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What Would a Responsible Blogger (or Friend) Do?

By BlogPaws Team

UPDATE: The post and comments below serve as a warning about the dangers of being too quick to click "publish" before reaching out to the people involved, gathering more information, and just plain cooling off. We screwed up in several ways. Thankfully, equally public apologies have been exchanged (ours; Mel's) and, certainly from our end, some valuable lessons learned. And one other beautiful thing to emerge from the hurt and anger is this post by Pamela Webster over at Something Wagging This Way Comes: Lessons in Grace – The Idealists vs the Realists.

Yesterday, the BlogPaws team, Caroline, Yvonne, and Tom discovered we had been attacked in a blog post by Mel Freer for accepting Michael Ayalon as one of the speakers at BlogPaws 2011 last month. After re-checking some facts and sleeping on it, we'd like to correct a number of assertions in Mel's post and offer a suggestion or two on responsible blogging. So if you haven't already, you may want to start by clicking over and reading Mel's post from today and the earlier one she refers to (including both comment streams).

"Deja vu all over again"

To set the stage for the lessons part, one of the first thoughts Tom had after reading Mel's posts was, "This must be how Tim O'Reilly felt."

Back in 2006, Tim O'Reilly, CEO of O'Reilly Media, came back from vacation to a firestorm of criticism over a cease and desist letter the lawyers for a partner company had sent claiming ownership (with O'Reilly) of the name "Web 2.0 Conference." The blogosphere erupted into anger that any one company would claim rights to a phrase used by bloggers everywhere, all the time. O’Reilly responded with surprise that the anger and accusations were flying fast and furious – with little or no fact-checking.

Do bloggers want to be taken seriously?

O'Reilly opened his response with:

"I used to bristle when members of the mainstream press wagged their fingers at the unprofessionalism of bloggers. I looked around at all the bloggers who are, to my mind, practicing great journalism, and wrote off the MSM criticism as fear of the new medium. But now I'm not so sure. The flap about the Web 2.0 Conference trademark has shaken my faith in the collective intelligence of the blogosphere. Of all the hundreds of people who commented on this issue, only a few touched base to do a bit of fact checking."

That's how we feel today. We didn't learn of Mel's post from a heads-up email from her, raising a concern about our conduct or asking for our perspective. We didn't hear about it from any of the folks who had then posted comments on the attack, apparently accepting the one-sided discussion of the situation as "the truth."

Instead, I happened to notice a tweet announcing the post and Mel's "disappointment" with #BlogPaws (notice she did not use @BlogPaws to direct the tweet to us, but the hashtag to call everyone else's attention to it).

So the first lesson I hope we can take from this would be, check your facts before you click publish. In particular, check with the people you are accusing. If you’re reading a post that points fingers at someone you know, give them a chance to respond before accepting one person’s "truth."

To do less, harms the efforts of all bloggers to be taken seriously.

For those who've engaged in this discussion and know us personally, but didn't bother to contact us, well, to paraphrase Mel, we're feeling a little let down and disappointed, too.

The Facts (as Best We've Been Able to Ascertain)

Let's start with perhaps the hardest issue: the assertion that a speaker at BlogPaws supports puppy mills. Untrue, to the best of our knowledge.  

BlogPaws seeks to be as inclusive as possible. We’re an educational conference designed to teach bloggers how to be better bloggers. We love all pets, we support shelters and rescues, and we don’t discriminate against breeders. Many of our members have purebred dogs and cats. They are no less important to us than those who have "mutts." At least one commenter of Mel’s post was against breeding of any kind, but the point is, responsible breeding is safe, acceptable, and provides the opportunity to adopt for a set personality or purpose — such as allergies, small home space, agility, or more. Responsible breeding is not the issue.

Let’s address Mel’s accusations, one at a time:

1. She (and some of her commenters) repeatedly asserted that we "knew" Michael Ayalon designed websites for puppy mills. Why? Because she said so, of course. And because she had spoken to BlogPaws’ Founder, Caroline Golon, a year ago. She asserts that Caroline did nothing then, and welcomed this ‘puppy mill supporter’ with open arms to our conference … for the $$$.

