Date Archives February 2016

Quiz: Just How Big is the dog Business?

These 10 questions will test your dollars-and-cents knowledge of just how much cash stands to be made when dogs are bred, rescued and sold.

Most Popular Dog in America? Not the Labrador. It’s Actually the Good Old American Mutt

labrador-yellowThe American Kennel Club released its list today of the most-registered purebred dogs in America, and predictably, the mainstream media is once again getting the story wrong. Articles have already started popping up from serious news sources like the Miami Herald, whose headline reads—inaccurately—“Labrador Retrievers Still the Most Popular Dog in the U.S.”

AKC marketers have been hoisting this fallacy onto ignorant journalists for years. The truth, if you actually look at statistics for all dogs, is that the good old American mutt is by far the most popular dog in the United States.

Let me break it down for you:

  • The AKC long ago stopped announcing the actual number of purebred dogs registered each year. Today, it simply announces “most popular” breeds, but it keeps the number of dogs a secret. Most journalists simply don’t notice the lack of actual data, and they publish the AKC’s marketing trick as a news headline.
  • Why is the headline a marketing trick? Because if you look back about a decade, when the AKC was still releasing actual registration numbers, the total number of dogs being registered for even the most popular breeds was less than 150,000. Here’s the AKC’s own press release from 2005 showing that the “most popular” Labrador Retriever breed that year had just 137,867 registrations.
  • Compare that to the number of dogs adopted each year from American shelters, where about 90 percent of the dogs are believed to be mutts. Total number of mutts that Americans bring home as pets, in the same timespan that the AKC registers fewer than 150,000 Labradors? About 1.8 million.

Suffice it to say that the most popular dog in America remains, by far, the good old mutt.

Don’t fall for this annual marketing trick that the AKC pulls on the mass media, and on dog lovers everywhere. Learn about the big business that we all buy into with every dog we bring home. Order your copy of The Dog Merchants book today.

Another 5-Star Reader Review for The Dog Merchants Book

The Dog Merchants-3DAs advance galleys for The Dog Merchants book continue to go out, we are starting to see reader reviews pop up across the Internet. The newest was just posted on Goodreads, by a reader named Minna who gave the book 5 stars. Here’s what she says:

“This is a book that will make you think, for long, loooooooooong after you’re done reading. If you are a dog owner, a dog lover, a dog anything, this is a book you ought to read. Dogs are examined from every possible political, legal, economical and emotional angle. I learned a lot, reading this, and I know it will stay with me for a good long time. Please: do yourself a favor and pick up this book, especially if you have, have had, or would like to have a dog.”

Thank you, Minna!

Here’s the link for ordering The Dog Merchants book, which will be available to the public on May 2. To read more reader reviews, click here.

Barnes and Noble Gift Card Giveaway!

[fusion_text]Exciting news! Pegasus Books, publisher of The Dog Merchants, has organized a fantastic giveaway for readers. If you pre-order The Dog Merchants before April 30, 2016, you can win a Barnes and Noble gift card. Two gift cards will be awarded, one for $100 and one for $50.

The official announcement is below. You can pre-order The Dog Merchants through Amazon, Barnes and Noble, IndieboundBooks-A-Million, Politics and Prose or the local bookstore of your choice. (If you want your copy autographed, then please order through the Clinton Book Shop in New Jersey.)

Just send a copy of your receipt to, and you’re entered to win.

Good luck!



Open to residents of the fifty United States and the District of Columbia, age 18 or older.

How to Enter: (1) To enter the THE DOG MERCHANTS Giveaway Sweepstakes (“Sweepstakes”), review these Official Rules, pre-order a copy of the book from the retailer of your choice, and submit proof of receipt to Entry for Sweepstakes begins Thursday, February 18, 2016.  (2) Entries are void if they are in whole or in part illegible or incomplete. Sponsor assumes no responsibility for late, incomplete or illegible entries. (3) Sponsor and its affiliated companies are not responsible for technical, hardware or software malfunctions of any kind, lost or unavailable network connections, failed, incorrect, incomplete, inaccurate, garbled or delayed electronic communications caused by the sender, or by any of the equipment or programming associated with or utilized in this Sweepstakes which may limit the ability to play or participate, or by any human error which may occur in the processing of the entries in this Sweepstakes. If for any reason the Sweepstakes is not capable of being conducted as described in these rules, Sponsor shall have the right to cancel, terminate, modify or suspend the Sweepstakes.  In the event of a dispute over the identity of an online entrant, entry will be deemed submitted by the authorized holder of the email account associated with the entry.

