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Federal Agency Removes Key Consumer Tool for Evaluating Dog Breeders

At 1 p.m. today, the U.S. Department of Agriculture posted this notice on the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) section of its website. The notice explains that from now on, it will be much harder for consumers and others to review government inspection reports about dog breeders that previously had been available online in a simple search.

Until today, documents including inspection reports of commercial-scale dog breeding kennels have been uploaded into a searchable database that anyone could access at any time through a link on the APHIS landing page. Several years’ worth of these inspection reports, which are generated by the taxpayer-funded agency, have been available for a free, easy search. That search function is now gone, replaced by today’s announcement on a static web page.

The inspection reports that used to be searchable have long been used for many purposes. For instance, they allowed consumers to check whether a commercial-scale dog breeder was complying with the federal Animal Welfare Act before purchasing a puppy from that breeder; they allowed pet-store owners to do the same (in some states, pet stores are required by law to check the reports of any commercial-scale breeders who sell them puppies); and they were used by welfare advocates and activists to produce pamphlets such as the Humane Society of the United States “Horrible Hundred Puppy Mills” list each year.

Commercial-scale dog breeders have long argued that, because their kennels are typically located on the same property as their private homes, the inspection reports contain personal information that is being unfairly revealed to the general public, including to some activists who trespass onto their property to take photographs, harass them and bother their dogs. The breeders have said that having their names, addresses, contact details and other information placed online or made available to the public is a violation of their personal privacy.

Today, the federal government appears to have sided with those breeders.

From now on, according to today’s notice, the inspection reports will be removed from the searchable database. The move comes, according to the agency, following a yearlong review that included ensuring compliance with the Privacy Act.

“Going forward, APHIS will remove from its website inspection reports, regulatory correspondence, research facility annual reports, and enforcement records that have not received final adjudication,” the notice states.

The notice adds that anyone seeking access to such information in the future, instead of being able to simply look it up online, must now submit a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to the federal government.

In those cases, the notice states, “Records will be released when authorized and in a manner consistent with the FOIA and Privacy Act. If the same records are frequently requested via the FOIA process, in most instances APHIS may post the appropriately redacted versions to its website.”

The FOIA process can be a long one, sometimes taking months to yield a response. This delay may now make it impossible for consumers, pet-store owners and others to assess a dog breeder’s record in real time, when the purchase of a puppy is pending—unless the breeder himself chooses to share his own government-issued inspection report, especially when it contains citations for violating the Animal Welfare Act.

The Facts—and State Inspection Reports—Behind Today’s Diana’s Grove Dog Rescue Story

[fusion_text]Today, multiple media outlets in St. Louis, including the Post-Dispatch, reported that the Chesterfield Mall had canceled its agreement with a rescue group that was scheduled to open a new adoption center there this Saturday.

More than 100 comments from dog lovers in the community were posted inside of about seven hours, expressing, mostly, confusion. As one commenter wrote: “There is obviously a lot more than the article is saying if the people felt so strongly about the shelter.”

That commenter is right. Here’s the backstory—which should be a lesson to us all about retail pet stores and the types of merchants that we want offering dogs for sale in them, whether those merchants are breeders or rescuers.

 

What the Public Was Initially Told

In late December, St. Louis media outlets including the Post-Dispatch ran articles about Diana’s Grove Dog Rescue, saying the nonprofit from rural Cabool, Missouri, had gotten in over its head. The story reported to the public was that a Petco near St. Louis had terminated the group’s adoption events after receiving consumer complaints about sick dogs, including one that died a few days after adoption. Diana’s Grove, without the retail space, had an overflow of homeless dogs. The Humane Society of Missouri took more than 100 of them, making the crisis appear short-term.

