Purdue CAWS Leads Way with New Dog Breeding Standards

Dr. Candace Croney, director of Purdue University’s Center for Animal Welfare Science, is pictured with her pet dog, Charley. Dr. Croney led research that resulted in new, more rigorous standards for commercial dog breeders.

Dr. Candace Croney, director of Purdue University’s Center for Animal Welfare Science, is pictured with her pet dog, Charley. Dr. Croney led research that resulted in new, more rigorous standards for commercial dog breeders.

The director of Purdue University’s Center for Animal Welfare Science, Dr. Candace Croney, was motivated to lead research that resulted in new, higher standards for the treatment of commercially bred dogs not just because she is a scientist.  She is a dog owner and wants the best for her pet as well as all dogs. 

Dr. Croney recognized that existing federally mandated minimum standards breeders must meet were just that-the minimum.  “My guiding question has been is minimum standard good enough? Do we really want that?” Dr. Croney said. “Dogs deserve better than that. We can raise the bar. I would think all dog owners want that. The public wants it, too.”

Dr. Croney holds a joint appointment as associate professor of animal behavior and well-being in the College of Veterinary Medicine and associate professor of animal sciences in the College of Agriculture.  Research she conducted with her colleagues at the Center for Animal Welfare Science during the past three years resulted in a new national certification program that sets rigorous standards for the care of dogs and puppies by professional breeders. Canine Care Certified was announced in August in Las Vegas during a national conference of the pet care industry.

The voluntary program has been pilot-tested with 16 professional breeders since early 2015. Dr. Croney said every breeder in the pilot has shown improvement in the care of their dogs.  She also explained that no other program sets standards as comprehensive as those provided by Canine Care Certified. The program exceeds other canine welfare programs and state and federal laws that often provide only a minimum level of standards and do not fully address areas such as dogs’ behavioral needs, including socialization.  Additionally, breeders seeking certification under Canine Care Certified must meet the criteria and pass a third-party audit of their operation. 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 program’s scope. U.S. Department of Agriculture licensing only applies to breeders with a certain number of dogs.

Dr. Croney catches a selfie with Magic Johnson, who was the next speaker after her announcement of the new Canine Care Certified program at the national pet care industry conference in Las Vegas.

Dr. Croney catches a selfie with Magic Johnson, who was the next speaker after her announcement of the new Canine Care Certified program at the national pet care industry conference in Las Vegas.

Dr. Croney emphasized that the standards reflect the work of Purdue researchers from many areas. “The multidisciplinary expertise we have at Purdue is where the benefits of the research show up,” Dr. Croney said. “The science involved in this certification program went beyond the basic treatment of dogs and the effects on their physical and behavioral well-being. It also took in the social sciences, including ethics. It’s not only an animal-friendly program; it's also people-friendly.”

Dr. Croney particularly appreciates how the research and certification program align with the three land-grant university missions of education, research and engagement with the public. The science-based program educates interested breeders and the public about best practices for the care and welfare of dogs and improves transparency about their treatment. “People often ask if we can do better for our dogs,” Dr. Croney commented. “The answer is yes, we can. This program accomplishes that.”

The new certification program got a noteworthy mention after it was announced at the pet care industry conference in Las Vegas.  “Magic Johnson spoke after me, and gave a great shout-out to my presentation and Purdue,” Dr. Croney said.  “I have had a lot of positive experiences working as a scholar in this field, but it’s hard to top that!”


This story is part of the 2016 Annual PVM Report.

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