Facts: We were aware of the allegations promoted by Mel last spring that he designed websites for "puppy mills" and Caroline, who has worked with Michael Ayalon on her own pet shelter/rescue fundraising blog, asked him a number of pointed questions about it at the time. Rather than paraphrase and so we can get the facts into the same post, here's what  Caroline emailed us:

"My work with Michael has been focused on the extensive volunteer work he does for shelters and rescues so I was surprised to hear of the allegations that he was building web sites for puppy mills. So I called him and I asked him about his client list.

As a proponent for shelter pets, this is an issue near and dear to my heart.

He assured me that he does not do work for puppy mills. That he does develop sites for breeders, but only those that he knows or have been referred to him by someone he knows. And he does not do work for anyone whose facilities he does not visit in person. And that he would never, ever support puppy mills.

He told me he turns down business if he doesn’t feel comfortable with their facility, is unable to visit it, or otherwise suspects unsavory practices.

The original blog post alleged that he developed the site for one particular organization that Michael says he has never even heard of, much less created a web site for them. I checked and did not personally see anything that shows a link to Michael and this organization.

Obviously, BlogPaws would never knowingly embrace a person who promotes puppy mills and it's heartbreaking to not be given the benefit of the doubt by the community we work so hard to support."

And, speakers do not pay us to speak. We’re not sure where Mel thinks we make money on the conference, but none of our speakers contribute to the budget of putting on an educational event for our bloggers.

2. Mel shares some links that purport to prove her point. Here, here, and here (WARNING: turn your speakers off before you click to avoid the annoying music). Those last two links go to Kingdom Pups, a site Michael says he has never heard of or worked with. There's nothing that we can see to show that he has.

Facts: The first site, PuppyPetite.com, does offer puppies for sale and contains lots of pictures of cute, healthy looking puppies. But there is nothing on any of those pages that indicates a "puppy mill" operation, as far as we can see. PuppyPetite.com specifically states that they will not ship their puppies and you must pick them up in person.

Be honest: Has Mel offered anything but her assumptions to support her assertion that Michael has worked with Kingdom Pups (whoever they are) or that PuppyPetite is a puppy mill? Not as far as we can see.

Michael tells us he's actually visited the breeder clients he works with. Has Mel? Have you?

3. Mel rips into Michael for "duping" the (apparently gullible, in her mind) folks at the ASPCA and Petside for recognizing the good work he does, supporting shelters and rescue groups. She also claims that ASPCA has seen the light and removed him from a list, which she once again links to.

Facts: Aside from the fact that Mel does not seem to question that Michael actually does the things he's been recognized for, she seems to have mixed up her facts, yet again.

ASPCA-AyalonRecognition-screenshot I'm not sure about the press release description of ASPCA's Animal Heroes recognition as an "award," but as of a few minutes ago, the recognition post is still live on the ASPCA Facebook notes page. Here's a screenshot:

It says: "Welcome to our new series honoring animal heroes! … This week, our animal hero is Michael Ayalon …" It includes a lengthy interview of Michael.

Which makes Mel's assertion that he's been removed from an entirely different ASPCA awards list on their website pretty puzzling. I don't see any mention at all on that list of their Facebook Animal Heroes. Do you?

The Results

That's how Michael Ayalon came to be a speaker at BlogPaws 2011. We checked into things as best we could and did not find anything to substantiate the allegations Mel continues to push.

As she acknowledged in her post last, he has good information to share. While I did not get to attend his session, the feedback forms and some blog posts since the event indicate those who did were very pleased with his presentation. For example: ASPCA's Shelter's Edge Blog – We Were There: BlogPaws 2011; Tails of a Puppaccino – BlogPaws: Top Five Highlights (#2 and #1)

BlogPaws will continue to bring expert speakers to our conferences. If anyone has a problem with a speaker — they are posted months ahead of schedule and we welcome your input and thoughts.

