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Let’s Talk About Dogster Values: Yours and Ours

We're often asked what we believe here at Dogster HQ. Well, we'll share if you will, and we'll even go first.

Janine M. Kahn  |  Jul 12th 2012

Here at Dogster, there’s always talk of the importance of point of view — how, without standing up and championing something, a publication fails to stand for anything at all.

Given this, I am often asked what our point of view is, and usually, it’s not simple to articulate. Not because we have no point of view at Dogster and Catster; quite the contrary. At Dogster HQ, we are fiercely opinionated when it comes to dog and cat issues, so it’s difficult to just pick one and say “There, that’s what we stand for,” and call it a day. To illustrate this, I presented the slide you see below at a recent company presentation. I didn’t expect anybody to actually read the entire thing as I raced through my slides. It really was just to make my point.

This doesn’t come close to addressing Dogster’s stand on every last dog and cat issue out there; nor does it get us closer to a definitive point of view when it’s lumped together like this. But it did help us to brainstorm and distill our thoughts into five messages we feel are important. So the next time someone asks you what those crazy kids at Dogster HQ believe, you’ll have the answer in five easy bullet points. This is the long-winded edition, so bear with me.

5 Things We Believe at Dogster

1. A dog is not an “it” or a “that.” A dog is a “who.”

A little backstory on this one: When I joined the Dogster staff three years ago, the first thing I did was bring journalist Maria Goodavage on board to run our For the Love of Dog blog (which has since been rolled into Dogster Magazine). Within her first month on the job, she e-mailed asking if it was okay if she referred to dogs as “whos” in her pieces, since she wasn’t comfortable calling them “that” or “it.” I told her it was funny she mentioned it because I had run into that same wall while writing my own pieces and very much preferred “who” as well.

Long story short, an editorial guideline was born. And while we haven’t been all wild and flashy about this particular point of view, it’s the undercurrent in every story you’ll read on the site. Are we saying dogs are people? Maybe not exactly, but you can’t deny they are sentient individuals with distinct personalities, no?

2. We care immensely about where you get your next pet, and we think you should care, too.

Puppy mills are hell on earth, make no mistake about it. We would love to see every last one shut down and the only way that’s going to happen is if people stop patronizing them whether they mean to or not.

Too often I meet otherwise intelligent people who tell me they “rescued” their dog from a pet store. And before you say it, I’m not talking adoption walls/fairs/events at said pet store. Whole different beast altogether. In the beginning, I would get incredibly worked up and give these folks my judgmental glare of pure horror (TM) and a piece of my mind, but these days I realize it won’t help the situation. At this point the deed is done and these people have likely already learned the hard way about what a puppy mill or backyard breeder is.

Our stand here at Dogster is to educate rather than bully people about their choices when it comes to where they get their next dog. So you can expect to see more articles like “This is What a Puppy Mill Dog Looks Like” and “Meet Rosie, the Poster Pup for Backyard Breeding” on the site — and we hope you’ll share them as we run them, because we feel these are important stories to tell.

Maybe if we tell enough of them, it’ll make a dent, however small, in the sick statistics: At a Petfinder talk I attended last month, founder Betsy Saul estimated that 40 percent of pets in the U.S. today are from mills. That makes my stomach turn.

3. We champion adoption. And we support responsible breeders.

Adoption is woven into Dogster’s DNA. We have an entire section of the site featuring listings of precious pups waiting for their forever homes. So, yes, we are completely behind the adoption message. Some of our favorite people run some of the most amazing, inspiring rescues we know. But just because we love adoption and frequently champion it in our articles doesn’t mean we are instantly vehemently anti-breeder. We are staunchly anti-irresponsible breeder, it’s true, but we also support those who have dedicated their lives to the betterment of the particular breeds who have won their hearts.

At the last Blogpaws conference, I ran into a woman with the most beautiful Italian Greyhound and asked her whether he was a champion. She actually looked over her shoulder before answering me in hushed tones that indeed he was, before quickly going into a spiel about how she’d had rescued dogs before, and how this was a breed she had intensely researched before connecting with a highly reputable breeder, and so on and so forth.

I was saddened that she felt she had to go on the defense to justify owning a perfectly healthy, well-adjusted, and well-bred dog, but being shamed in public for owning a purebred (even one from a responsible breeder) is pretty common. Enough with the shaming, people — it’s not helping anybody get anywhere fast.

4. We believe harming dogs is criminal and should be condemned by society as such.

I always get that Gandhi quote in my head when we report on the atrocities humans inflict upon animals.

This one: “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.” We at Dogster believe we have a long way to go as a society based on this alone.

5. We believe we can help you become a better pet parent (or owner or slave or chief of staff … whatever you want to call yourself).

Dogster’s editorial program is a work in progress, and one of the things we’re trying to do daily between the cute posts, opinion items, and dog news is provide readers with solid advice from experts and experienced pet parents alike. We know our readers encompass everybody, from beginners to seasoned pet pros, and our mission is to have items of interest to both the enthusiast and the novice.

Dr. Eric Barchas has been keeping his “Ask a Vet” column going strong (he was Dogster’s very first blogger years ago!), as has marvelous trainer Casey Lomonaco, whose column runs every Tuesday. And most days of the week, we have guest writers and regulars talking about everything from alternatives to the cone of shame to the advice they wish someone had given them when they first brought a dog home.

Anyway, there you have it. These are our values here at Dogster, naked as a newborn puppy. Now we’d love to hear what your values are when it comes to your dogs or cats, or pets in general.

Janine Kahn is Dogster and Catster’s Editor-in-Chief. See her full bio and a video featuring her dog, Mr. Moxie, here.

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