Tuesday, July 26, 2016

The Dog Merchants

I have just plowed through The Dog Merchants by Kim Kavin.  Its a very good read, and well worth buying and reading cover to cover.  Do it!

From The Washington Post:
[I]n “The Dog Merchants,” a sprawling, and sometimes fascinating, look at a complex industry. [Kim Kavin] reporting reveals that by simply finding a dog to take home, we are dipping into a world largely veiled to the consumer and in many ways ethically dubious. Kavin travels the country visiting high-end dog shows, back-yard hobby breeders, luxe retail rescues and even the Hunte Corp., “the biggest legal distributor of puppies to pet stores across America,” which moves about 45,000 puppies a year.

In the most revealing chapter, she visits an auction in Wheaton, Mo., ground zero in the dog trade, where various breeds will be bid on throughout the day by a wide variety of dog merchants, from amateurs to those who will supply pet chains nationwide. One 18-month-old Yorkshire terrier, which already had given birth to at least one litter of puppies, goes for “$1,150, having earned a reputation as a good producer from a nice, young age.” Meanwhile, a trembling Chesapeake Bay retriever named Feldmann’s Big Boy, startled by suddenly standing in front of such a large crowd, was “so terrified . . . that he wrapped all four of his legs around the two handlers.” No one will bid even $1.

One helpful participant explains to Kavin how lucrative an already pregnant West Highland white Terrier that sells for $650 can be: “A commercial dog breeder will get two litters of puppies out of that Westie during each of the five years after purchase. Every litter with a Westie is four to eight pups. That means a total of eight to sixteen puppies a year, or forty to eighty dogs coming out of that single Westie in five years’ time.” After the eventual sales to pet stores, which ultimately sell the puppies for much more, that one $650 dog can generate up to $64,000 in sales.

All of this, of course, alarms those concerned about animal welfare, and who wish the demand for the latest hot breed could instead be met by some of the millions of dogs euthanized in dog pounds and shelters across the country. Which leads, though, to Kavin’s startling discovery that rescue groups also frequent the auctions, usually trying to save specific breeds from a grim life fueling the puppy industry. Of course, by bidding on these dogs, they’re also fueling the very demand they abhor.

Is this that big of a problem? Kavin can’t quantify just how often it happens and whether many of these dogs end up routed into rescues, adopted by the very people who have gone out of their way to avoid the dog-breeding industry. Is it just the occasional Jane Rosenthal, whom Kavin profiles, bidding away on Japanese Chins for her small organization Luv A Chin Rescue? Without more than anecdotal evidence, one would think so.

The Dog Merchants, by Kim Kavin, hardcover, 336 pages. Published May 3rd 2016 by Pegasus Books.

More on this book later, but for now, just BUY IT.

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