At least in part because of the way that story was reported by multiple media outlets, nearly 150 people, in a matter of weeks, donated more than $9,000 on GoFundMe to help Diana’s Grove.[/fusion_text][separator style_type=”none” top_margin=”” bottom_margin=”” sep_color=”” border_size=”” icon=”” icon_circle=”” icon_circle_color=”” width=”” alignment=”” class=”” id=””][imageframe lightbox=”no” lightbox_image=”” style_type=”none” hover_type=”none” bordercolor=”” bordersize=”0px” borderradius=”0″ stylecolor=”” align=”none” link=”” linktarget=”_self” animation_type=”0″ animation_direction=”down” animation_speed=”0.1″ hide_on_mobile=”no” class=”” id=””] [/imageframe][separator style_type=”none” top_margin=”” bottom_margin=”” sep_color=”” border_size=”” icon=”” icon_circle=”” icon_circle_color=”” width=”” alignment=”” class=”” id=””][fusion_text]And on January 15, media outlets reported that thanks in part to those donations, Diana’s Grove was resuming operations January 21, in new retail space in the Chesterfield Mall.

The stories were mostly positive; for instance, the Post-Dispatch described the group as “bringing its mission” to the St. Louis area.

But all of the media outlets failed to report what has long constituted normal operations at the Diana’s Grove kennel in Cabool, where the dogs live outside the public eye before they are brought to St. Louis-area retail stores.

 

The Unreported Story

The truth is that Petco, just before Christmas, was not the first store near St. Louis to give Diana’s Grove the boot in 2016; Petsmart also did so, last spring.

In the recent media coverage, Cynthea Jones, founder and director of Diana’s Grove, is quoted as saying, “I truly don’t know why Petsmart decided to terminate us.”

But the Diana’s Grove Facebook page, in a May 19, 2016, post, makes clear why Petsmart acted: “Petsmart Charities informed us that they were in receipt of a copy of a Department of Agriculture report from November 2015. Due to certain issues reported on the inspection form, we were suspended from Petsmart, pending resolution.”

[/fusion_text][separator style_type=”none” top_margin=”” bottom_margin=”” sep_color=”” border_size=”” icon=”” icon_circle=”” icon_circle_color=”” width=”” alignment=”” class=”” id=””][imageframe lightbox=”no” lightbox_image=”” style_type=”none” hover_type=”none” bordercolor=”” bordersize=”0px” borderradius=”0″ stylecolor=”” align=”none” link=”” linktarget=”_self” animation_type=”0″ animation_direction=”down” animation_speed=”0.1″ hide_on_mobile=”no” class=”” id=””] [/imageframe][separator style_type=”none” top_margin=”” bottom_margin=”” sep_color=”” border_size=”” icon=”” icon_circle=”” icon_circle_color=”” width=”” alignment=”” class=”” id=””][separator style_type=”none” top_margin=”” bottom_margin=”” sep_color=”” border_size=”” icon=”” icon_circle=”” icon_circle_color=”” width=”” alignment=”” class=”” id=””][fusion_text]

