Posts tagged The Washington Post

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.

Winner–Again! And Again!

Today, the American Society of Journalists and Authors announced the winners of its 2019 Writing Awards. I am truly beyond grateful and humbled to share the news that I won two of the specialty awards, both of which are open to competition from every freelance writer in the United States.

I’m told that it’s the first time any writer has won these two awards in the same year, in the 71-year history of ASJA’s existence.

My 2016 book The Dog Merchants won the The Arlene Eisenberg Award for a Book That Made a Difference. Given every three years, the award is not just for reporting and writing, but also for documented impact. In my book’s case, the book has spurred new and updated legislation in several states, and is being taught on several college campuses.

About The Dog Merchants, the Arlene Award judges said: “Man’s best friend couldn’t have a better advocate than Kim Kavin. The Dog Merchants is a disturbing, definitive exploration of mass production dog breeding and selling, and Kavin braved death threats to produce it. Her book has inspired revisions in both state and federal laws, plus a host of other changes.”

(I appreciate the judges’ enthusiasm; for the record, the book inspired state-level legislation and legislative revisions; it also inspired work that led to an investigation by the federal Department of Agriculture.)

What’s most interesting is that Chapter One of The Dog Merchants is what led an industry insider to come forward and provide me with documents that became the basis for my article “Dog Fight” in The Washington Post, which won the ASJA’s Donald Robinson Prize for Investigative Journalism. The award honors outstanding writing and organization, plus previously unrevealed research.

About “Dog Fight,” the Donald Robinson Prize judges said: “This exhaustively researched article turned a powerful light on what everyone assumed was a good deed — until Kavin showed us that it isn’t. The story is an example of the very best investigative journalism.”

Many thanks to the judges for their kind words, and congratulations to all of the other winners in ASJA’s various categories.

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!

USDA Takes Action after Washington Post Expose

My article “Dog Fight” in The Washington Post showing that buyers ­affiliated with 86 rescue and dog-advocacy groups and shelters nationwide have spent $2.68 million buying dogs at auctions has ignited fierce debate — and late Tuesday, the U.S. Agriculture Department issued a bulletin stating that such individuals and nonprofits may need to be licensed under the federal Animal Welfare Act.

Read the full story here.