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  1. Besides my personal blog – or actually my cat’s personal blog, I do and have done blogs for my employers for many years. I remember the big 2.0 controversy.
    The interweb is full of people who spout forth their opinions. These opinions often are believed by some of their followers to be facts. And, in my own blogging, I have discovered mostly people whi agree respond to posts, those that disagree don’t.
    Instant media creates lots and lots of garbage and that’s why places like snopes are around to help people be less gullible.
    Thanks foe your informative post. whenever I read anything from Mel, I shall now check her facts.
    Penelope’s Mom

  2. As always, I am so impressed by the professionalism and ethics of the Blog Paws team … instead of “reacting” immediately on an emotional basis (like the commentors on Mel’s post), you took the time to investigate and get additional facts to support your position. That is, in my opinion, what differentiates a responsible blogger/journalist from those out to grab headlines/create controversy for the sake of “hits”.
    I was impressed by the quality of the speakers at Blog Paws, and can’t wait to attend again next year. And I loved all of the diversity of both the speakers and the bloggers in attendance – that is what enriches a community. I know that none of the Blog Paws team would EVER support someone/an organization that harms animals, period.
    I do hope everyone who was so quick to read/comment on Mel’s post will also take the time to read and reflect on this post as well, with an open mind and heart.
    PS. Thank you for your above comments about getting pure breed dogs from RESPONSIBLE breeders. My precious little Lucky, who attended Blog Paws with me, is a registered pure-bred Italian Greyhound from a wonderful, responsible breeder who is actively working to improve the health of the breed (specifically by leading the charge to identify PRA carriers in the breed) as well as being involved in IG Rescue (she was the TX coordinator for a while as well as on the board of the national breed club).

  3. Sorry, but I think this post was vastly unfair to Mel, epitomizing her as the model for the irresponsible blogger — which she is not. And I think you misrepresent the link between puppy mills, websites that sell puppies, and responsible breeders. The site that Mel used as an example of one of Michael Ayalon’s site sure seems like a puppy mill front to me.
    I was one of those “emotional commenters” on No Dog About It, and yes, I capitalized Michael Ayalon’s name because I felt if she was calling him out, it was only fair to name him loud and clear.
    I’m a big fan of BlogPaws, having attended twice, but do think conference organizers have a responsibility that hasn’t always been met. The first year the conference was held in Ohio, the only state that uses breed specific language in a statewide law, though it hasn’t instituted a ban per se. The second year it was held in Denver, which has a specific breed ban, at a hotel that wasn’t pet friendly — though it made an exception in the case of the conference — and never followed up on its promise to become pet friendly. I blogged about this respectfully, when I blogged about BSL. I’m sorry, but given that background, I can’t help but think the vetting process is a problem, and would like to put my acceptance of Mel’s comments in that context. I will probably follow up on my blog…

  4. DAMN….
    As a professional journalist – and copywriter – this is a very well-researched post with more than enough information to back up claims made and positions taken.
    I was – for a moment – “taken” with Mel’s post becuase of the way Michael’s sites look (they do kinda look like front sites just a bit…) – but knew better and had too much faith in the BlogPaws organization to belive it.
    And now that I have all the facts in front of me I realize the truth.
    Thank you to the BlogPaws team for clearnig the air with an extremely well-written response.
    And by the way – there’s nothing wrong with calling bloggers on their “sh*t” when it’s either disrespectful, incorrect or otherwise illogical or pointing the finger…

