Posts tagged dog shelters

New Study Likely to Affect Debate about Shelters and Breeders

[fusion_text]This morning, The Washington Post published my article about a new study from Mississippi State University showing that shelter euthanasia rates for dogs have dipped to the lowest level in modern history, with fewer than 780,000 dogs per year now dying in U.S. shelters.

Researchers and scientists from groups including the ASPCA, No Kill Advocacy Center and Maddie’s Fund are still breaking down the study’s results and looking into its methodology, but those I spoke with late into the evening yesterday were of the same mind-set that I am: Let’s hope the science is solid, because it would be great news for the dogs, a sea change from the past few decades when dogs were estimated to be dying in our shelters by the millions.

Interpreting the study’s results beyond the science, however, is a political exercise that I suspect will continue for a long time to come.

Rescue advocates seem poised to argue that once America’s shelters are saving all the healthy, adoptable dogs in our own nation, we should next turn our attention to saving homeless dogs from outside our borders, by importing dogs in need from U.S. territories and other countries.

Breeding advocates, on the other hand, say that once America’s shelter dogs are all in homes, the need for responsible breeding will remain clearer than ever, to ensure that everyone who wants a pet dog in America can have one.

For today, though, I hope this study’s results are simply a reason to cheer. Many fewer dogs dying in our shelters would be a great thing. I’m going to hope that the science stands up, and give my two shelter mutts a big hug to celebrate.[/fusion_text]

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” 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Two Incredible Nights in Morris County, New Jersey

The Dog Merchants-3DSince my new book The Dog Merchants was published earlier this month, I have been doing talks and book signings at libraries and bookstores all across my home state of New Jersey. Sometimes, only one or two people show up. Sometimes, it’s a packed room.

The past two weeks, at the public libraries in Chester and Randolph, New Jersey, the turnouts were strong—and amazing conversations happened among purebred and rescue advocates alike.

They are the kinds of conversations I’ve never seen happen, anywhere, among people who often won’t even stand in the same room together. They were conversations taking place between the kinds of people who will often scream at each other in ALL CAPS on Facebook. Whether they’re on the “rescue side” or the “breeding side,” most of these people tend to believe the other side is the enemy. They can’t even hear one another, let alone want to try to listen.

But in these two libraries, on these two nights, they all managed to come together.

And in the end, they were all thinking similarly and trying, very hard, to work with one another and be on the side of all dogs.

Me as a child with my first dog, Mac, a Scottish Terrier.
Me as a child with my first dog, a Scottish Terrier. The first word I ever spoke was “Mac.”

The Dog Merchants in Chester

Before my program in Chester officially began, I asked everyone around the room what kinds of dogs they had. I was making small talk, just trying to kill time before the official start.

Quite a lot of people in attendance had purebreds, and it was obvious that they knew one another. They had come as a group. At least a few were breeders. One woman, sitting in the back with her arms folded, asked me what kinds of dogs I had. The way she asked the question—her tone and her demeanor—made me feel like I was being challenged to a duel.

I explained how I’d grown up loving my family’s purebred Scottish Terrier, Doberman Pinschers and West Highland White Terriers, and that today, I have two beautiful mutts.

“That term is offensive,” she shot back.

“What term?” I asked.

“The term ‘mutt.’ The proper term is ‘All-American Dog.'”

I was familiar with the term “All-American Dog.” It is the name of a category the American Kennel Club introduced a few years ago, for mutts who compete in events like agility.

This woman was laying down the gauntlet at my talk, letting me know before I even uttered my first words that she was there to represent the American Kennel Club’s interests.

And this was minute one, before I’d even said a single word about The Dog Merchants book.

Kim's dog Blue, alive and well next to the book about how he was saved.
My dog Blue, alive and well next to the book I wrote about him. (He turned 6 this past February.)

You can imagine how the next part of the story began to play out. I opened my talk the same way I always do: by explaining why I wrote The Dog Merchants book the way that I did. I talked about my previous dog book, Little Boy Blue, and about how at a lot of those talks and signings, I’d be standing there with my 2-year-old dog Blue, and people would tell me they couldn’t read books like mine because they were always too sad. The dog always died at the end.

