An Open Apology to Mel and the Pet Community

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UPDATE: See special note to Edie Jarolim below.

Dear Mel,

This is Tom writing, but it’s from all three of us at BlogPaws.

I’m going to start with the evidence you’ve supplied in your recent post, in the hope that this will help get us back on track toward working together as a community. Much more in the way of thanks, apologies, and (hopefully) clarifications on specific items will follow below.

Thank you for filling in some of the gaps I perceived, rightly or wrongly, in your previous posts. For what it’s worth, the Petland example above and the links through to the HSUS and Animal Planet investigations hit home strongest for me.

Just so I understand, did I miss these screenshots or some links to them in your post on Thursday, or the one from last year? I clicked through quite a few of your links and did not find any of these, or anything like them.

Cutting to the chase, we are very much convinced by your hard work and research, and the wrong-headedness of our response, that:


1. We need help with things like “vetting” speakers. To paraphrase Dr. Kay from her “My Puppy Mill Education” post last December, we’re embarrassed by our naïveté about the need for digging beyond our speakers’ qualifications and even recommendations to teach on a particular subject.

We hope you’ll agree that this task is beyond what the three of us could possibly hope to do on our own. Going forward, we will be creating a Speaker’s Advisory Board to enlist help from you and several others, if you’ll be willing to work with us.

2. Michael Ayalon will not be speaking at BlogPaws again. We sincerely hope that with a Speaker’s Advisory Board we will avoid engaging anyone of his unsavory caliber, in the future.

In response to your most recent post, your "response" to us: Thank You, both for the tone and for a number of the specifics and clarifications you’ve provided. And especially, thank you for the public apology about how your post made us feel. We offer the same to you – we never meant to attack. In hindsight, we should have contacted you privately. We embrace the work you’ve put into uncovering this.

Enough people we know and who know us have read our post as an attack on you and we take full responsibility for that. It was, at the very least, a clumsy and ineffective attempt to respond in an unemotional manner. For that, we apologize to you and the whole community.

Some have labeled our response(s) as bullying, or mean … and although others who know us have confirmed there was not, could never be, any such intent by us, for those who saw it that way, perception is reality. We apologize for whichever words triggered such a reaction.

To your specific points in your most recent post:

Thank you (more than I can find words to express adequately) for clarifying your belief in us and that you don’t see BlogPaws as supporting puppy mills.

Thank you for clarifying your agreement that “responsible breeders are not, nor should they be, compared with puppy mills.” If BlogPaws as a community can’t be big enough to include pet parents who love specific purebred dogs and the responsible breeders who keep those breeds with us, then we are truly missing our purpose.

Tom and Yvonne are more tuned in to mutts (though our current canine crew consists of a purebred Boston, Olive, rescued from a real puppy mill, and two mostly coon hounds, Chester and Emily, rescued from research facilities). And Caroline has her rescue Persians, but BlogPaws is for all pets. Purebred or mutt, feather, fur or fin.

On the next two points (who knew what and $$$), thanks for clarifying what you meant. I hope you’ll also recognize that from your own readers’ comments, we weren’t the only ones who misunderstood what you intended to say or imply. This should help those with fair minds to understand.

By the way, our program is created to provide education, networking opportunities, and fun for our online pet-loving community. Business follows from that, but that’s not what we’re thinking about when building the program.

Since we linked to ASPCA’s post with their reaction to the Ayalon presentation and Petside left a comment on our post, they’ve spoken for themselves.

On your point about the “Award” press release, please can we have a laugh about that one? Because this time YOU totally misunderstood ME! I wasn’t suggesting you were wrong for calling it an “award.” I was trying to say that Ayalon seemed to have over-stated it – sadly, not an uncommon thing in press releases!

What I thought had happened was that you read his term “award” and mistook that as being something different on the ASPCA website, when it was just an item on their Facebook page. If there was a page on their website where it was listed and later removed, I don’t have any way of knowing.

It just looked like a mistake, to us. If we’re wrong on that one, once again we apologize.

And on your last item, THANK YOU for noting the erroneous links in your post. That’s understandable and an easy mistake to make. Unfortunately, in this case, it contributed to our reaction by causing us to question the facts you were offering.  We should have stopped and asked – we admit it.

With that, our hope is to get beyond the controversy, heal our feelings, and work together as a community. Really work together.

Thank you for being honest, upfront, and open. As a parting note, this outstanding post by a member of our community and a supporter of yours, says it best – Lessons in Grace – The Idealist vs The Realists.

Yvonne, Tom and Caroline

Special Note to Edie Jarolim:

Edie,

We’re sorry you didn’t feel included in our apology to Mel and the whole community. We do apologize to you, and I do in particular for the harshness of my rebuttal in commenting on your post. Our surprise and disappointment in your public comments about BlogPaws should have been expressed privately, given our relationship and past discussions. As I mentioned before, we have always respected and supported you and I hope you accept our sincerest apology.