Winners: (1) From all eligible entries received, TWO (2) winners will be chosen in a random drawing held on or about May 2, 2016 by Sponsor, whose decisions concerning all matters related to this Sweepstakes are final and binding. (2) The odds of winning depend on the total number of eligible entries received.

Eligibility: Sweepstakes is open to residents of the fifty United States and the District of Columbia, age 18 or older. Employees of Sponsor and its affiliates or other parties in any way involved in the development, production, or distribution of this Sweepstakes, as well as the immediate family (spouse, parents, siblings, children) and household members of each such employee are not eligible to participate in the Sweepstakes.  Void where prohibited by law. All state and local restrictions apply.

General: (1) No substitutions, transfers or assignments of prizes allowed. (2) All expenses, including taxes (if any), related to receipt and use of prizes are the sole responsibility of the winners. (3) By competing in this Sweepstakes and/or accepting a prize, entrants release Sponsor, its parent, subsidiary or affiliated companies, or the agencies of any of them and the authors and/or editors of any books promoted hereby from any and all liability for any loss, harm, injuries, damages, cost or expense arising out of or relating to participation in this Sweepstakes or the acceptance, use or misuse of the prize. (4) Any dispute arising from this Sweepstakes will be determined according to the laws of the State of New York, without reference to its conflict of law principles, and the entrants consent to the personal jurisdiction of the state and federal courts located in New York County and agree that such courts have exclusive jurisdiction over all such disputes. (5) By participating in the Sweepstakes, entrants hereby agree to Sponsor’s collection of their personal information. Personally identifiable information will be used only for communication from Pegasus Books and will not be shared with third parties.

Winners List: To receive a copy of the winners list, send a self-addressed, stamped envelope by June 1, 2016 to Pegasus Books, 80 Broad Street, 5th Floor, New York, NY 10014, Attention: THE DOG MERCHANTS Giveaway Sweepstakes.


The True Cash at Stake at the Westminster Dog Show

Screen Shot 2016-02-15 at 2.14.38 just uploaded my article “The Big Money Behind Best in Show.” It is the first adapted article to be published from The Dog Merchants, giving readers their first sneak peek into the book.

The Dog Merchants is a follow-the-money look at the whole of the dog business, breeding and rescuing alike. This piece for was written for publication as the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show begins airing on television, so of course it focuses exclusively on the breeding side.

Rest assured that more adapted articles and excerpts are coming soon—including a 3,000-word excerpted piece about rescue that will appear in the February issue of The Bark. Stay tuned.

The Origin of the Westminster Dog Show Drinking Game

boxer dogWhy yes, I did just invent a drinking game.

Dogster published my piece about the “Westminster Dog Show Drinking Game” today. The idea for this piece originated during my reporting for The Dog Merchants, which included spending a day at America’s biggest legal dog auction. I watched as more than 300 dogs—Beagles, Chihuahuas, Golden Retrievers, Rottweilers, Yorkshire Terriers and everything in between—were sold to the highest bidder. “Two fifty… two fifty… two fifty…” the auctioneer rattled. “Now two-seventy-five… do I hear three hundred…”

Not long after, I attended the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show at Madison Square Garden in New York City. Within about an hour, I realized I was hearing the same patter. Had I not attended the dog auction, I’m not sure that I would have noticed, but now I could clearly hear the words equally intended to raise the dogs’ value in our minds.

Only instead of calling out prices like the auctioneer, Westminster’s in-house announcer, Michael LaFave, used marketing buzzwords about “history,” words like ancestry, tradition and royalty. He said these “history” buzzwords again and again and again for the audience inside Madison Square Garden.

I went home and watched the televised version of that same Westminster dog show, which I’d recorded on a DVR, and heard similar “history” buzzwords even more frequently with the addition of at-home announcer David Frei (whom the people inside Madison Square Garden can’t hear). It fast became clear that two other categories of buzzwords were also being repeated relentlessly for TV audiences at home. I called them “superstar” words—pretty much anything you’d hear an announcer say about movie celebrities or star athletes at the Oscars or ESPYs—and “conformation” words, which is what the dog show claims to be about.

