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National Certification Program – Canine Care Certified – Establishes Rigorous Standards for Professional Breeders

August 2, 2016

LAS VEGAS, NV (August 2, 2016): Recognized animal health and well-being experts and animal scientists from academia, along with leaders representing the pet industry, veterinary medicine and animal welfare organizations, today joined together to introduce a new national certification program for the care of dogs and puppies by professional breeders. Canine Care Certified, a national, voluntary program that sets rigorous standards for professional breeders, was developed after three years of research at Purdue University’s Center for Animal Welfare Science and was peer-reviewed by animal scientists and canine welfare experts from major academic institutions.

“This is a program with expansive reach, deep substance, and pilot testing to ensure it works. For professional breeders, there should be no more important business practice than ensuring the health and well-being of their dogs,” said Dr. Candace Croney, director of Purdue’s Center for Animal Welfare Science. “We took a hard, thorough look at public expectations, the relationship of breeders with their dogs and what those mean for dogs’ long-term physical and behavioral health. Then, we framed that relationship in the context of a comprehensive and truly unprecedented program that can be continuously improved and strengthened. The fact that participation is voluntary indicates the level to which participating breeders are committed to doing right by their dogs and the public.”

The certification program standards address five pillars of care, which include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Physical health: Only veterinarians may perform any necessary surgeries. Breeders must also work with their veterinarians to develop comprehensive physical health plans for preventative care and treatment of dogs; genetic testing and health screening are required.
  • Environment: Enriched, high-quality spaces must be provided by breeders with access to the outdoors and multiple flooring surfaces.
  • Behavioral health: Caretakers must have a behavioral wellness plan to promote behaviorally sound dogs and puppies, and to address any behavior problems, as well as provide exercise, psychological enrichment and socialization for adult dogs and puppies.
  • Breeding life and retirement: Breeders must follow established limits for retirement and rehoming. Adult dogs at retirement must be spayed or neutered and then retired in place or rehomed.
  • Caretaker expectations: Breeders must participate in relevant continuing education topics such as dog care, genetics, health and welfare; must use low-stress handling procedures; be transparent with stakeholders; compliant with best practices as outlined in the standards; and willing to participate in third-party audits of their kennels.

While a number of other canine welfare programs address basic physical needs and genetic health, Canine Care Certified goes above and beyond those programs by also providing detailed standards in critically important areas of animal behavior, including socialization. Further, the certification program also addresses challenging issues of professional breeding, including breeding ages, litter limits, and transparency. Unlike most programs that exist today, the standards are based on current scientific research by Purdue University and will incorporate ongoing and new canine welfare research findings.

To request certification, breeders complete a pre-certification application and, upon approval, undergo an audit by an independent auditing firm. Breeders who meet the criteria for certification and successfully pass the third-party audit will be designated as Canine Care Certified. While a full team of auditors still must be trained in the specific program standards, the goal is to audit breeders no less than bi-annually.

“The AKC applauds Dr. Croney and the Purdue Center for Animal Welfare Science for applying the scientific method to the optimization of kennel standards and practices,” said Mark Dunn, Senior Vice President, Registration & Customer Development, American Kennel Club. “Likewise, we are proud of the breeders who have stepped up to participate in the Center’s research studies and who have opened their kennels to new ideas and formal third-party audits. All responsible breeders are dedicated to the physical, mental and social needs of their dogs. This ongoing research, education and applied science will benefit all breeders and the dogs they love.”

Research conducted by the Center for Animal Welfare Science at Purdue University acknowledges consumer concern about breeding practices and the need for transparency in breeder operations.

“The Canine Care Certified standards are a good first step because they recognize that good welfare goes beyond maintaining good health,” said renowned animal welfare expert Dr. Temple Grandin of Colorado State University. “Health is an essential part of welfare but to attain a high standard of welfare also requires providing for basic behavior needs.”

The certification program has been pilot tested with 16 professional breeders since early 2015. The confidential research project provided additional learnings for the standards development process. There are more than 1,500 United States Department of Agriculture (USDA)-licensed breeders in the United States.

“Our mission is focused on animal welfare,” said Bernadette Juarez, animal care, deputy administrator, USDA. “We strongly support the efforts of Purdue’s Center for Animal Welfare Science to expand the body of knowledge relating to canine welfare.”

No other program sets standards that are as rigorous or as comprehensive as those provided by Canine Care Certified. Regulatory programs often provide a “one-size-fits-all” minimum level of standards as required by law, none of which fully address areas such as behavior or socialization. Other voluntary programs do not have substantive measurement and evaluation provisions. Further, the Canine Care Certified program is available to any breeder, regardless of size, that commits to meeting the standards, potentially expanding the scope of the program beyond just licensed breeders. USDA licensing only applies to breeders with a certain number of dogs.

“The regulatory framework provided by state and federal agencies are important and effective tools in the monitoring of professional dog breeders,” said Dr. Bret Marsh, Indiana state veterinarian, who was engaged in the early work of the program. “That said, having a parallel national voluntary program of this magnitude, with standards that exceed current agency rules and include important practices such as caretaker interaction and practices for retiring dogs, will be impactful in providing greater assurance to the public that breeders are doing the right thing in their kennels.”

The Canine Care Certified professional breeder program will have a corresponding consumer-facing campaign, to reinforce the need for breeder certification. The consumer campaign will launch at a later date as initial Certified breeder participants have animals available for sale that are raised under the new standards.

The campaign will raise awareness that dogs and puppies from certified breeders have been raised in a manner that focuses on care of the animals’ physical, psychological and behavioral needs. While the animals will still display “typical” puppy and dog behaviors (potty training needs, chewing, etc.), the unique standards for behavior and socialization of puppies and dogs raised by a Canine Care Certified breeder should ease the animals’ adjustment to home and family life.

It is anticipated that the voluntary nature of the Canine Care Certified program, combined with consumer demand for dogs raised in this manner, will lead to high motivation for participation and compliance by breeders. The consumer campaign will focus on promoting animals raised by a Canine Care Certified breeder – and the designation will only be available for use by breeders and by retail locations that sell dogs from certified breeders.

The Canine Care Certified program is administered by the Center for Canine Welfare, a newly established non-profit organization. The program is supported by major pet and breeder organizations, including The World Pet Association, the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council and Pet Food Institute; however, these organizations had no direct or indirect involvement in research or standards development. Ongoing program operational costs will be addressed by funders and by certification fees from breeders.

“On behalf of my colleagues in the pet industry, who gave significant financial and research support to this project, we applaud the introduction of Canine Care Certified,” said Jim Boschee, Board chairman, World Pet Association. “Consumers expect us to do more – and we should do more – to assure the care of the dogs and puppies before they come into their homes. We will stand behind this program and will provide the necessary resources to encourage the participation of professional breeders and to create consumer demand for animals raised under these exacting standards.”

Breeders that wish to learn more about the program, or those seeking to request certification of a professional breeder business, can visit to register.

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