Here is the Missouri Department of Agriculture report from November 2015:[/fusion_text][imageframe lightbox=”no” lightbox_image=”” style_type=”none” hover_type=”none” bordercolor=”” bordersize=”0px” borderradius=”0″ stylecolor=”” align=”none” link=”” linktarget=”_self” animation_type=”0″ animation_direction=”down” animation_speed=”0.1″ hide_on_mobile=”no” class=”” id=””] [/imageframe][imageframe lightbox=”no” lightbox_image=”” style_type=”none” hover_type=”none” bordercolor=”” bordersize=”0px” borderradius=”0″ stylecolor=”” align=”none” link=”” linktarget=”_self” animation_type=”0″ animation_direction=”down” animation_speed=”0.1″ hide_on_mobile=”no” class=”” id=””] [/imageframe][imageframe lightbox=”no” lightbox_image=”” style_type=”none” hover_type=”none” bordercolor=”” bordersize=”0px” borderradius=”0″ stylecolor=”” align=”none” link=”” linktarget=”_self” animation_type=”0″ animation_direction=”down” animation_speed=”0.1″ hide_on_mobile=”no” class=”” id=””] [/imageframe][imageframe lightbox=”no” lightbox_image=”” style_type=”none” hover_type=”none” bordercolor=”” bordersize=”0px” borderradius=”0″ stylecolor=”” align=”none” link=”” linktarget=”_self” animation_type=”0″ animation_direction=”down” animation_speed=”0.1″ hide_on_mobile=”no” class=”” id=””] [/imageframe][imageframe lightbox=”no” lightbox_image=”” style_type=”none” hover_type=”none” bordercolor=”” bordersize=”0px” borderradius=”0″ stylecolor=”” align=”none” link=”” linktarget=”_self” animation_type=”0″ animation_direction=”down” animation_speed=”0.1″ hide_on_mobile=”no” class=”” id=””] [/imageframe][imageframe lightbox=”no” lightbox_image=”” style_type=”none” hover_type=”none” bordercolor=”” bordersize=”0px” borderradius=”0″ stylecolor=”” align=”none” link=”” linktarget=”_self” animation_type=”0″ animation_direction=”down” animation_speed=”0.1″ hide_on_mobile=”no” class=”” id=””] [/imageframe][imageframe lightbox=”no” lightbox_image=”” style_type=”none” hover_type=”none” bordercolor=”” bordersize=”0px” borderradius=”0″ stylecolor=”” align=”none” link=”” linktarget=”_self” animation_type=”0″ animation_direction=”down” animation_speed=”0.1″ hide_on_mobile=”no” class=”” id=””] [/imageframe][fusion_text]As you can read in the documents above, the state inspection report issued November 4, 2015—with Jones’ name at the top—is disturbing. It describes previous warnings for the nonprofit to fix rusted enclosures; floors and walls so worn they no longer stopped moisture; dogs exposed to broken and jagged metal; and at least one enclosure too small for the dog inside (a Beagle lacked 6 inches of headroom).

That report also identified new problems: a kennel support post chewed in two; doghouses with no protection from wind and rain; and dogs again exposed to sharp edges.

Perhaps most distressing was the citation for approximately 7 litters of puppies, some younger than 1 week old, living outside without adequate bedding for warmth.

The November report also listed citations for inadequate veterinary care. They included dogs brought across state lines to Missouri from Arkansas without proof of a rabies vaccine, and dogs cited for health problems some five months earlier, still with no documented treatment.[/fusion_text][fusion_text]Citations that Went Back Years

That report was one among at least 11 the state issued for Diana’s Grove between 2014 and 2016, most containing citations (and all published at the bottom of this blog post). And with that November report, the state issued an Official Letter of Warning to Diana’s Grove, stating that the group had repeatedly violated the Animal Care Facilities Act. It was one of at least three Official Letters of Warning issued to Diana’s Grove for repeat violations between 2014 and 2016 (also published at the bottom of this blog post).

Problems cited in the 2015 letter included “several of the dog houses chewed to the point that they no longer provided sufficient shelter for the dogs.”

Here is that 2015 Official Letter of Warning:[/fusion_text][imageframe lightbox=”no” lightbox_image=”” style_type=”none” hover_type=”none” bordercolor=”” bordersize=”0px” borderradius=”0″ stylecolor=”” align=”none” link=”” linktarget=”_self” animation_type=”0″ animation_direction=”down” animation_speed=”0.1″ hide_on_mobile=”no” class=”” id=””] [/imageframe][imageframe lightbox=”no” lightbox_image=”” style_type=”none” hover_type=”none” bordercolor=”” bordersize=”0px” borderradius=”0″ stylecolor=”” align=”none” link=”” linktarget=”_self” animation_type=”0″ animation_direction=”down” animation_speed=”0.1″ hide_on_mobile=”no” class=”” id=””] [/imageframe][imageframe lightbox=”no” lightbox_image=”” style_type=”none” hover_type=”none” bordercolor=”” bordersize=”0px” borderradius=”0″ stylecolor=”” align=”none” link=”” linktarget=”_self” animation_type=”0″ animation_direction=”down” animation_speed=”0.1″ hide_on_mobile=”no” class=”” id=””] [/imageframe][fusion_text]Possibly most noteworthy, given recent media coverage, is the state’s July 28, 2014, report. The stories last month in St. Louis media described recent problems at Diana’s Grove as short-term, involving too many dogs because of a backup caused when Petco ended the group’s adoption events in December.

