Not so long ago, in time measured in single digit of years ago, you could not find a puppy mill selling Norwich Terriers. We could be bickering about principles employed by some breeders, or the lack thereof, but we could be pretty much sure that every Norwich sold with AKC registration papers was bred by hobby breeders. Also, there was no question about it being pure bred.


Those days are over. Just in the last few months AKC has revoked registration papers from hundreds of dogs, originally registered as Norwich Terriers, and later proven to either have completely fraudulent papers or have Cairn Terriers in their recent ancestry. The reason for the investigation in the first place in each case was an apparent lack of breed type; a visually obvious mutt or terrier mix being sold as a Norwich. Like a house of cards, with each proven fraudulent pedigree, others fell too: litter mates and progeny, always abundant in numbers, so foreign to our experience of litter sizes in Norwich. The original cases involved duped owners willing to find out why their new prized pup was so different from other Norwich terriers they encountered, no matter how painful the answer could turn out to be.


Those few cases, in a domino effect, resulted in hundreds of revoked registrations. Few cases! This fact begs some hard questions. How many owners of Norwich imposters never bothered to find out why their dogs looked different than other Norwich? How many others recoiled at the possible dark truth, which their quest for the answers might bring, and so quit the search, with the excuse that it does not matter what Fluffy really is? How many were too embarrassed about being cheated that even knowing the truth they decided to never let the AKC, our club, or anyone within the breed know? How many have visually passable mixes and never even suspect that their terriers are only part Norwich? I know this much - more of them than we ever thought possible and way more than still a lot of us want to know.


I decided to write about this painful subject for three reasons. First, to sound the umpteenth alarm for those who still have not woken up to this new reality and to offer some ideas of what we can and should do. There is a lot that needs be done to protect our dogs, to educate the public and still more to help investigate numerous fake pedigrees. Second, to present the facts as objectively as I can so that we can move on from finger pointing to creating a more united front of concerned Norwich fancy. And lastly, to give thanks to the hero truth seeker who took actions and made a difference when all the rest of us were saying our "too bads" over a morning cup of coffee while browsing puppyfind ads and proceeding with our days.


I have no illusions that what I’m going to say here might not be received well by all. Number one reason for the business of mixing Norwich with other breeds, or selling Cairn terriers as Norwich, is the mighty buck. The prices for Norwich pups are high, to say it mildly. I am leaving this porcupine of a subject for someone else to pick up on, but I will say that we need to be aware of the consequences. Many prospective owners have to deal with the price shock in their first conversation with the breeder, and many breeders are less than understanding. Very few take the time to talk to the person looking for a Norwich, once that person says that the price of the dog is much more than they expected, or once they do not seem like a good home for our pups. But this is precisely where we have a chance to make a difference by cutting down on the market for the Norwich mixes sold as pure bred. If I was to paint a stereotype of a person duped into buying a dog with fraudulent pedigree, I’d say that such a person is more likely to act impulsively, not put enough effort into a thorough research, or is less than an ideal candidate for a diligent breeder’s scrutiny. In other words if the person does not sound ideal, or is totally new to dogs, please, please, please take the time to warn them against pedigree fraud. Warn them against buying over the Internet. Tell them to get a legitimate Cairn for half the money of the Cairn mixes sold as Norwich. Of course, sound the same alarm to the person who seems to be the ideal Norwich buyer too. I am always bewildered at how many callers looking for pups have no idea about pedigree fraud and have never been cautioned against fake Norwich sold over the Internet, no matter how many breeders they have spoken to already. By not warning against the fraud we are allowing it to flourish.


If you want to join the fight to protect our breed from the influx of mixes please educate. If you want to help clean the registry please help with the pedigree research. Before I’ll explain what it entails I should offer a brief history of how we got into this mess in the first place.

           It all started with one entrepreneur farmer who decided to add dog breeding to his pig husbandry. Unable to pass the scrutiny of the American breeders, and armed with the experience of acquiring breeding stock of six other breeds of dogs, he turned to European breeders. He was able to buy a few pure bred Norwich to add to his already flourishing puppy mill. Within months, he had a partner and a couple of associate followers. Within three years he sold enough dogs to establish puppy mills with Norwich all over the country.


