A hard-hitting exploration of the idea of “dogs as a product.”
Freelance journalist Kavin (Little Boy Blue: A Puppy's Rescue from Death Row and His Owner's Journey for Truth, 2012, etc.) compares the experience of attending America's biggest legal dog auction to what it might be like watching orphaned children auctioned based on looks. To compound her outrage, her own beloved mutts, whom she thinks of as family, would be considered worthless. The recognition that, “like that big case of meat in the supermarket, [the auction dogs] are ultimately a product” inspired her to investigate the $11 billion global market. Kavin estimates that “some thirty million pet dogs are brought home around the world each year.” To think of one's dog as a product to be bought and sold for profit is repugnant to pet lovers, but for the author, it also opens the possibility of using collective bargaining power as clout to force a higher standard of their treatment, using “the only language everyone in the dog industry understands: the language of money.” Despite the size of the industry, many of the worst offenders are “small players in the big global web,” and our cumulative decisions as consumers are important. It’s clear that Kavin has meticulously researched the industry, and she notes that in terms of salability of a particular dog, appearance usually matters more than temperament. “The majority of breeds…were developed just like today's Louis Vuitton scarves or Jimmy Choo shoes or Fendi clutches,” she writes, in order to “visually announce a person’s economic standing.” Televised competitions compound the problem. To counter this, Kavin helped launched the website dogmerchants.com, an encyclopedic database that will serve as a “repository of information about pooches and the people who sell them.”
A scathing indictment of an industry run amok; belongs on every pet lover’s bookshelf.