But in fact, having too many dogs is a problem the state first cited with Diana’s Grove two and a half years ago. The July 2014 inspection report states that Jones “needs to immediately start reducing her inventory of animals.” Here is that report:[/fusion_text][imageframe lightbox=”no” lightbox_image=”” style_type=”none” hover_type=”none” bordercolor=”” bordersize=”0px” borderradius=”0″ stylecolor=”” align=”none” link=”” linktarget=”_self” animation_type=”0″ animation_direction=”down” animation_speed=”0.1″ hide_on_mobile=”no” class=”” id=””] [/imageframe][imageframe lightbox=”no” lightbox_image=”” style_type=”none” hover_type=”none” bordercolor=”” bordersize=”0px” borderradius=”0″ stylecolor=”” align=”none” link=”” linktarget=”_self” animation_type=”0″ animation_direction=”down” animation_speed=”0.1″ hide_on_mobile=”no” class=”” id=””] [/imageframe][fusion_text]Back then, when the state said Diana’s Grove had to start reducing its number of animals, the group had 276. During the recent incident, Diana’s Grove had amassed about 350, according to the Post-Dispatch.

And the group’s announcement about its new St. Louis retail space at the Chesterfield Mall promised to bring about 85 dogs per week:[/fusion_text][imageframe lightbox=”no” lightbox_image=”” style_type=”none” hover_type=”none” bordercolor=”” bordersize=”0px” borderradius=”0″ stylecolor=”” align=”none” link=”” linktarget=”_self” animation_type=”0″ animation_direction=”down” animation_speed=”0.1″ hide_on_mobile=”no” class=”” id=””] [/imageframe][fusion_text]Rightful Outcry from the Welfare Community

This is why so many people from within the St. Louis animal-welfare community contacted the Chesterfield Mall and threatened a boycott, calls that resulted in today’s announcement that the mall changed its mind and will not go forward with the group restarting its adoption events in St. Louis this Saturday.

The welfare advocates who took that stand should be highly praised. Far too often, the political divide between rescuers and breeders leaves “welfare advocates” crying foul only when a breeder is issued inspection reports and Letters of Warning of this nature. There’s no doubt that if Diana’s Grove had been a breeder, with these kinds of inspections, “puppy mill” protesters would have been at Petsmart and Petco long ago. So three cheers for the welfare advocates who called out a rescue organization with similarly questionable inspection reports, and for Petsmart and Petco taking action when they realized something might be wrong. That’s what it means to look out for the dogs.

The Diana’s Grove story is a powerful example of why it’s time for the “adopt, don’t shop” mentality to evolve, and for us to seriously reconsider the current legislative strategy of requiring pet stores to welcome only rescuers instead of breeders. So far, more than 180 municipalities have enacted such laws. It’s highly unlikely that lawmakers, in enacting such bans, realize that they might be encouraging, and even legally mandating, retail pet stores to work with rescue groups whose business practices might be questionable.

Not all breeders are devils, and not all rescuers are angels. The last thing the dogs need is us banning the better breeders from retail pet stores while welcoming questionable rescuers.

Welfare advocacy and legislation should be about one thing and one thing only: the dogs. Whether it’s a rescue group or a breeder offering dogs for sale in a retail pet store of any kind, the goal should always be to make sure the dogs are healthy, happy and safe.

The Dog Merchants-3D

 

 

Want to learn more about the business of dog breeding and rescue? Get your copy today of “The Dog Merchants: Inside the Big Business of Breeders, Pet Stores, and Rescuers.”[/fusion_text][separator style_type=”single” top_margin=”” bottom_margin=”” sep_color=”” border_size=”” icon=”fa-folder-open” icon_circle=”” icon_circle_color=”” width=”” alignment=”center” class=”” id=””][separator style_type=”single” top_margin=”” bottom_margin=”” sep_color=”” border_size=”” icon=”” icon_circle=”” icon_circle_color=”” width=”” alignment=”center” class=”” id=””][fusion_text]