  5. From Yvonne, a BlogPaws founder – a favorite poem. Some folks I shared it with thought it appropriate to post here.
    I Hear It Said
    by Barbara Young
    Last night my friend–he says he is my friend–
    Came in and questioned me. “I hear it said
    You have done this and that. I come to ask
    Are these things true?” A glint was in his eye
    Of small distrust. His words were crisp and hot.
    He measured me with anger, and flung down
    A little heap of facts had come to him.
    “I hear it said you have done this and that.”
    Suppose I have? And are you not my friend?
    And are you not my friend enough to say,
    “If it were true, there would be reason in it.
    And if I cannot know the how and why,
    Still I can trust you, waiting for a word.
    Or for no word, if no word ever come!”
    Is friendship just a thing of afternoons,
    Of pleasuring one’s friend and one’s dear self–
    Greed for sedate approval of his pace,
    Suspicion if he take one little turn
    Upon the rod, one flight into the air,
    And has not sought you for your Yea or Nay!
    No. Friendship is not so. I am my own.
    And howsoever near my friend may draw
    Unto my soul, there is a legend hung
    Above a certain straight and narrow way
    Says, “Dear my friend, ye may not enter here!”
    I would the time has come–as it has not–
    When men shall rise and say, “He is my friend.
    He has done this? And what is that to me!
    Think you I have a check upon his head,
    Or cast a guiding rein across his neck?
    I am his friend. And for that cause I walk
    Not over close beside him, leaving still
    Space for his silences, and space for mine.”
    –Barbara Young
    BlogPaws would NEVER knowingly support puppy mills or BSL. Ever.

  6. I have a busy schedule today and don’t have time to write all my thoughts on this but just a few minutes on Google will provide plenty of proof that Puppy Petite, aka Puppy Boutique is a known broker for puppy mills.

  7. Mel kept screen prints of how some of the pages with the links looked originally, why were they removed after she posted her story?
    When you read Michael Ayalon’s testimonials today: “… that he had helped a breeder in the business for 12 years to ‘sell more puppies than we ever thought we could…’ or to help another breeder (from the well-known puppy mill state of Pennsylvania) to sell ‘… more puppies than I thought was possible.'”
    Does that sound like – fronts to – responsible breeders to you? Or something else?
    I cannot understand why you have such a desire to accuse Mel of being an irresponsible blogger. She collected a lot of material and worked with the facts at hand. Maybe she didn’t visited the companies on-site. Did I? Did you? Did Michael … really? Try check the 2nd testimonial again, and who would want to pay a visit to Gloria E, Ronks, in the mids of puppy mill Amish country. Guess we would need a police escort don’t we?

  8. Thanks BlogPaws! You guys are a gift to the pet community.
    A friend just sent us Mel’s post, as we were also not alerted to or asked about this ahead of time. You really said it all and said it well. Petside fully supports, adoption, rescue and RESPONSIBLE breeding, not puppy mills.

  9. Wow, Edie … I expected more from a professional writer like you, whose work I’ve admired and complimented, publicly and privately, over and over.
    As far as being unfair to Mel, I went back through our post again and I do regret not being more disciplined about saying it was her posts (both of them) that are examples of irresponsible blogging, and not her personally. But frankly, having just typed that, it was not her blog that made no attempt to reach out to us before clicking publish.
    I’m a bit fuzzy on the meaning of your second sentence, where you apparently accuse us of misrepresentation. Are you saying that all puppy mills, websites that sell puppies, and responsible breeders are the same?
    And your third sentence, where you say a website “seems like” a front for a puppy mill … well, Edie, that’s exactly the kind of unsupported assumption that makes it harder for all bloggers.
    And your last paragraph is both ironic and … exasperating. You rehash the problems of BSL in Ohio and Denver, although you attended both events and were a speaker at the one in Ohio. You know from private conversations with me and from Yvonne’s public comment on your post ( http://willmydoghateme.com/animal-welfare/lets-call-breed-bans-what-they-are-death-sentences#comment-8723 ), that we were not aware of either location’s rules until after the conference venues had been booked.
    Before all “you-without-sin” go off on questioning how we could not know, go read Dr. Kay’s Speaking for Spot post from less than a year ago on her “education” about the scope of the puppy mill problem ( http://speakingforspot.wordpress.com/2010/12/19/my-puppy-mill-education/ ), where she wrote, “As a veterinarian I’m embarrassed by my naïveté about puppy mills. To some degree, I think I’ve been floating along that river in Egypt (De Nial)- far more pleasant to be “out of touch” rather than “in touch” with the true horrors of what goes on in puppy mills.”
    Since those first two mistakes, we’ve worked very hard to investigate the pet-related laws in any location we consider. We’ve crossed off California entirely, because it has an idiotic ferret ban and we can’t imagine BlogPaws without our littlest attendees (so far)!
    Edie, I was and still am hopeful we can elevate this discussion to be more about how we can all get better, instead of what we’ve all done wrong. I’d have pegged you as a leader in that direction.
    As our post says clearly, we acted on the FACTS that we were able to gather. Our speaker list was published for months and nobody said a word, let alone offer any new, verifiable information. I certainly stand by our choice not to demonize a person based on unsupported allegations and assumptions about what a website “seems like.”
    If it turns out we screwed up, we’ll be the first to own up to that and keep trying to figure out how to do things better next time.
    It’s the only way I know to move forward …

