The Dog Merchants-3DOn April 19, New Jersey’s Bergen Record published an op-ed I wrote about a proposed law that would require all pet stores statewide to do business only with rescuers, and not with breeders. It is a piece of legislation crafted in close cooperation with the Humane Society of the United States, which has lobbied for similar “pet store puppy-mill bans” to be passed in about 125 municipalities nationwide so far. HSUS hopes the New Jersey ban, if enacted as a statewide model, can be replicated in every state across the nation.

The clearly stated position I took in my op-ed was that it is short-sighted to ban pet stores from working with all breeders, including responsible ones, while driving business to all rescuers, including irresponsible ones.

Sadly, there are many documented cases of rescuers failing to to business responsibly. While the majority of rescuers do the right thing—when dealing with dogs like my own two adopted mutts, and the nearly 20 foster puppies I have welcomed into my home—it is undeniable that reports continue to spread nationwide of some rescuers transferring sick dogs into the homes of unwitting families. It’s an open secret among rescuers that some offer dogs for “adoption” who are just as sickly or temperamentally unsound as the dogs that some of the worst breeders offer for “sale.”

In my own home, while volunteering time and money for the cause of rescue, I’ve had so-called “healthy” foster puppies from a well-intentioned rescue group arrive with everything from a torn ear caked in blood to severe coccidia to a lack of rabies shot. I also had a “friendly” foster dog bite me five times in the arms and legs. Similar stories are what have led states all across New England to pass emergency orders and regulations, trying to get the least-responsible rescuers under control, no matter how good their intentions may be in saving dogs’ lives.

“The consequences of irresponsible rescue are just as devastating to families as those of irresponsible breeding,” I wrote in my op-ed. “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.”

Before I submitted my op-ed to the Bergen Record, I exchanged emails with Amy Jesse, the public policy coordinator for HSUS’s Stop Puppy Mills Campaign. I told her specifically that I was working on an op-ed, and that I wanted her opinion on whether it was wise to legally require pet stores to work only with rescuers, when we all know that some rescuers are moving problematic dogs into people’s homes.

She responded by writing, “I am impressed with your knowledge of this issue and dedication to this cause,” and she agreed with me, adding later in her email, “I do think that better regulation of rescues is needed in New Jersey and in all states, but I am not sure that this bill is the right place to do that.” I quoted her accurately in my op-ed, stating just that point on which we agree.

Yesterday, instead of holding that common ground, Jesse chose to take the low road with her own op-ed in the Bergen Record. Instead of stating the truth as we had both acknowledged it in writing, she announced to the general public, “Kim Kavin misses the mark with her defense of current puppy mill regulations.”

Because yes, that’s me: a defender of puppy mills. How utterly ridiculous.

I did not defend current USDA regulations over huge commercial breeding farms. In fact, I didn’t even mention those regulations in my piece at all. (Again, you can read my op-ed for yourself.)

It is downright shameful for Jesse to agree with my point, and then to turn around and publicly mischaracterize my stance in an attempt to protect her pending legislation at my personal expense. Character assassination and misrepresentation of facts are the feeble swipes of those who do not want to address, nor even discuss, the weaknesses of their own position.

My point–again, on which we all agree–remains the same. Nobody wants dogs being treated badly, or being handed over to families sick. We should not be legally requiring pet stores to do business with the least responsible rescuers today any more than we should have allowed them to do business for so many decades with the least responsible breeders.

I understand that this inconvenient truth may be a problem for the pending legislation that Jesse and HSUS are urging lawmakers to pass nationwide, but that’s no reason to take personal swipes at me about things I never even stated.

Amy Jesse, I implore you and everyone at HSUS to rejoin me on the high road: Let’s all get back to work, being on the side of all dogs.