In 2016, I published the book The Dog Merchants: Inside the Big Business of Breeders, Pet Stores, and Rescuers. A person who read that book was keenly interested in Chapter One, which took readers inside America’s biggest legal dog auction and showed that not just breeders, but also nonprofit rescuers are regularly doing business there. About 18 months after I first spoke with that person, in April 2018, I published the article “Dog Fight” on the Sunday front page of The Washington Post. It documented, for the first time in American history, a multimillion-dollar river of cash running through dozens of rescue nonprofits and into the pockets of the very breeders they decry as “puppy mills.”
Now, there’s another layer. A person who read the article “Dog Fight” reached out to me about six months ago and essentially said, “But wait, there’s more.” Today, my latest story about what’s really going on behind the scenes of America’s dog industry came online. It’s my first-ever piece for HuffPost, titled “When ‘Puppy Mill Rescue’ Blurs the Line Between Saving and Selling Dogs.”
The new story alone is based on interviews with nearly 40 people (including more than a dozen current and former staffers, volunteers and directors from the multimillion-dollar nonprofit rescue that is the focus); the rescue group’s inspection reports going back to early 2017; a slew of documents, photos and videos from inside the nonprofit; and more than 7,500 documents received through open-records requests in seven states where the nonprofit sources dogs and puppies.
To the best of my knowledge, this new story is the deepest-dive investigation ever taken by any journalist into the business model known all across America today as “puppy mill rescue.” And it’s eye-opening, in quite a few ways.
I wonder who will read it and reach out to me with more information next.
Today, the American Society of Journalists and Authors announced the winners of its 2019 Writing Awards. I am truly beyond grateful and humbled to share the news that I won two of the specialty awards, both of which are open to competition from every freelance writer in the United States.
I’m told that it’s the first time any writer has won these two awards in the same year, in the 71-year history of ASJA’s existence.
My 2016 book The Dog Merchants won the The Arlene Eisenberg Award for a Book That Made a Difference. Given every three years, the award is not just for reporting and writing, but also for documented impact. In my book’s case, the book has spurred new and updated legislation in several states, and is being taught on several college campuses.
About The Dog Merchants, the Arlene Award judges said: “Man’s best friend couldn’t have a better advocate than Kim Kavin. The Dog Merchants is a disturbing, definitive exploration of mass production dog breeding and selling, and Kavin braved death threats to produce it. Her book has inspired revisions in both state and federal laws, plus a host of other changes.”
(I appreciate the judges’ enthusiasm; for the record, the book inspired state-level legislation and legislative revisions; it also inspired work that led to an investigation by the federal Department of Agriculture.)
What’s most interesting is that Chapter One of The Dog Merchants is what led an industry insider to come forward and provide me with documents that became the basis for my article “Dog Fight” in The Washington Post, which won the ASJA’s Donald Robinson Prize for Investigative Journalism. The award honors outstanding writing and organization, plus previously unrevealed research.
About “Dog Fight,” the Donald Robinson Prize judges said: “This exhaustively researched article turned a powerful light on what everyone assumed was a good deed — until Kavin showed us that it isn’t. The story is an example of the very best investigative journalism.”
A lot of other great writers were named award-winners today for articles and books that span all kinds of categories and topics. Congratulations to all of my fellow winners, and I look forward to celebrating with you at the awards ceremony this May in Manhattan.
I’m so excited to share the news that three of my articles for Soundings magazine earned awards in the annual Boating Writers International competition, with the winners being announced this morning in Miami.
“ACLU Joins Boater’s Case Against Suspicionless On-Water Searches” took first place in the category of boating issues, news and analysis. I’m so happy that the judges saw the same thing in this story that I did: The tale is as much about personal freedom as it is about boating.
“Slowing Atlantic Conveyor Belt Will Bring Rising Sea Levels” earned second place in the environmental awareness and education category. This was an interesting one to report and write, because it involved talking with scientists about cutting-edge environmental research.
And last, “Lightship Ambrose was a Beacon of Hope and Promise” won a Certificate of Merit in the category of boat projects, renovations and retrofits. This is a story about a wonderful vessel that’s steeped in maritime and U.S. immigration history.