  10. Am I missing something here? You repeatedly state you are asserting “FACTS” – the only facts I find in this post are the ones gleaned from Mel’s post – ?? Otherwise, everything else that you list as factual are either hearsay or from the “horse’s mouth” (what Michael Ayalon himself asserts). Oh, and the ancient Facebook note that was probably overlooked when the ASPCA changed their opinion of Mr. Ayalon – ? Didn’t Mel mention he was originally lauded by the ASPCA, then later he was removed from their list?
    The sites linked to in this post, as well as many others found when searched for in connection with Mr. Ayalon’s business appear, at best, to be questionable breeders. Why does PuppyPetites require NINE sites if they are local? Why do so many of these so-called home breeders only display photos? How convenient. Members of BlogPaws would expect that you would at least research these things, not blindly defend them. From your post, you seem to feel your research is done – because Michael Ayalon told you he’s okay.
    As a business that purports to represent the interests of pet bloggers and pet lovers, I personally find not only your conscious choice of Mr. Ayalon as a conference speaker, but also your whining, ill-formed defense of yourselves in this post, extremely disturbing. The one fact that glares at me from your post is an all-out, no-holds-barred attack on a pet blogger who not only wrote about her OPINION, she backed it up with actual facts (such as the ones you copied from her for this post).
    Tom, I can’t fathom how you could possibly imply Edie of being less than professional; her comment is succinct and sincere, and yours in response is accusatory, inflammatory, and frankly – downright nasty. You also only verify that BlogPaws was not up to par when choosing locations two years in a row, among other things.
    A succession of name-calling and knee-jerk slaps at what you wrongly perceived to be an “attack” show an unbelievable, inexcusable lack of maturity – and yes, professionalism.
    Disclaimer: This comment is an opinion.

  11. There are good people with their hearts in the right place on both sides of this issue, which, from my point of view, is not whether or not BlogPaws should have invited Michael Ayalon to speak but rather the appropriate method of investigating and, if necessary, exposing an issue.
    Not that the national or local news is particularly credible, but their articles at least usually state something about how the journalist tried to get both sides of the story. Getting both sides lends credibility and ensures a better chance of getting the story right.
    I’m glad Mel is so passionate about the fight against puppy mills. I’m passionate, too. So are Tom, Yvonne, and Caroline. I know this for a fact because Tom and Yvonne adopted a middle-aged, one-eyed puppy mill momma from me last year, and all their other animals are adopted, too. Additionally, they always donate back to rescues after their conferences.
    I hope you all can patch things up and that before inviting Ayalon back again, you (Tom, Yvonne, and Caroline) will look into this further because obviously there are people in the community who have concerns about this person. I also hope that all the bloggers reading this understand the problem of publishing one-sided articles and not giving those being accused a chance to defend themselves. I know I’ll think more about this the next time I sit down to write.
    Doing due diligence is not “PC;” it’s good journalism.

