The Dog Journal

Canine Care Unraveled:

Kennel Assistance Program by PAWS

The Dog Journal June/July 2023


The group at PAWS has officially launched the long awaited and worked on Kennel Assistance Program, also known as K.A.P. This program was designed for breeders by breeders, for the simple mission of helping each other improve the industry and public perception of dog breeding one breeder at a time. Here’s the cool part, it doesn’t cost you as a breeder anything to participate, and you don’t even need to be a PAWS member.

 What is the K.A.P program? 

The K.A.P program is exactly what it sounds like. Kennel Assistance Program. After about two years of lots of work, time, and effort, the team at PAWS and Patrick Keith, former USDA Compliance Official, have come up with this set of standards that a breeder can voluntarily become evaluated and scored on. There are three team members on the K.A.P. board, and upon being asked to, will come out and evaluate and score your facility based on this set of standards. The standards were created with the USDA and PA Dog Law’s requirements in mind, and the hope is that once you as a breeder participate in the K.A.P program, you will feel confident enough about your facilities and breeding program that you are ready for the inspectors (USDA and State) when they arrive for their visits. The USDA and State inspectors will tell you what you as a breeder can’t do, but K.A.P is here to assist in helping you understand what you should do.

What’s in it for PAWS, and why would they offer a program like this at no charge? 

Well, PAWS is an organization of dog breeders working for the betterment of animal husbandry and dog breeding, and the board members of this organization keep rotating, which means it can include every reputable dog breeder in the state, and is not controlled or manipulated by any certain people. Therefore, they are for the success of every willing breeder, and this program is one way in which willing breeders can step up the game in their breeding practices and start that journey of continuous improvement. 

As part of the kickoff for this program, the team hosted a meeting/training workshop at the Rapho Township Building in Manheim PA on April 26th. I took the opportunity to participate, and thoroughly enjoyed it! The meeting started at 9:30 with Patrick Keith taking the stage for about 2 ½ hours, and really diving into specifics of how this program works, etc. At around 11:30, we grabbed some quick pizza and snacks, and then headed over to a local kennel to actually conduct an onsite inspection, as if we were the K.A.P team. Very enlightening, very fun, and very educational. What I thought was so neat about this day was the fact that there was USDA inspectors, PA Dog Law inspectors, commercial kennel owners, and start up breeders all in the same workshop, all working for the same cause. The feeling of comradery you experience from walking through a kennel or doing a workshop with these people is amazing, and as a breeder myself I was able to start building a relationship with these figures of authority that I never would have otherwise. 

One thing Pat really stressed was to understand and know the regulations, both with USDA, and the state. Pat is from Indiana, and has helped them grow and improve their KMA program, which is similar to K.A.P.. The team in Indiana has grown from one group of evaluators to six groups of three people, all in about six years, so he is somewhat of an expert in this field. As he quoted “If we don’t know the rules and understand how they apply to us, an inspector could tell us to do anything, and we are at their mercy. If they tell us to paint our kennel “sea foam green” because that relaxes the dogs, and we might not know that the word “sea foam green” does not even exist in the rulebook, and so we’ll probably do what they say.” Read the regulations and understand them. You need to know what’s in the regulations, and you need to know how to apply those rules. This is not about beating the system, it’s about understanding them, becoming compliant, and then staying compliant.” 

Dog, animal shelter and rescue with a black couple holding a puppy for adoption at a welfare kennel.

Pat also emphasized that everything starts and revolves around the Animal Welfare, which in this case is our dogs. Our paperwork needs to be in order, our facilities need to be up to par, etc., but at the end of the day, the welfare of the animals trumps it all. It’s just that simple.

Daily observance and improvement were also talked about, especially in the behavior of our dogs. By watching the behavior of the dogs in our care, we can tell whether they are in great condition, or whether something could be amiss. When USDA inspects, they examine the dogs from head to tail, thoroughly checking for dental issues, ear issues, or anything out of the ordinary. If we as kennel owners take the time to handle our dogs on a regular basis, we will catch these issues before they become issues, and will be able to get corrective help in a timely manner.

Same goes for other small issues that pop up around the facility. A broken gate, an improperly sealed food container, a sign of rodent infestation, or whatever it may be. When we see those little tasks pop up, it’s important to fix it, right away, or if that’s not possible for some reason, document the problem and what you plan to do about it. The inspectors get paid to find problems, so not having problems to find is the easiest way to stay compliant. 

Pat also stated that there are three types of inspections. The first inspection is you’re the facility owner. You should inspect your own kennel the same way they inspect them regularly. The second inspection he described as one that the State and USDA would do. These agencies, along with our K.A.P are your 2nd Party Inspectors/Evaluators.

