Date Archives August 2019

Pioneering Dog-Breeder Research

For a few years now, I’ve been wanting to write a profile of Dr. Candace Croney at Purdue University. She has been leading first-of-its-kind research into commercial breeding kennels—the types often decried as “puppy mills”—and taking a ton of incoming fire from all sides because her work has remained unbiased, showing that pretty much everyone on all sides of the great dog debates has something to learn about what’s really going on with the dogs in these types of kennels.

Leapsmag, a site that publishes articles based on all kinds of scientific research, just gave me the opportunity to write the story, which you can find here.

The article talks about something that continues to amaze me, and that Dr. Croney says amazes her as well: Despite the widespread scope of commercial breeding in the United States going back decades, there are serious research gaps in terms of what actually constitutes a well-run commercial kennel. For a lot of things that affect the lives of dogs in these kennels, and for a lot of things that activists and lobbyists argue about in front of lawmakers all the time, no actual research exists about what’s right or wrong for breeders to do.

Filling in those gaps is a big part of the work that Dr. Croney and her team have been doing, and are continuing to do, as they build out their Canine Care Certified program. Their work is of paramount importance to the well-being of thousands upon thousands of dogs, and I’m excited to finally have the opportunity to bring it to the attention of the general public through this article.

The Dog Merchants: New and Improved

As I write this blog post, the new version of DogMerchants.com is about to come online. It’s been quite a saga getting to this point, and I want to explain why I’ve decided to focus the site the way it is now being reborn.

I originally launched the site in 2016, timed to coincide with publication of my book The Dog Merchants: Inside the Big Business of Breeders, Pet Stores, and Rescuers. As I wrote in the book, my idea was to create a site where consumers could post ratings and reviews of breeders, rescuers, pet stores, shelters—basically, anybody who takes money in exchange for a pet dog.

The site did OK for a couple of years and then got the attention of a social-impact investment firm, which gave me a grant to upgrade and relaunch it. I handed every nickel of that money to a developer, and we spent months rebuilding the site with all the latest technological bells and whistles. We also came up with the groovy new logo that you see on this page, giving The Dog Merchants brand an identity beyond the original book.

But when we did the private soft launch of the new and improved website, something disturbing happened: Countless dog breeders and rescuers threatened to file lawsuits if the site went live and the general public were allowed to write reviews. One dog breeder doxxed me, publishing my personal address and other information online. I also received a call from the police in Connecticut after a breeder there sought to have me arrested for including her name on the site at all.

While all of that intense pushback was occurring, my phone was ringing off the hook with people who’d gotten word that I was working on a major investigative article about “puppy mill rescue” for HuffPost. With that story—just as with my major investigation last year about rescuers and dog auctions for The Washington Post—sources were giving me more information than I could ever possibly publish about all kinds of breeders and rescuers.

It dawned on me that, instead of trying to battle on legal fronts against dozens of breeders and rescuers who would fight to maintain the secrecy that shrouds the entire dog industry, I would instead do better to spend my time battling to get the truth out to consumers through my primary skill set, as a national award-winning journalist.

Thus, the new DogMerchants.com was born, focusing on books, articles and an occasionally updated blog. Plans are in the works for a podcast that should launch in the coming months, with an eye toward digging even deeper into the topics that my work has covered to date. And, I’ve started work on what I hope will become my next book about the dog industry.

Thanks for dropping by the new site and taking a look around. If you have information that might help me with articles and books going forward, please feel free to reach out. You can find me (including a snail mail address for documents) by pressing the Contact button at the top of this page.