For more than 40 years, Carrol C. Platz Jr. has been collecting dog semen—sometimes using a device called an electroejaculator, and sometimes by hand.
Platz is a world-renowned expert on the collection and freezing of canine semen. His International Canine Semen Bank, based in Boring, has more than 40 branches, including outlets in Europe and Asia. His Oregon facility stores more than 7,000 samples of dog semen that he sends to breeders around the world.
But a Tupelo, Miss., man who wanted to breed his award-winning female Labrador retriever says the semen bank screwed up and sent him the wrong seed.
Platz tells WW he doubts his company made a mistake. "All of our records show the semen is what is was supposed to be," he says.
The lawsuit contains some of the stranger allegations to show up in an Oregon court recently, and sheds light on the lucrative and curious business of dog-semen storage.
In a May 22 lawsuit filed in Clackamas County Circuit Court, the plaintiff, Bo Brock, says he wanted to breed his registered dog, Sure Shot's Smoke in the Wind, a champion duck-hunting retriever. (Purebred dogs often have elaborate names for registration purposes. Brock's dog answers to "Windy.")
Brock says he ordered a vial of dog semen from the International Canine Semen Bank that was supposed to have originated from a purebred Lab in Alaska, a dog registered as Clubmead's Road Warrior. (The dog's everyday name: Chopper.)
The semen bank holds deposits from its clients' dogs and then sends out vials of their semen to buyers.
The lawsuit says Windy was inseminated with semen alleged to have come from Chopper, supposedly collected in February 2010.
Windy gave birth, the lawsuit says, to eight puppies. But something didn't look right.
"The puppies had an unexpected physical appearance," the lawsuit says, "in that they did not appear to be purebred Labrador retrievers sired by Chopper." The suit says subsequent DNA tests confirmed this suspicion.
The lawsuit names the International Canine Semen Bank, Platz, his son John, and Chopper's Alaskan owners.
The suit doesn't say how much Brock paid for the semen, but vials can go for more than $1,000.
Brock, a lawyer, is asking the court for $30,000—damages, he says, from the lost opportunity to breed Windy, whose puppies in the past have fetched as much as $1,500 each.
Brock and his Portland attorney, Kathryn Hall, declined to talk to WW about the case.
Platz says his business isn't licensed or regulated by government agencies, but in the past has been approved by the American Kennel Club. (An AKC spokeswoman says her group couldn't confirm that.)
According to his profile, published on a springer spaniel website, Platz did early research at Oregon hospitals, including Oregon Health and Science University, that led to innovations in freezing canine semen. His innovations also include electrical equipment for extracting semen from dogs and cats.
The website says Platz has also done work to help breed and preserve endangered and exotic species, including snakes and bottlenose dolphins.
He started the semen bank in 1980. According to the bank's website, owners can preserve their dogs' semen for years. In fact, Platz advertises a service by which dog owners can send in their animals' testes—even those removed after the dog has died.
Platz says he sends out 70 to 80 semen samples a month to breeders, and his company has faced only a handful of lawsuits in its history, all of which were over allegations of faulty refrigeration equipment.
In 2010, wweek.com reported on a lawsuit in which a breeder alleged Platz and his company allowed semen from a rare line of Rottweilers in Poland to go bad. That case later settled.
Platz says he is confident he and his company did nothing wrong in the most recent case. And he speculated about what happened: that others involved might have allowed nature to step in.
Platz surmises someone might have introduced Windy to a male dog, just for kicks.
"Someone let in a stray dog to breed with his bitch," Platz says. "You get kennel help who, just for the fun of it, want to watch them breed.â