5.03.2016

The Dog Merchants: A Must Read

Last year, I wrote Considerations for the City Dog. There was one statistic that stuck out in that book for many readers:

"14,000 rescue dogs were legally brought into the state (of Massachusetts), according to the Boston Globe."


This statistic is referring to the truckloads of dogs that are brought to rescues and shelters in Massachusetts that follow state law:

"All dogs coming into the state for rescue must remain quarantined until proven behaviorally and physically sound for adoption"
 -Emergency Law put in place in MA in 2005 to combat sick & behaviorally unsound dogs coming into the Commonwealth. 
Yet, thousands more dogs are illegally brought into the Commonwealth by way of parking vans of dogs outside of state borders. These dogs are passed off trucks to families who paid for them online but never met them before pick-up day at a Motel 6. Unsurprisingly, when these dogs go directly to families, some issues are more likely to occur than going through groups not ducking the legal system.

The reporter who wrote the Globe piece I referenced in Considerations is Kim Kavin. She is an investigative journalist who has been one of the few who has been diving into the challenging discussions behaviorists, dog trainers and veterinarians have been having for decades in the Northeast.

Kavin continues her journalistic journey in her book, "The Dog Merchants" which is available today.


I was fortunate enough to have received a copy of this book before the official release date. I couldn't put it down. There was a constant hum reading this book of "dogs are considered a product to someone in this line of acquisition" and that disconnect between our beloved family pets being considered a movable product was jarring.

Jarring, but true.
Someone said this was the Omnivore's Dilemma for dogs, and I couldn't agree more.

While I don't see my dog as a product, and you don't see your dog as a product, people out there do. Dogs are sold at dog auctions to shady breeders and shady rescuers alike to make money. And while you might not have that dog that was sold at auction, chances are someone you know has a descendant of one of these dogs. Or a dog bought at a dog auction and sold through rescue in an unethical way.

For profit.

And that's a really, really hard thing to look at without cringing.

She lays out the entire business of moving dogs - rescues, shelters, breeders. She shows what works, what doesn't work, the similarities between forces, and the impact televised dog events (like Westminster) have on the health of our dogs. What I like most about it is that there are terrible people out there that do terrible things to dogs, and there are well-intentioned people out there who are trying to help but are misguided. While this is upsetting, there are many things that we as consumers can do to make it better for ALL dogs.

As I've been saying for years: It's not rescue-vs-breeder. Good dogs come from rescue, good dogs come from breeders. It's finding *ethical* means of acquiring dogs regardless of rescue or breeder. Kavin hits this point home again and again and again, and I love her for it.

I wish this book didn't have to be written, but it did and it's the tip of the iceberg vs. the Titanic. Selling dogs is a huge business and I'm relieved that more people like Kavin are pointing to the elephant in the room. Click-n-Ship culture is getting a wake up call. A wake-up call that is going to start screaming until we all listen.

Kavin's book is that wake-up call.

Melissa McCue-McGrath, CPDT-KA
Co-Training Director of New England Dog Training Club (oldest AKC Obedience Club in the US)
Author of Considerations for the City Dog