Missouri Department of Agriculture inspection reports and Official Letters of Warning issued to Diana’s Grove Dog Rescue between October 2014 and May 2016:[/fusion_text][imageframe lightbox=”no” lightbox_image=”” style_type=”none” hover_type=”none” bordercolor=”” bordersize=”0px” borderradius=”0″ stylecolor=”” align=”none” link=”” linktarget=”_self” animation_type=”0″ animation_direction=”down” animation_speed=”0.1″ hide_on_mobile=”no” class=”” id=””] [/imageframe][imageframe lightbox=”no” lightbox_image=”” style_type=”none” hover_type=”none” bordercolor=”” bordersize=”0px” borderradius=”0″ stylecolor=”” align=”none” link=”” linktarget=”_self” animation_type=”0″ animation_direction=”down” animation_speed=”0.1″ hide_on_mobile=”no” class=”” id=””] [/imageframe][imageframe lightbox=”no” lightbox_image=”” style_type=”none” hover_type=”none” bordercolor=”” bordersize=”0px” borderradius=”0″ stylecolor=”” align=”none” link=”” linktarget=”_self” animation_type=”0″ animation_direction=”down” animation_speed=”0.1″ hide_on_mobile=”no” class=”” id=””] [/imageframe][imageframe lightbox=”no” lightbox_image=”” style_type=”none” hover_type=”none” bordercolor=”” bordersize=”0px” borderradius=”0″ stylecolor=”” align=”none” link=”” linktarget=”_self” animation_type=”0″ animation_direction=”down” animation_speed=”0.1″ hide_on_mobile=”no” class=”” id=””] [/imageframe][imageframe lightbox=”no” lightbox_image=”” style_type=”none” hover_type=”none” bordercolor=”” bordersize=”0px” borderradius=”0″ stylecolor=”” align=”none” link=”” linktarget=”_self” animation_type=”0″ animation_direction=”down” animation_speed=”0.1″ hide_on_mobile=”no” class=”” id=””] [/imageframe][imageframe lightbox=”no” lightbox_image=”” style_type=”none” hover_type=”none” bordercolor=”” bordersize=”0px” borderradius=”0″ stylecolor=”” align=”none” link=”” linktarget=”_self” animation_type=”0″ animation_direction=”down” animation_speed=”0.1″ hide_on_mobile=”no” class=”” id=””] [/imageframe][imageframe lightbox=”no” lightbox_image=”” style_type=”none” hover_type=”none” bordercolor=”” bordersize=”0px” borderradius=”0″ stylecolor=”” align=”none” link=”” linktarget=”_self” animation_type=”0″ animation_direction=”down” animation_speed=”0.1″ hide_on_mobile=”no” class=”” id=””] [/imageframe][imageframe lightbox=”no” lightbox_image=”” style_type=”none” hover_type=”none” bordercolor=”” bordersize=”0px” borderradius=”0″ stylecolor=”” align=”none” link=”” linktarget=”_self” animation_type=”0″ animation_direction=”down” animation_speed=”0.1″ hide_on_mobile=”no” class=”” id=””] [/imageframe][imageframe lightbox=”no” lightbox_image=”” style_type=”none” hover_type=”none” bordercolor=”” bordersize=”0px” borderradius=”0″ stylecolor=”” align=”none” link=”” linktarget=”_self” animation_type=”0″ animation_direction=”down” animation_speed=”0.1″ hide_on_mobile=”no” class=”” id=””] [/imageframe][imageframe lightbox=”no” lightbox_image=”” style_type=”none” hover_type=”none” bordercolor=”” bordersize=”0px” 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style_type=”none” hover_type=”none” bordercolor=”” bordersize=”0px” borderradius=”0″ stylecolor=”” align=”none” link=”” linktarget=”_self” animation_type=”0″ animation_direction=”down” animation_speed=”0.1″ hide_on_mobile=”no” class=”” id=””] [/imageframe][imageframe lightbox=”no” lightbox_image=”” style_type=”none” hover_type=”none” bordercolor=”” bordersize=”0px” borderradius=”0″ stylecolor=”” align=”none” link=”” linktarget=”_self” animation_type=”0″ animation_direction=”down” animation_speed=”0.1″ hide_on_mobile=”no” class=”” id=””] [/imageframe][imageframe lightbox=”no” lightbox_image=”” style_type=”none” hover_type=”none” bordercolor=”” bordersize=”0px” borderradius=”0″ stylecolor=”” align=”none” link=”” linktarget=”_self” animation_type=”0″ animation_direction=”down” animation_speed=”0.1″ hide_on_mobile=”no” class=”” id=””] [/imageframe][imageframe lightbox=”no” lightbox_image=”” style_type=”none” hover_type=”none” bordercolor=”” bordersize=”0px” borderradius=”0″ stylecolor=”” 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Review of Documentary ‘Petfooled’ by Author of ‘The Dog Merchants’

