The importance of pets' papers and we're not talking newspapers on the floor


January 29, 1994|By Gina Spadafori | Gina Spadafori,McClatchy News Service

Judging from my mail, there's always a lot of confusion over pet "papers" -- what they are, what they're for and what they're worth.

"Papers," generally consist of two forms -- a pedigree and a registration form. The first is a record of the animal's family tree, showing the names of his ancestors, as well as the titles they held; show champions, for example, are often written in a different color to make them stand out.

As fancy as a pedigree is -- and some of them can get pretty ornate -- it's the second piece of paper, a nondescript little form, that's more important: It allows you to register your pet with an organization such as the American Kennel Club.

The AKC requires that any person selling a dog and claiming it is eligible for AKC registration make this form available to the person who buys the puppy. It is the breeder's responsibility to provide the AKC with information on the parents -- their AKC registration numbers and the date of the litter's birth, among other things. The AKC then issues a form to be filled out for each puppy. It is this form that must be sent in for a dog to be registered.

In most cases, the puppy's new owner will fill out the form, choosing the dog's official name and registering himself as the owner of record. The official, or registered, name is that long and often silly-sounding moniker that shows up in a dog-show program. My dog Andy, for example, is known to the AKC as Sierra Rumors Are Flying, C.D., but Andy won't answer to that unless there's food involved.

In other cases -- with older puppies or grown dogs, perhaps -- the breeder may have already taken care of registering the dog. If that's the case, the breeder -- the official owner, in the eyes of the AKC -- has a certificate of registration that must be filled out on the back and sent to the AKC for the transfer of ownership to be recorded. The name of the owner can be changed, but once the dog has been registered, the animal's official name sticks for life.

Other registries, such as the United Kennel Club or, in the cat world, the Cat Fanciers' Association and others, follow this general format.

Registration is no guarantee of quality: Many animals with poor health or temperament from ignorant or unscrupulous breeders come complete with registration forms. The only thing that a registration document signifies is that your pet's parents were registered and that if your dog is bred to another properly registered animal and all the paperwork is filled out correctly, the puppies can be registered. And of course, it means that your animal is eligible to compete in competitive events sanctioned by the registering body.

What are they worth to most pet owners? Nothing, really. "Papers" don't make an animal a better pet, nor do they make an animal more valuable beyond the puppy stage -- the nation's shelters euthanize many registered, but unwanted purebreds.

* Q: Our dog is crazy about tennis balls, but our vet says it's not a good idea to let him play with them. What's the problem?

A: If your dog is content to chase a ball, then carry it around withoutmauling it, it's probably OK. Dogs who prefer to squish or shred tennis balls, however, should be given solid rubber balls instead.

If your dog is a "squisher," be aware that there have been more than a few cases where a compressed ball -- tennis or racquetball -- has popped into the windpipe, cutting off the dog's air supply completely. In such cases, a dog could be dead before the problem is detected, much less treated.

"Shredders" could be in danger if they swallow bits of the balls they've chewed, pieces that could end up as an obstruction that must be surgically cleared.

If your dog falls into either of these high-risk groups, switch to solid rubber balls of an appropriate size (the bigger the dog, the bigger the ball).

Ms. Spadafori is a licensed pet trainer in Sacramento, Calif. Questions about pets may be sent to her c/o The Sun, 501 N. Calvert St., Baltimore 21278.

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