As Mel suggested, we’d like to enlist your help in making positives come out of this painful episode. Are you able to join us as a member of the BlogPaws speaker advisory group we’re forming?

Happy to discuss this further offline, of course.

Tom

  • http://bunnyjeancook.blogspot.com/ Vicki Cook

    Thank you Mel for extending the olive branch,and thank you Tom, Yvonne and Caroline for accepting it and extending another in return. I think what’s really important here is that we ALL care passionately about the well being of animals.

  • http://profile.typepad.com/dancingdogblog Dancingdogblog

    Oops, talking about links, the one to Pamela’s eloquent post needs to be reloaded – it’s going to Mel’s blog.

  • http://profile.typepad.com/dancingdogblog Dancingdogblog

    Also want to say thanks for doing this and for listening to the community – it was shaping up to be a “lost” weekend around here!! I am also relieved to hear the actual subject of all this will not be showing up here anymore.
    Thanks also to Mel for her great detective work…she cares and works to get the facts. I would bet you could tap any of us in the community at any time for input on whatever you wanted to gather information on, each according to our own expertise and we would be happy to assist.

  • http://profile.typepad.com/6p0120a5fabc4a970c twitter.com/Tom_Collins

    Thanks, Vicki. And thanks, Mary, for the heads up on the link – all fixed.

  • https://www.blogpaws.com Yvonne

    Yes, Mary. Thank you all – Mel for doing the great work she does and not letting us deter her! And, you for keeping a level head throughout this. We will be taking you up on your offer.

  • http://www.pawprintcitytimes.com Vicky

    Thank you so much for this, BlogPaws. I appreciate very much that you took people’s comments to heart and that you are trying to understand where everyone was coming from.
    It’s so easy to get upset in the “moment”. It means a lot that you came back after some reflection and posted this — at least it does to me.

  • http://www.pawprintcitytimes.com Vicky

    Also thanks to Mel for remaining level-headed while sharing her side of the story, as I believe it contributed to getting some closure on this matter.

  • http://thoughtsfurpaws.com Jaime

    Poignant. Purposeful. Polite.
    Glad this is resolved and we can all work together; we can all work towards raising awareness of animal welfare issues…which is our shared goal.
    Jaime

  • http://www.bztat.com BZTAT

    I am so glad to be a part of a community that is so passionate about animals, but also wise enough to reconcile differences. I am looking forward to more great info and support from BlogPaws, and I am also looking forward to learning more from Mel and the great work she and others are doing.

  • http://mousebreath.com karen nichols

    I appreciate the transparency with which you’ve addressed this issue. I’m happy you’re considering vetting speakers more thoroughly!

  • https://www.blogpaws.com Caroline

    As I posted on Mel’s blog:
    Dear Mel,
    Thank you so much for taking the time to put together this thoughtful response and documentation. This is detailed info I am glad to now have.
    I’ve been in complete dismay as the events have unfolded over the last 24 hours. I’m sorry for not weighing in personally sooner but haven’t had a moment to collect my thoughts and respond appropriately.
    I, and the BlogPaws team, often receive feedback about individuals and companies from people claiming this or that. While we can’t possibly investigate enough to develop an informed opinion on every claim, I wish I’d taken more time to look into and respond to yours last summer, because we would never, ever have allowed a speaker at BlogPaws who we knew for a fact helps promote puppy mills. Ever. I mean, ever.
    In retrospect, and to a few people’s points, our speaker vetting process needs to eliminate even those whose business practices are under scrutiny for whatever reason.
    The reasons for not investigating your assertions more deeply at the time are innocent but nonetheless now regrettable. We were naïve, we didn’t know you, and we gave the accused the benefit of the doubt by taking him at his word. Speaking for myself, my personal desire to believe the best in everyone well, clearly got the best of me.
    As for the BlogPaws response and the ensuing firestorm, I think Tom’s recent apology covers that. But let me reiterate: we are sorry for responding in that manner.
    I hope that all is not lost with our beautiful little community and that each new day will bring a new lesson for all of us.
    As I sit here typing, my beloved purebred rescue, Romeo, is on my lap, purring. I think he has the right idea.
    Caroline

  • Nancy Freedman-Smith (@Gooddogz)

    Too little and much too late. Blog Paws touts itself as the ones who tell others how to blog? Seriously? Maybe the next topic you all cover should be how to cover ones social media ass.