  12. Mel’s post rang true to me because it jived with what I noticed/felt after seeing some of these puppy sites (on my own) more than a year ago. So, for me, the only news was that he’d spoken at BlogPaws.
    Not earth-shattering enough to warrant a note to all of you, amid what else I have brewing at home right now.
    I knew the BlogPaws team would respond, but I expected a straight post about how the speaker was vetted and chosen. Not this, which (to me) feels kind of mean … first to Mel and then Edie … both of whom I respect and consider friends.
    I’m sure everything will settle down, but I do feel sad about how this played out. I’ve learned a lot, but not necessarily anything good.

  13. Tom, I’m shocked at how you’ve chosen to respond to Mel and then to Edie. You, and the rest of the BlogPaws team, chose to associate your brand with Mr. Ayalon by inviting him to speak at the conference – after having been made aware of Mel’s concerns. You opened yourself up to be questioned, and there was no reason to expect that the questioning would be done privately. (Did you give that consideration to Mel by letting her know you’d talked to Mr. Ayalon, found her concerns to be unwarranted, and determined him appropriate for the BlogPaws audience? I have no proof, but I think not, given her disappointment at finding his name on the speaker line-up.)
    If any damage has been done to the BlogPaws brand, it was done by you, not any potential controversy about Mr. Ayalon. Rather than a respectful, enlightening response – or even an apology and admission of poor judgement, if appropriate – you’ve chosen to act like a bully. Questioning the professionalism of two members of your own community? What good could possibly come from that?
    Businesses are questioned all the time about their affiliations – think of the Philadelphia Eagles and Michael Vick. A professional would open a dialog, exchange viewpoints, and either agree, or agree to disagree. You’re decision to launch personal attacks is beyond disappointing. I, for one, choose not to be a member of an association who’s leader will so viciously turn on one of their own.

  14. This post – nor Tom – did not “bully” anyone any more than they were originally taking on…
    Tom is one of the kindest and most gentle people I know. And to accuse him of what he’s being accused of probably has him fuming, which takes A LOT.
    When the subject is one as hot as puppy mills/animal welfare/rescue, we tend to get hot-headed … all of us.
    Also, let us remember — the first person to throw a seriously hard punch was actually Mel NOT BlogPaws. What do people expect? BlogPaws has a right to vehemently defend itself and its decision as they HONESTLY and obviously were not aware of the situation with Mr ass**** Ayalon.
    And Mel’s post was not exactly polite people. So what’s wrong with an eye for an eye? We’re bloggers here-and animal lovers and savers-and we’re all passionate and we all get super fired up sometimes.
    Imagine if someone flat-out accused you of something without checking with you first in a PUBLIC FORUM LIKE THE INTERNET. What the hell is wrong with her? What would you do?
    I guarantee BlogPaws has a way bigger stick than Mel if it’s going to come down to that, which is what it’s looking like here by the way her followers are commenting. Grow up people. We’re supposed to be on the same team here. did you forget that?
    BlogPaws has a right to defend themselves and use the same tactics used against them in their response post.
    Right on Yvonne and Tom.

  15. Anyone who is detail oriented and discerning knows that unfortunately, a large percentage of the population appears to speak (either verbally or in writing) without knowing the facts, and often believes the most illogical statements, just because someone speaks or writes authoratatively. To wit: one person’s assertion is not a fact. I just read both of Mel’s posts, and as a lawyer who practiced environmental law for 15 years, their wasn’t a fact to be had-strictly opinion. And the links to supposedly back up what was written simply did not accurately correlate to what was said. They might have been accurate standing alone, but they did not relate to her point.
    Thanks to Tom Collins for pointing out that none of the speakers paid the BlogPaws founders for the honor of speaking at BlogPaws. There are hundreds (probably thousands?) of SEO experts who are qualified to speak at blogging conferences. Is it logical to think that the BlogPaws founders would have knowingly chosen a speaker who has profited from the very industry they and the BlogPaws community work against?
    “Truthiness” as Stephen Colbert says, is facts that are up for grabs-is that how we bloggers want to be viewed-as writers with no grasp of the facts?
    P.S. to Kyla: Heartily agree with your last statement that doing due diligence is simply good journalism.