“But … this is Blue,” I’d say. “Alive and well. See? He’s fine.”

They wouldn’t read the book. They just knew it would make them cry, because that’s what books about serious dog issues do.

“With The Dog Merchants,” I explain today, “I wrote a book that follows the money. It talks about how dogs are bought and sold and marketed, whether it’s for sale as purebreds or for rescue as mutts. I purposely wrote it in a way that won’t make you cry. Half my book is about purebreds, and half my book is about mutts. And you will see that I believe there are responsible rescuers and breeders–along with irresponsible rescuers and breeders. My message is that we, the dog lovers, have to stop being on opposite sides and all get together to support the sellers who are treating dogs responsibly, breeders and rescuers alike.”

Now, with a crowd like that one in Chester last week, my basic opening statement can soften the blows, but the antagonist’s first instinct is still to keep punching. Some of these women had come to have an argument, not a conversation, so the best that I could do was try to have a reasoned and polite conversation in response to whatever they said, however they said it.

After about 15 or 20 minutes of the verbal jousting, two other women in the room began to speak up. They had already read The Dog Merchants. One had grown up in a family that bred German Shepherds and gone on to volunteer for a local rescue group, and one owned a local pet-supply store where she was struggling to find responsible rescue groups to work with on in-store adoption events. 

These two women began to answer the accusations of the women from the “purebred side” of the audience. The conversation was at times tense, but always respectful.

The Dog Merchants-3DI watched in awe and did my best to encourage every moment where a standard “attack line” from the purebred or rescue side was shot down by the other, and to steer the conversation back to the notion of how dogs are bought and sold—which is neutral territory in this particular war of words. Nobody has ever written a book that comes at dog issues from the angle of following the money, so nobody has canned attack lines ready for that conversation. Dog lovers on both sides of the divide actually have to think a little before they speak, and when they start to think from this slightly different perspective, they ultimately realize they have more common ground than they previously believed.

By the time that 90-minute event in Chester had ended, the dog lovers in the room had discussed everything from whether U.S. Department of Agriculture regulations are sufficiently strong to protect dogs on commercial-breeding farms to ways that legislators might think about beginning to define the term “responsible rescue” in our society.

The woman sitting in the back eventually unfolded her arms, and she talked openly about some problems she believed exist in the breeding community. She also seemed to realize that the rescue-minded people in the room were dealing with some of the exact same problems. 

When it was over, most of the people bought a book so they could learn more about the actual issues that so many dogs face. The librarian thanked me and said my talk was one of the most thought-provoking events they’ve had in a while.

She also congratulated me on maintaining a level temperament, which I have to tell you, is not an easy thing. My natural state is to be a fighter, too. An incredible level of tenacity is required to even get a book like The Dog Merchants published in the first place. I do know how to throw a punch. I’m simply choosing not to swing my fists, even when jabs are coming directly at me. 

A still shot from my recent appearance on "Business Insider."
A still shot from my appearance on “Business Insider,” talking about legal dog auctions.

The Dog Merchants in Randolph

Last night, my talk at the Randolph library started out the opposite of the one in Chester from last week. This time, the crowd of people who knew one another and had come as a group was even bigger, but this time, they were from the rescue community. A few everyday dog lovers had also taken seats, mixed in among the many women wearing T-shirts from the rescue groups where they volunteered.

One lone woman sat in the back and listened quietly and intently, and she let all the rescuers who all knew one another say their piece, as they had clearly come to do. The lone woman listened, along with everyone else, to my explanation of Chapter One in The Dog Merchants, which tells the story of a day inside America’s biggest legal dog auction—where breeders and rescuers alike bid on the same exact dogs.

The lone woman watched as even the most knowledgeable rescuers in the room quieted down, because many of them were learning about a part of the dog business they had no idea even existed, let alone that was part of “their side” of the issue when you look at it from the angle of following the money.  

Lively conversation then ensued, about real issues: about whether there are any meaningful regulations at all for small-scale breeders and rescuers; about whether there is any real way for consumers to figure out whether they’re doing business with a responsible breeder or rescuer; about whether and when it is necessary for public safety to euthanize some dogs in our shelters.