  • http://opcatchat.blogspot.com Caren Gittleman

    I was in “nice and happy” mode until I read the above comment from Nancy. I assume YOU are without fault? YOU have never done ANYTHING that you have ever regretted, YOU have never made a mistake?
    Wow, I am honored to finally have witnessed “God” on a blog comment area. This is a first…I may have to blog about it.
    @BlogPaws your idea of inviting Mel to join a panel (as well as others) to thoroughly vet future speakers is a wonderful idea/solution.
    Knowing Tom, Caroline and primarily Yvonne the way that I do …there is NO WAY for one second I believed the VITRIOL/MUD that was being hurled.

  • http://profile.typepad.com/6p0120a5fabc4a970c twitter.com/Tom_Collins

    Hi Nancy,
    I hope you’ll go read Pamela Webster’s wonderful post: Lessons in Grace – The Idealists vs. the Realists: http://www.somethingwagging.com/2011/09/17/lessons-in-grace-the-idealists-vs-the-realists/
    It is a beautiful set of guidelines for life and work among people trying to make things better, each in their own way. And if anything positive can come from our recent conflict, her advice may help the wonderful, passionate pet people who have come together around BlogPaws accomplish more together than we could apart.
    The big bad institution BlogPaws has consisted of three people and a handful of helpers and volunteers. We’ve been working to build the pet blogging community BlogPaws for less than two years.
    None of us have ever claimed to be infallible, as some seemed to think we should be. If that’s what you expect of us, then to quote Wesley in The Princess Bride, “Get used to disappointment.”
    We can only try to get better from each lesson.
    I’m sorry we upset you and sorrier that our actions seem to have left no room for forgiveness in your heart.
    May you heal from this, too,
    Tom

  • http://MUTTeringsAndThings.blogspot.com Linda Messina

    My respect to both Mel and BlogPaws for taking the high road after ‘sleeping on it’ and realizing that everyone in this community wants the same thing – solidarity in our purpose. That doesn’t mean that everyone is going to agree with everything at any one time. It is important for all of us to remember it’s not what we say it’s how we say it and who we share it with.
    Kudos to BlogPaws for inviting Mel to help with BlogPaws in its continued growth. Successful CEO’s surround themselves with great people and that’s the only reason they are recognized as great CEO’s. I, for one, believe it’s a terrific idea and hope that Mel accepts the invitation.
    as Dr. Phil would say:
    “The quickest way from A to B is not always at the most feverish pace.”
    I believe BlogPaws knows this now as Tom noted in the apology.
    “Sometimes you make the right decision sometimes you make the decision right.”
    I think we can now all agree that both parties made the decision right!
    Please consider offering your volunteer services to BlogPaws if you have a knowledge area you feel would be helpful, if you have the time and feel you would be able to commit for a period of time.
    I, for one, feel better at these turn of events. I raise my glass to all of us.

  • http://nodogaboutit.wordpress.com/2011/09/16/my-response-to-blogpaws/ MelF

    Tom, Yvonne and Caroline – Thank you for your sincere apology. I hope that you have seen my response on my blog as well.
    I would rather work together than against one another. I hope that people will let things go and let us all move forward. I know I plan to do so.
    My only wish would be that you and Edie would also mend some fences between you as well. I would hate for either of you to lose that friendship over what has happened these past few days.

  • http://www.pet-health-care-gazette.com/ Lorie Huston, DVM

    I would just like to add my voice to those who are glad not only that Mel has unearthed this issue but also that all parties have been big enough to admit that mistakes have been made (on both sides). To Tom, Yvonne, Caroline and Mel, I admire ALL of you tremendously!

  • http://nodogaboutit.wordpress.com/2011/09/16/my-response-to-blogpaws/ MelF

    Thank you Dr. Lorie.

  • https://www.blogpaws.com Yvonne DiVita

    This has been a learning and teaching experience. Someone said, “and YOU are supposed to teach bloggers how to blog?” – to which I must say, every day is a learning experience. No one person ever does everything right, all the time. The key is to admit when you’re wrong and fix things. That’s what we’re trying to do. Thanks to Mel, who is understanding and knows we truly are sorry, and to all the folks who recognize our apology as true and sincere, we can turn this into a conversation that helps everyone learn something. Dr. Lorie your voice is another one that gives us hope.

  • http://willmydoghateme.com Edie

    Thanks for this, Tom.
    I was in the middle of writing a very sincere and earnest “apology accepted” — and it is — during the commercials of the Emmy Awards and then Charlie Sheen came on and wished the cast of Two and a Half Men all the best, which put everything in perspective. Talk about the need to walk back things we wish we hadn’t done in public — I’m including myself here — and yet managing to do it with grace on a mass stage.
    Heck, I’m glad we all read each others blogs!

  • http://rileyandjames.com Shawn Finch, DVM

    Has anyone spoken with Michael?