Posts tagged puppy mills

State Officials Act after HuffPost Article

HuffPost just broke the news that Colorado officials have taken substantial action against the multimillion-dollar nonprofit National Mill Dog Rescue, a couple of months after my lengthy investigative article ran with details about the organization’s business practices.

As with the first story, this new one is about more than National Mill Dog Rescue. It’s also about the increasingly popular business models now being called forms of rescue in the United States.

From the new story’s opening paragraph: “The Colorado agency that regulates shelters, breeders and other dog-dealing entities has hit the multimillion-dollar nonprofit National Mill Dog Rescue with the biggest fine the agency’s manager can recall. It comes with a larger goal, he said: ‘to highlight the fact that rescue is a problem’ and warn other nonprofit shelters and rescuers who do business in similar ways that they could be next.”

I believe there will be more news in the future about this case. As today’s story states, the founder and executive director of National Mill is due in court Sept. 30 on a cease-and-desist order that Colorado officials issued regarding the practice of veterinary medicine without a license.
Stay tuned.

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.

Peeling Back Yet More Layers: HuffPost

In 2016, I published the book The Dog Merchants: Inside the Big Business of Breeders, Pet Stores, and Rescuers. A person who read that book was keenly interested in Chapter One, which took readers inside America’s biggest legal dog auction and showed that not just breeders, but also nonprofit rescuers are regularly doing business there. About 18 months after I first spoke with that person, in April 2018, I published the article “Dog Fight” on the Sunday front page of The Washington Post. It documented, for the first time in American history, a multimillion-dollar river of cash running through dozens of rescue nonprofits and into the pockets of the very breeders they decry as “puppy mills.”

Now, there’s another layer. A person who read the article “Dog Fight” reached out to me about six months ago and essentially said, “But wait, there’s more.” Today, my latest story about what’s really going on behind the scenes of America’s dog industry came online. It’s my first-ever piece for HuffPost, titled “When ‘Puppy Mill Rescue’ Blurs the Line Between Saving and Selling Dogs.”

The new story alone is based on interviews with nearly 40 people (including more than a dozen current and former staffers, volunteers and directors from the multimillion-dollar nonprofit rescue that is the focus); the rescue group’s inspection reports going back to early 2017; a slew of documents, photos and videos from inside the nonprofit; and more than 7,500 documents received through open-records requests in seven states where the nonprofit sources dogs and puppies.

To the best of my knowledge, this new story is the deepest-dive investigation ever taken by any journalist into the business model known all across America today as “puppy mill rescue.” And it’s eye-opening, in quite a few ways.

I wonder who will read it and reach out to me with more information next.

Winner!

I’m thrilled to share the news that the Dog Writers Association of America has named my article “Dog Fight” in The Washington Post the best newspaper article of the year, any topic.

“Dog Fight” was the most complex article I’ve reported and written since I graduated from journalism school in 1994. It required 18 months of research; involved an endless stack of documents from a whistleblower and open-records requests; and included more than 60 interviews. I worked under the direction of the great Jeff Leen, head of investigations at The Washington Post, and received all kinds of help from The Post‘s amazing team of editors, fact-checkers, photographers, videographers, graphic artists and more.

The story marked the first time that anyone has ever documented—in dollars and cents—the multimillion-dollar river of cash that is flowing from rescue nonprofits, shelters and dog-advocacy groups through dog auctions and into the pockets of breeders who are regularly decried as “puppy mills.”

Washington Post Expose Named Finalist

I’m thrilled to announce that my article “Dog Fight” in The Washington Post, about rescuers who buy dogs at auction from the very breeders they decry as “puppy mills,” has been named a finalist for Best Newspaper Article of the year in the competition organized by the Dog Writers Association of America.

My article “It’s a War,” also for The Washington Post, was named a finalist in another category.

I’m of course humbled and grateful to receive this kind of acknowledgment, and I extend my sincere congratulations to all the other finalists. Good luck to everyone in the competition!

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.

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.

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.

‘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.