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AKC - Chairman's Report for May

New York, NY – It is well known that revenue from our registration services forms the major portion of AKC’s income. The slow but gradual decline in our registration numbers over the past years has been of concern to all of us. Therefore, it is gratifying to me to see the possible reversal of this trend with a steady increase in dog and litter registrations during the first quarter of 2004.

For years we diligently sought the reason for the decline and found no satisfactory answer. Now that we are seeing a possible positive trend, we also seek an answer as to “why?” While we do not have definitive answers as to why our registration figures go up and down, we are beginning to suspect that our search for a single cause was in error. It is probable that the reasons for increases and decreases are not the same and, more important, are multiple. There is no single “Silver Bullet.”

While I want to remain cautious in my optimism, it’s likely we are beginning to reap rewards from the many proactive and collaborative efforts we have undertaken in the past few years, specifically addressing the issue of declining registrations. All of these efforts have highlighted what AKC registration stands for, and the added enhancements and incentives that demonstrate value.

We’ve added tangible new benefits to AKC registration, such as subscriptions to AKC Family Dog magazine and an updated care and training video with our “gold package.” Also, the introduction of 60 days of free pet health insurance with every registration has no doubt appealed to pet owners who want to give their purebred pet the best care.

Our advertising and public relations initiatives – which have been increased significantly in recent years – have focused on defining and building the AKC brand and reaching a broad spectrum of dog owners with messages about AKC programs and services that are relevant to them. With advertising in national magazines and on television, consistent references to AKC positions and experts in the news, the strong presence of public service announcements and legislative and public education efforts, we are talking to more dog owners than ever before. Also, in terms of public image, there is no doubt that the AKC/Eukanuba National Championship, which has continued to attract more and more viewers each year, has also helped elevate the status of the AKC in the eyes of dog lovers everywhere.

We have also dramatically improved our customer service function, with representatives better trained to handle a variety of functions that make the process of registering a dog or litter easier. By linking our AKC Customer Service and Registration departments so that both groups work together to increase production and efficiency, our customers receive a more positive and seamless experience when dealing with the AKC.

Furthermore, the introduction of our online registration services has taken customer service even one step further and resulted in a huge success, with well over 41,000 registered litters since the October 2003 launch. We are now registering approximately 25% of our litters online. Online registration of individual dogs is also proving popular and additional enhancements to that service are in development.

Finally, we continue to explore the appropriate relationship with the commercial breeders who use our registry. We want to provide quality and fair service to all our registrants just as we are concerned for the health and welfare of all purebred dogs. Our Compliance program is integral in this effort, and our team of inspectors meets daily with customers across the country, not only to conduct inspections but to share information about the many AKC programs and services available to them. An improved relationship with breeders of all types can only serve to enhance the lives of the dogs in our registry and promote purebred dog ownership as a whole.

I’m immensely proud of the work we’ve accomplished, but know that it’s just the beginning. By continuing to be innovative and proactive, we can look forward to maintaining this initial trend in increased registration, and ensuring the long-term health of our organization.