I personally wrote letters to two of the European breeders whose pups were sold to these Norwich- for- profit outfits, to warn them that their dogs fell into wrong hands. Both decided to ignore my warning and sold other dogs to the same puppy mill. One well known breeder with years of experience shipped three dogs at once. I have no idea what they were thinking, if they were thinking at all. I am certain nobody sold their Norwich to puppy mill operators knowingly. The lesson we all need to learn from this terrible story is to be ultra cautious when selling unaltered dogs and when there is a speck of doubt, expect the worse. Better safe than sorry. If you do not neuter and spay the dogs you place, you have to make sure you know the person you are selling to well.


As you can imagine, these entrepreneurs quickly realized how all reproductive problems of our breed, and small litter sizes, were going to cut into their imagined profits so they started crossing Norwich with other terriers, mostly Cairn. They learned they could submit European papers for dogs the papers did not belong to. Many European clubs, especially from Eastern Europe, do not have good record keeping and often do not even respond to inquiries. If that was easy then the "Norwich business entrepreneurs" decided to change names on the papers and make their own European pups, with names giving real kennels from Europe and followed by whatever name they gave their new mutt.


Recently "Norwich entrepreneurs" stopped even being bothered with Norwich and sold Cairn or Cairn mixes, without a drop of Norwich blood, as Norwich. Lot of us saw it happening but we did not know how to stop it. Until Carol Suggs rolled up her sleeves. Carol single-handedly was able to crack numerous fraudulent pedigrees, which a lot of us were staring at for months. We knew they could not be legitimate, but we did not know how to prove that. Carol had a sixth sense for where to look and what to question. One of the best examples of her uncanny skill for deciphering the pedigree fraud is the following story. There was a pedigree where all the dogs were legitimate Norwich. It took some work to establish that, a point at which many people working on cracking illegitimate pedigrees give up, myself included. This is when Carol thought of researching all the dogs’ birth dates. Mind you, this is hours of work searching the Internet mostly, as there is no way to contact some European breeders to simply ask those questions. Soon Carol realized that a particular dog listed in the pedigree was born only 3 weeks after the birth of his sire, as per that fraudulent pedigree. Bingo! In some other cases Carol was able to find show photos of some of the dogs listed in the pedigree, Cairn terrier photos that is.


Thanks to Carol Suggs hundreds of illegitimate pedigrees were purged from the AKC registry. I cannot think of a more important contribution one person made to the breed. Carol was able to bring us hope that with enough effort we might be able to say one day that if a dog is an AKC registered Norwich Terrier, it indeed is one. We are not there yet, probably nowhere close, but Carol has shown us that with enough dedication we might be able to do it. And not to mention the little dent she made into the fake pedigree business. I would pay a lot to see some of the puppy mill operator’s faces when they open AKC letters revoking the registrations of their litters. I hope their cardiologist was busy that day.


Research takes a lot of time, something none of us have too much of, but when the stakes are so high, where our stud books have been compromised, we all should chip in. Work involves acquiring pedigrees of dogs that are obviously not purebred Norwich, most of them advertised over Internet puppy retail pages. It takes mustering courage to talk to people with questionably looking Norwich. Then it involves confirming one by one if such and such a dog exists, if it was indeed bred to such and such a bitch, and when. One by one. It is a lot of work but it must be done before we drown in the influx of mutts.

As for the finger pointing, let’s save our energies for cleaning up the mess. And remember that what you see on a paper might be a made up pedigree, a made-up dog, no relation to the kennel listed, stolen identity, sad expression of human greed.


And lastly, I do hope that this ungraceful subject will become our mantra when we talk to all prospective Norwich terrier owners.


Magda Omansky


All articles and photos cannot be reproduced without permission.

Digging and Popping since 2000

High demand for cute Norwich pups, like Dignpop Spicy Wassail (“Holly”) featured above, unfortunately created some unscrupulous fraud.

Please take the time to read this warning.

I wrote this article for the fellow Norwich terrier breeders to be published in our national club’s newsletter The NNTC News. It will also benefit those looking for a Norwich terrier puppy.

Pedigree Fraud in Norwich