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TODAY   |  May 01, 2013

Rossen Reports: AKC failing to protect dogs?

One of the country’s largest organizations dedicated to dogs, the American Kennel Club, is facing new accusations from the Humane Society and the ASPCA saying that some AKC-registered breeders are raising dogs in filthy, inhumane conditions. NBC’s Jeff Rossen investigates.

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>> al, thanks. this morning on "rossen reports," dogs in filthy conditions. the american kennel club , may not be doing enough to protect animals. today national investigative correspondent jeff rossen is here.

>> this will be eye-opening for a lot of people. when you buy a puppy, you want it to be happy, healthy and well treated and a lot of people depend on the american kennel club to be a breeder. you think it must stand for excellence, you're getting a good dog. but this morning we found disgusting conditions and sick dogs at akc-registered operations.

>> the portuguese water dog .

>> reporter: it is the epitome of canine perfection, the westminster dog show .

>> the best in show --

>> reporter: and the american kennel club is proud to oversee it. on the akc's own website calling itself the dog's champion, registering puppies with official puppies, inspecting breeders . many dog owners count on it, looking for that seal before purchasing a puppy. but critics say there's an ugly reality you don't see. some akc breeders raising deceased dogs, malnourished, living in their own filth. so disturbing, now two of the country's largest animal welfare groups, the aspca and the humane society , are condemning the akc.

>> if i'm looking to buy a dog and i see it has been akc-inspected, akc gregistered, does that mean i'm getting a good dog?

>> absolutely not. it's just a piece of paper with month practical value for dog welfare.

>> reporter: lillian thought she was buying a dog from an reputible breeder.

>> i assumed i was getting a very healthy dog, coming from a quality kennel.

>> reporter: what did you end up getting?

>> a very sick puppy .

>> reporter: sick, she says, with intestinal pair site aal parasites, congenital eye defect. records show the akc had just inspected that kennel weeks earlier and found them in compliance. what did you make of that?

>> i make that their standards must be low.

>> reporter: turns out it wasn't just her dog suffering. law enforcement went into the kennel just two months later and rescued dozens of dogs. the breeders say they did nothing wrong, but according to a civil court judge, many of the dogs were in poor condition for a substantial period of time. remember, the akc had been here and signed off on the place.

>> time and time again we're going and raiding places and finding these dogs in miserable conditions.

>> reporter: he says while most akc-registered breeders are probably fine, they're seeing too many bad apples . from montana to north carolina . in some cases those breeders are even convicted of animal cruelty . so we went straight to the akc. if you had to grade your inspection program, what grade would you give yourself?

>> i'd give us an "a." in fact, our inspection program is more than 98% in compliance.

>> reporter: critics say that's just smoke and mirrors . breeders pay the akc registration fees for every dog. yet the akc has no idea what goes on at many of those kennels. nationwide how many breeders are there that have akc-registered dogs?

>> that's a great question. we don't know.

>> reporter: you don't know?

>> i don't know. no, i'm sorry.

>> reporter: what percentage of breeders that do have akc registered dogs end up getting inspected?

>> we've done 55,000 inspections since 2000 .

>> reporter: what percentage of breeders get inspected?

>> it's varies.

>> reporter: ballpark.

>> i don't know.

>> reporter: how many inspectors?

>> nine inspectors.

>> reporter: that cover the entire country?

>> that's correct.

>> reporter: do you think that's an adequate number?

>> that's the number we have.

>> reporter: and there's more. animal rights groups say the akc is actually protecting bad breeders . fighting laws that would regulate breeders based on the number of dogs they have. and require new standards or inspections. you have opposed laws in several states that would crack down on breeders . why?

>> we oppose breeder limit laws because it's not the number of dogs that you own. it's the care and conditions in which they're kept.

>> they should be helping the humane society in its efforts to crack down on these awful breeders . but they're protecting them.

>> if you are looking to buy a puppy, experts say you should always visit the breeder first and check out the conditions for yourself. if they don't want you to come, experts say that is a major warning sign, a major red flag . better yet, can you get a rescue dog . if you want a pure bred, there are groups that specialize in dogs that are prubreds.