[fusion_text]Dogster.com just published my review of the documentary Petfooled, which becomes available on iTunes and video-on-demand January 10. If you’re like me, trying to be a conscious consumer about everything you buy, then I think you’ll find this film well worth watching. Here’s a preview:

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DogMerchants.com Blog Post is a Finalist for DWAA Best Article of the Year

I’m honored to share the news that the Dog Writers Association of America has announced its finalists for Best Article or Blog. My article posted on this website, “Hydra: New Jersey’s Just Pups and the Puppy Mill Monster,” has been named one of four finalists for the award.

Congratulations also go out to the three other finalists in this category:

Bud Buccone, whose story “How the Briard Won Over Thomas Jefferson” was published by the American Kennel Club;

Laura Teresa Coffey, whose story “ASPCA ‘safety net’ keeps pets out of shelters (and hearts from breaking)” appeared on Today.com;

Nancy Tanner, whose story “Herding Lightening-Rhumb off Leash” was published at nancytanner.com.

Congratulations to all my fellow finalists! The winner will be announced in mid-February.

‘The Dog Merchants’ is a Finalist for DWAA Best Reference Book of 2016

The Dog Merchants-3DI’m both honored and humbled to share the news that The Dog Merchants has been named one of four finalists in the category of Best Reference Book for 2016 by the Dog Writers Association of America.

My book is in excellent company. The other finalists in the category are Laurren Darr’s Pet Business Planning Almanack 2016; Janice Koler-Matznick’s Dawn of the Dog; and Tracy Libby’s Reporting for Duty.

The winner will be announced in mid-February. Congratulations to all of my fellow nominees, and thanks so much to DWAA for this wonderful honor.

 

Video: ‘The Dog Merchants’ Author Kim Kavin on HomeTowne Television

[fusion_text]HomeTown Television just sent me this two-part series of shows that the channel is preparing to air in my home state of New Jersey. Each video is a half-hour long, adapted from a full-hour conversation that I had with the show’s host about my books Little Boy Blue and The Dog Merchants—and all the issues they touch on in the worlds of dog breeding and rescue alike.

The beginning of Part I is funny: The adoptable pup in my lap is named Teddy, and the host is named Fred. I accidentally called the dog Freddy. Luckily, the host was not offended!

Special thanks to HomeTowne Television for sharing these links. Enjoy:

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Washington Post Op-Ed: How Our Political Vitriol is Hurting Our Dogs

Screen Shot 2016-11-21 at 9.22.44 AMThe Washington Post just published my latest story about dogs, which I originally pitched with the title “Party Animals.” It’s about how our current level of political vitriol in the United States is keeping dogs in conditions that many of us agree are unacceptable.

I hope you’ll take the time to read it, whether you voted for Trump, Clinton or not at all. We dog lovers need to start learning how to have a civil conversation and stand together on the side of all dogs.

Listen: ‘The Dog Merchants’ Book on Wharton Business Radio

[fusion_text]I was thrilled to be invited for a live half-hour interview about The Dog Merchants today with Wharton Business Radio on SiriusXM. Host Dan Loney and I had a terrific conversation about the business of dogs, covering a lot of territory about breeding and rescue alike.

If you haven’t already checked out Wharton Business Radio (@whartonknows on Twitter), then I highly recommend that you do. The program puts out some truly thought-provoking shows. Just this month alone, other guests have included environmentalist Erin Brockovich, The Washington Post Executive Editor Marty Baron and Morgan Stanley Managing Director Drew Stanley.

