of a bitch specifically stated in her contract with the co-owner/buyer that the seller has the right to refuse to sign litter and puppy registrations (or unless the seller has some other “satisfactory reason” for refusing), the AKC will register the offspring to the co-owner, without the seller’s consent. See “Rules Applying to Registration and Discipline,” Chapter 3, section 6.

This is true despite the AKC’s basic rule that all co-owners of a bitch must sign to register the litter. (Interestingly, the October minutes report also that a possible amendment to this policy is under discussion.) In legal disputes, as well, being listed as an owner or co-owner on an AKC registration is of questionable probative value, depending on the situation and on what other indicia of ownership exist.

Lisa Curry, Esq. raises and shows Westies and Toy Fox Terriers. She practices law in New Jersey. www.lawfordogs.com

Article Categories:
Dogs In Review