Many other talented writers took home awards today, including several at Yachting, Angler’s Journal, Soundings and Soundings Trade Only. I’m on retainer with all of those titles as an editor, and I could not be prouder of each editorial team’s showing in this year’s competition.
Congratulations to all the winners!
“Dog Fight” was the most complex article I’ve reported and written since I graduated from journalism school in 1994. It required 18 months of research; involved an endless stack of documents from a whistleblower and open-records requests; and included more than 60 interviews. I worked under the direction of the great Jeff Leen, head of investigations at The Washington Post, and received all kinds of help from The Post‘s amazing team of editors, fact-checkers, photographers, videographers, graphic artists and more.
The story marked the first time that anyone has ever documented—in dollars and cents—the multimillion-dollar river of cash that is flowing from rescue nonprofits, shelters and dog-advocacy groups through dog auctions and into the pockets of breeders who are regularly decried as “puppy mills.”
Congratulations to all my fellow contest finalists, whose work also was recognized when the DWAA gave out these awards last night in Manhattan.
Just two months after I learned that this article I wrote for Yachting won the Folio: Eddie award for best article in an enthusiast/hobby magazine, I’ve been notified that my article “Dog Fight” from the Sunday, April 15, front page of The Washington Post is a finalist for best newspaper article of the year, any topic, with the Dog Writers Association of America.
My article “It’s a War,” also for The Washington Post, was named a finalist for best newspaper article of the year, health or general care.
I’m of course humbled and grateful to receive this kind of acknowledgment, and I extend my sincere congratulations to all the other DWAA finalists.
And I must say, I’m especially excited to earn recognition for such different types of writing in a single year. The Yachting article, I’ve been told a few times, reads like a dramatic movie, with readers shouting at the pages toward the climax, hoping the main character will be able to save the lives of a family in distress. The Washington Post piece “Dog Fight,” on the other hand, is pure investigative journalism. That story has led to an ongoing federal investigation, a call on the U.S. Congress to act, and public outcry from leading dog-advocacy groups.
It’s one of my greatest pleasures as a freelance journalist to be able to report and write such a variety of pieces. I feel incredibly lucky to be able to earn a good living doing what I do, to have so many editors who support me in various genres, and to know that sometimes, my stories really do make a strong impact.
I’m humbled, grateful and super excited to announce that my feature article “When the Call Came” (online title “Rescue in the Atlantic”) for Yachting magazine was named the best article in an enthusiast/hobby magazine at tonight’s Folio: Eddie Awards in New York City.
And I earned an honorable mention for several articles that I wrote for Soundings, in the category of best range of work by a single author.
What a night! I’m over the moon—and I want to say thanks here publicly to all the excellent editors and designers I worked with on these stories, including Patrick Sciacca, Kelley Sanford, Eric Powell, Mary South and Michael Labella. Awards like these, while one person’s name is at the top, really should belong to the whole team. It’s always a team effort behind the scenes.
Congratulations to all of tonight’s other winners, including Angler’s Journal, where I’m on retainer as an editor. That magazine earned the top award for best full issue of an enthusiast/hobby magazine.
I’m beyond excited to share the news that I’ve been named a finalist in not one, but two categories of this year’s Folio: Eddie Awards, one of the top competitions in all of U.S. magazines.
My article “When the Call Came” for Yachting (titled “Rescue in the Atlantic” online) is a finalist in the category of Best Single Article in a consumer enthusiast magazine, and several pieces I wrote for Soundings (including this one about artificial intelligence and mayday hoaxes, and this one about why whales are returning to Manhattan’s waters) earned a finalist nod in the category of Best Range of Work by a Single Author.
I’m also super proud to say that a number of finalist slots went to magazines where I’m on retainer as an editor, including Yachts International and Anglers Journal.
Many people, including some terrific editors and art directors, worked hard to help make my stories great. I’m over the moon to be a finalist, and I’m officially tipping my hat to the wonderful editorial teams I’m so lucky to work with every day.
Congratulations and good luck to all the finalists!