To hear the 30-minute broadcast about “The Dog Merchants,” click below:

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Video: ‘The Dog Merchants’ on Business Insider, Problems with Dog Breeds

[fusion_text]Business Insider just uploaded this video, which is based on information in the half of The Dog Merchants book about breeding.

The producer asked me to discuss a few examples of problem dog breeds that are mentioned in my book, so you can hear me talking about the German Shepherd, Cavalier King Charles Spaniel and French Bulldog.

If the video below won’t play on your system, click here to view it on the Business Insider website.

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‘The Dog Merchants’ Book Inspires Colorado Legislation

The Dog Merchants-3DLate last night, I learned from Google that my book has inspired legislation in Aurora, Colorado. I found out when I read this story in the Aurora Sentinel, which reported that the councilman who introduced the legislation “said he was inspired to do something locally after reading Kim Kavin’s book The Dog Merchants: Inside the Big Business of Breeders, Pet Stores and Rescuers.”

I’m so honored that this councilman read The Dog Merchants and was moved to try and make life better for dogs in his own community. That’s a person of good heart who cares about dogs and is standing up for them in the best way that he knows how.

It’s important for everyone to understand, though, that the Sentinel‘s article indicates this legislation is a version of the same “pet store puppy mill bans” that have now been enacted in about 160 municipalities nationwide—laws that are highly controversial, and that are neither advocated nor even mentioned at all in The Dog Merchants book.

“Pet store puppy mill bans” generally require pet stores to source their dogs only from rescue groups and shelters, instead of from breeders. They are controversial for a number of reasons: they usually are a blanket prohibition on pet stores working with all kinds of breeders, responsible and irresponsible alike; they usually put no consumer protections in place regarding the dogs coming from rescue groups, which often are not licensed or monitored in any way; and more.

Outside of my book The Dog Merchants, I have written a few pieces that mention these laws:

  • In this op-ed for the Bergen Record in my home state of New Jersey, I argued that it was unwise to force pet stores to work with nonprofit rescue groups that have just as little oversight and regulation today as the breeders of years past, leading to the current state of some breeding kennels that has us all so outraged. I wrote: “Before we drive even more business to rescuers, we need to ensure that they behave responsibly. It’s exactly what we failed to do with breeders decades ago, leading to our current situation on the worst of the farms — which we now cannot get under control.” (That op-ed led to New Jersey’s pending legislation being rewritten to include licensing requirements for rescue groups, for the first time in the state’s history.)
  • In this op-ed for the Albany Times-Union in New York, I explained that even though “pet store puppy mill bans” have been enacted nationwide for about a decade, there is no evidence that they actually affect the types of kennels that activists want to shut down. I wrote: “A proposed ban in New Jersey cites Humane Society of the United States statistics that an estimated 10,000 puppy mills now produce more than 2.4 million puppies each year. That estimated number of puppies is up — by nearly 18 percent, from 2.04 million — since 2014, even as the bans have begun taking effect.” I also reported that when I asked a top HSUS official whether the group could point to a “puppy mill” that has been closed because of these laws, she acknowledged that the group “cannot point to exact puppy mills that have shut down due to ordinances because pet shops source from a wide variety of mills.”
  • Last, in this blog post for my website DogMerchants.com, I wrote about how targeting pet stores with such laws can have unintended consequences that many well-intentioned people do not understand. In the case of a franchise called Just Pups in New Jersey, the pet-store closures led to a massive dog auction that actually strengthened many of the kennels that activists would call “puppy mills,” while putting a ton of money into the pockets of the breeders the activists wanted to put out of business.

Again, to be clear, I’m so honored that the councilman in Colorado read The Dog Merchants and was moved to try and do something to make life better for dogs in his own community. I haven’t read his legislation, and I don’t know how it compares to other “pet store puppy mill bans” nationwide, but I’m sure he introduced it because he thought that doing so might help dogs who are in trouble.

When my book inspires people to take action to help dogs, that’s a very good thing. I hope we can all work together, on the breeding and rescue sides alike, to make sure the actions we are taking actually address the problems that exist on both sides of the industry.

The Dog Merchants-3D

 

 

Order your copy of The Dog Merchants today.