The Dog Merchants is a work of investigative journalism that talks about the business of breeding and rescuing alike. I wrote it as a “follow the money” book that will let purebred enthusiasts and rescue advocates discuss the issues facing dogs in a whole new way.

In that same vein, I see this laugh-out-loud, fully satirical Westminster Dog Show Drinking Game as yet another angle on the same storytelling mission: to give all dog lovers a new way to discuss the challenges that all of our beloved dogs, and if you’re interested in other games like games online you can also visit spin oasis to find the best options for this.

Check out the Westminster Dog Show Drinking Game on

Thanks for the Hate Mail! We Actually Agree More Than You Think

The Dog Merchants-3DToday, via Facebook, I received my first official hate message about The Dog Merchants. It came from a purebred enthusiast who hasn’t even read the book, and who posted a vicious knee-jerk comment after assuming the book is something that it’s not.

Here’s a snippet:

“There’s scum everywhere and I’ll bet you gravitated toward them to tell the story you wanted to tell. … You’re obviously NOT a journalist. Perhaps just a PETA supporter who never investigated the truth. Dogs would be best served by the truth and knowing WHERE to go for a healthy, sound puppy, a breeder who will be available throughout the dog’s life. … You are more than gullible and then you pass it off as truth and do a terrible disservice to everyone. You not only should be ashamed of yourself, but you owe an apology to everyone you have not just insulted but whose reputations you have attacked.”

Obviously, I am expecting this type of response from some people—on the breeding and rescuing sides alike—because the entire message of The Dog Merchants is that we dog lovers need to be able to tell responsible sellers from irresponsible sellers, and to stop giving our money to the latter, breeders and rescuers alike.

And I actually agree with one thing this person wrote: “There’s scum everywhere.” Indeed. I do my best to expose it on both the breeding and rescue sides in The Dog Merchants, while holding up the most responsible breeders and rescuers as the alternative that we dog lovers should support. I actually quote a longtime AKC-affiliated breeder of Shetland Sheepdogs in my book to make this very point. She says, “Get smart. Realize you are not always being told the truth—breeders and rescues.”

If The Dog Merchants accomplishes anything, I hope it will be making a connection with people like the woman who wrote that nasty Facebook comment, people who are so entrenched on one side of the debate that they have stopped believing a reasonable middle ground exists. I hope people like this commenter will actually read the book, and will see that she and I are actually on the same side.

That is, on the side of the dogs, and wanting only the most responsible breeders and rescuers to remain in business.

Great Review of The Dog Merchants in Library Journal

library-journalI’m thrilled to share the news that the February 15 issue of Library Journal will include the following review of The Dog Merchants:

The common theme among breeders of registered American Kennel Club champion dogs, large-scale commercial “puppy farms,” backyard hobby breeders, dog rescue groups, shelters, dog auctions, and pet stores? Money.

Kavin, a journalist and author (Little Boy Blue), presents a fascinating journey that begins with her attending a dog auction in Wheaton, Missouri, then on to tours and inspections of a wholesale distributor of dogs to pet stores, mostly Petland. The author doesn’t shy away from the horrors of filthy, overcrowded puppy mills; she also covers the myriad kinds of rescue groups, from well-organized types to sketchier one-person operations posing as legitimate organizations. She takes on shelters with the same sharp eye, pointing out the challenges they face. Also discussed is the influence of the annual Westminister Dog Show on breed selection and Internet sales, in which buyers simply point, click, and pay without ever seeing a puppy.

The book’s primary focus is an ­investigative examination of the business practices of dog sales, and it is clear that ­Kavin’s intent is for conscious consumers to use their pocketbooks to force all breeders to produce healthy dogs that are ultimately good family members.

VERDICT ­Essential reading for all dog lovers, this balanced work will become the standard on this topic.—Susan Riley, ­Mamaroneck Public Library, New York


Dog Facts: True or False?

In The Dog Merchants, I write about the history of the dog business to show how we got to where we are today in terms of breeding and rescue. Think you know the real story? Take this quiz to find out!