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Education August 19-21
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4 Questions about Canine Care Certified

Attendees at SuperZoo 2016 received welcome news that many in the professional breeding and animal welfare world have been waiting for: the launch of a new national certification program for the care of dogs and puppies by professional breeders. Canine Care Certified, developed after three years of research at Purdue University’s Center for Animal Welfare Science, launching Fall 2016 as a national, voluntary program that addresses five pillars of care—physical health, environment, behavioral health, breeding life and retirement, and caretaker expectations—and will grant certification to breeders who undergo an independent audit and meet the program’s comprehensive criteria.

We sat down with the woman who spearheaded the program’s new standards, Dr. Candace Croney, director of Purdue’s Center for Animal Welfare Science, and found out what inspired her passion for this program and what positive effects it will have on pets and the pet industry.

Q: What was the impetus for creating Canine Care Certified?

A: I was approached by breeders in Indiana who wanted to do more for animal welfare, but weren’t sure what they needed to do differently. When I explained what I envisioned—that a program would have to be substantial to meet certain characteristics for responsible breeding—I was pleasantly surprised by their enthusiastic response.

Q: What is needed to make this program a success?

A: This program is all about ensuring the well-being of animals and certifying it—and it’s much more than a simple checklist. That’s a nice start, but the truth is that in order to ensure breeders are offering their animals a higher quality of life and to be able to prove that to customers, they have to do much more than just check off 10 or 12 boxes, which may not even directly focus on the dogs themselves. Dogs have physical, behavioral, emotional and physical needs. They have to be able to function well in society. They need good nutrition, comfortable, well-designed housing, regular veterinary care and attention to their genetics as a start. Not only do they have to be healthy, they also have to be behaviorally sound, so they must be exercised, mentally stimulated and socialized properly—and breeders have to be able to demonstrate that these things have occurred and that the animals have benefited. How could you accomplish all that? Our goal was to create a process that addressed public concerns, but that was also logistically sound, based on good science, effective and cost-effective, and respectful to everyone involved, especially to breeders, who would be directly impacted.

Q: Why do you think professional breeding standards have not existed previously?

A: In order for this to work, the target audience, in this case, professional breeders must want to do it. You have to have a vision and the ability to navigate all the potential landmines. You have to have the scientific basis; knowledge of animal welfare, how to promote it and make sure it works for animals, people and businesses; and you have to attend to ethics and social responsibility. You also have to make sure the process is practical and that there is bigger industry buy-in to support it. All of these moving parts needed to come into play, and that’s a tall order. I don’t think those parts all came together at the right time with the right players until now.

 Q: What is the benefit for breeders of receiving Canine Care Certification? For the animals?

A: What’s pretty clear is the benefit for the animals—based on early feedback from the breeders—particularly in the area of behavior. They’re seeing positive changes in their dogs—many are quieter and appear calmer and more relaxed, and as a result, some breeders are reporting that they are having larger, healthier litters and that they are enjoying their dogs more.

The benefit to breeders is built into that: If you are minimizing stress for dogs and increasing positive experiences for them, you’ll see dogs that are physically and behaviorally healthier. That should translate to reduced costs related to veterinary time and treatment because the dogs and their puppies should be easier to handle and less susceptible to stress-related diseases. They should also be easier to potentially re-home, because both retired adult dogs and their puppies should be more desirable to customers who want dogs that were raised by breeders who have made additional effort to invest in the dogs throughout and after their breeding careers. This makes certification an economically sound investment.

Finally, the overall benefit for people interested in animal welfare is that there is now a mechanism through which they can know that dogs are being raised under standards that go far beyond minimum requirements for care. They can be reassured that participating breeders are demonstrating concern, responsibility and commitment to doing the best job they can for their animals and to continually improving.

For more information on the Certified Care Program or to apply for certification, visit

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