The K.A.P unlike the agencies, is a peer-topeer based evaluation. This method of input or evaluation can be extremely valuable, especially for a breeder just starting their journey of continuous improvement, as our K.A.P teams are your friends and neighbors. These are real people with real experience that can share a lot of valuable insight, all while encouraging that continuous improvement that Pat kept talking about. The 3rd Party Inspections are conducted by someone you pay to give a complete or honest evaluation of your kennel, these are groups like the Canine Care Certified inspection teams.

At this event we received a lot of good information, and if a breeder were to simply take the K.A.P Checklist and go over the list of items that the K.A.P teams will score you on, using that list alone will help you improve your kennel and be read for any inspection for Dog Law or USDA. Another great tool in the checklist is that you will find that most of them have the reference numbers of where these items can be found, either in the USDA compliance book, or in the Sate of PA regulations. These include documentation, socialization, vet care, rehoming practices, exercise plans, and more areas of concern are all covered by this checklist.

What I found interesting was even though it took the team two years to come up with these standards, as we walked through the kennel we were evaluating, and as we reconvened and tallied up our total score, we already saw the need to tweak the way the standards are written a bit. Pat encouraged the team to take what they learn, and before the beginning of every new year, make any necessary changes needed keeping up with the new regulations and best practices.

Dog smiling with eyes closed under the sunset. Depth of field with focus on the nose.

Something worth mentioning here is that the K.A.P team does not share your score or information with anyone else, and that includes PAWs members, USDA or State inspectors, or anyone else. This is a tool to help you. You can rest assured that what happens when the K.A.P team comes out will not be publicized in any way, shape, or form, the goal for this is strictly to get that peer-to-peer insight on what you as a breeder might want to use to improve.

One of the most challenging things about being a breeder is that we see our facilities, our dogs, and our breeding practices every day, so we stand a chance to miss little things here and there that can make a big difference. A team of your fellow breeders and a fresh set of eyes looking over everything can be a huge help!

After the workshop, I took the liberty of asking Pat these questions that I thought our readers might have, and he answered them well!

Pat, thanks for coming all the way from Indiana to help us with our K.A.P program. In the past, you’ve helped other groups like PAWS set up programs like this. Have those programs been successful?

Well, it’s hard to measure the success, we all measure success differently. To me success is knowing that your team has helped a breeder improve and avoid the issues that can plague our industry. As the PAWs teams continue to grow and learn, the teams get better, and by doing the evaluations consistently, the kennels continuously improve because they know they will be evaluated by their peers. Honestly, peer to peer interaction works really well because unlike having a random officer inspecting your facilities, we actually care about what our friends and the people in the industry think about us. So, all in all, yes, these programs have a track record of being very successful.

What do you think the chances of success are for the K.A.P program?

Long term success I think will be inevitable, but it might take some time. It’s going to be important to get the breeders to embrace this and see the need for continuous improvement. Everyone has to accept it first, and then embrace it, and when we look at the success that has come from other programs like this in other states, there’s no reason we can’t have the same success. I’m really big on continuous improvement, and the fact that we have people on a federal, state, commercial, and beginner level all working to achieve the same purpose within the K.A.P. program is key. I think success for the K.A.P program is possible in a big way. 

When it comes to the CCC program, how does the K.A.P program compare, and is there room for both? 

Absolutely there’s room for both! While I do feel like everyone breeding dogs on a commercial level should be CCC, as this is the only program out there that the public can understand completely. The thing is, the CCC program is built by scientists and every breeder in my opinion should strive to become certified, while the K.A.P program is developed by our industry, our peers, and dog breeders on the front lines. The K.A.P standards are built to be compatible and in line with the CCC standards, and so the beauty of it is, K.A.P can be part of the journey to maybe becoming CCC. Again, what I want to stress here, is that we want this program to give you as a breeder confidence, because once you have confidence, you’ll go to greater levels. 

If I as a breeder get evaluated by the K.A.P team, and I don’t like the score I got, can I make the changes needed and have them reevaluate? Yes, now while we won’t come out every week to evaluate, if you want to make some changes, and acquire a better score before next year, the K.A.P. team is willing to do another evaluation for you. One evaluation a year is suggested if want to participate in the K.A.P program and to receive the certificate for display, but I want to emphasize that this program is voluntary, at no cost to you, and you don’t even need to be a PAWS member to utilize it. 

So, there we go, the K.A.P program laid out in a way that we hope can help every one of us as breeders. If you’re looking to step up the game in your breeding practices, but would like some peer-to-peer insight before doing anything else, or even if you are already licensed and inspected, but feel the need for a fresh set of eyes in your facility, having an evaluation done by the K.A.P team could be the best thing you’ve done in a long time!

PAWS: 717-964-PAWS (7297)
Email: [email protected]
Mail: PO Box 272, New Holland, PA 17557

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