After about an hour or so of thoughtful debate and conversation, the lone woman in the back raised her hand to speak.

australian-cattle-dogShe said she has been volunteering at a shelter because she thought it was the right thing to do, but that the shelter workers all make her feel bad because she bought a dog from a breeder. She said her children have allergies and she wanted to protect their health, but she also didn’t want them to grow up without a dog, so she went to a breeder for the dog she has in her family, and then she volunteered at the shelter to help all the other dogs too.

This woman said the shelter workers told her she was a bad person, that she should have drugged her children to save a homeless dog even if her kids were allergic to him, that a dog died because of her decision to go to a breeder, that she was a horrible human being.

She looked me in the eye from across the room and said, “Your book came at just the right time for me, because you are not saying it’s bad to go to a breeder. You’re only saying it’s bad to go to a bad breeder.”

And I said, “Yes, that is exactly what I’m saying. Breeder is not a bad word. You are a good mother, and you are a good person. You wanted to protect your children and you wanted to have them grow up with a dog. Those are wonderful things, and don’t let anybody tell you different.”

The lone woman started to cry.

Her eyes welled with tears because I’d had the simple decency to tell her that she was not a bad person for having sought out a hypoallergenic dog and then volunteered at a shelter. 

And then several of the rescuers in the room turned to her and tried to comfort her. “She’s right,” they said of me. “You’re a good person. You care about your kids and you care about the dogs. You are trying to do the right things.”

And then a number of the rescuers started talking about how not all rescues are good, and how maybe the shelter where the lone woman was volunteering needed to change some of its ways too. Quite a few of the rescue-minded people in the room had horror stories to share of adoptions gone horribly wrong.

A screen shot from the home page of DogMerchant.com.
A screen shot from the home page of DogMerchants.com, which I built using nearly the whole first advance check that I earned writing The Dog Merchants book.

Many of those same people then thanked me not only for writing The Dog Merchants book, but also for building the website dogmerchants.com, where all dog lovers can rate breeders and rescuers alike, to help all of us dog lovers share information about which sellers we can trust.

And then we all talked about the pending “pet store puppy mill ban” in New Jersey, a piece of legislation that is highly contentious within the breeding and rescue communities, a piece of legislation that is meant to become a model for the entire United States.

We talked about the language that is actually in the “pet store puppy mill” bill, and what it would mean for good and bad rescuers, as well as good and bad breeders, right across the board. One very activist rescuer sitting in the front row in her rescue T-shirt—a woman who had been involved in promoting the bill’s passage—said she was going to go back and look at the language one more time, to make sure she’s actually supporting what she thinks she’s supporting. She wants to support the overall cause of rescue, which is great, and she wants to put what she calls disgusting “puppy mills” out of business, which is also great. But she doesn’t want to hurt the responsible breeders, and she doesn’t want to send rescue-minded buyers to the least responsible “rescuers” who move sick or dangerous dogs into unsuspecting people’s homes. 

I agree with her 100 percent.

That activist woman had walked into the room at the start of last night’s talk with three pre-purchased copies of The Dog Merchants that she had asked me to autograph before the evening even began. She had asked me to dedicate one of them to the Morris County Board of Freeholders, the lawmaking body in this part of New Jersey, because she wanted them to know that local dog lovers care about these issues and will vote on them.

The librarian finally came in to kick us out because they were closing for the night. I received thunderous applause, and then a few people waited for me in the parking lot to talk even more.

We stood there last night, first in the haze of dusk and then in the full-on dark, in a library parking lot, talking about ideas that might help so many dogs on the breeding and rescue sides alike. 

And I felt wonderful because I knew that, just maybe, a new ray of light was actually starting to beam awfully brightly. If I continue to do my job correctly in the mass media, while I am promoting my book, then that light just may dawn soon all across America.

 

The Dog Merchants-3DIf you’d like to read The Dog Merchants bookyou can order a copy here.

If you’d like to add your voice to the conversation, feel free to comment on this blog, or come share your views on Facebook or Twitter.

If you’d like to schedule a live or Skype event in your own hometown bookstore, library or living room, then you can reach me here.