Late 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.