  16. WOW! I don’t really know what to say to all of this. Hey I don’t know Mel from a hole in the ground and have never read her stuff. I don’t know Michael A personally, only from ads he posts on various groups I belong to (Pet Web Designer right?). I really don’t know any of you except for Yvonne, Tom and Caroline who I’ve never met in person but have interacted with on the phone and virtually for a couple of years and have volunteered my help with BlogPaws in any way I could. They seemed, to this 66 year old retired business professional, to be nice sincere people who have a passion for pets and a passion to build a community for pet bloggers which I admired. What is BlogPaws, 2 years old? There have been 3 conferences in a very short period of time. That gets a thumbs up from me. WHAT I AM NOT HEARING FROM ANYONE is a THANK YOU to 3 people who built a train that clammored down the track pretty darn fast. Were there mistakes made along the way? Heck I don’t know but did Jonas Salk or Tom Edison make mistakes when moving forward with their passions? Did Ted Turner make mistakes when he was building CNN? How about Bill Gates, Steve Jobs? Everybody started small – nobody starts big and stuff happens. Does anyone make mistakes when they begin designing or building anything? Yep. WHAT I DON’T SEE OR HEAR are people stepping up to the plate to VOLUNTEER TO HELP BLOGPAWS GROW AND AVOID AS MANY GROWING PAINS AS POSSIBLE. What I do hear are COMPLAINTS, ACCUSATIONS, mean girls/boys high school stuff. If you have a background in vetting people, companies, etc. then volunteer to help BlogPaws do that. If you have a background in other areas that could help BlogPaws grow then VOLUNTEER to help. Otherwise don’t offer your opinion if you’re not willing to PROVIDE SOLUTIONS. 3 people can only do so much. So get off your duff and don’t volley negative balls in public without approaching the people in charge first. That’s not only not nice it’s completely unprofessional. Just sayin’

  17. You know what, this just makes me sick. I am SO disappointed in how all of this has been handled. If this post hadn’t been written, most people wouldn’t have even seen Mel’s post. But since it was, it has been seen and it has torn this animal community apart. I, for one, was also shocked when I learned that PetWebDesigner was going to speak. I have never understood why the rescue community has embraced a bad designer who clearly supports puppy mills simply because they occasionally give away bad designs. Responsible breeders DO NOT sell animals over the internet sight unseen. Whatever. I was miffed but that was the end of it.
    Now I am just saddened to see people that I respect go on a freaking war path over someone expressing that they wished some fact checking had been done. The post doesn’t in the least bit seem attacking to BlogPaws and I wonder why you thought you needed to get so defensive over it. I never would have thought bad about you over that post but I am disappointed in the response. I feel it was unnecessary and has blown things way out of proportion.
    I for one think that we should be allowed to call anyone out if we think they have acted wrongly. Did you ever stop to think that maybe the reason Mel was bothered enough to say something, just as I am now, is because we hold you to a high standard? If we didn’t believe in you and in this community, then we wouldn’t. So questions and statements like this should be embraced and dealt with in a straightforward and honest manner, not treated as heresy.
    If we as a group don’t keep one another honest, then who will? I really hope this nonsense can be dropped and we can all go back to remembering what truly matters here – celebrating animals with like-minded people. Enough of all this in-fighting already. It’s petty and childish.

  18. I cannot believe that I am reading all of this. How sad and disappointing. I thought pet bloggers were above this kind of drama. I feel sad that I was wrong.
    I don’t know Mel or Michael Ayalon. I do know Tom, Yvonne and Caroline. I have attended all 3 BlogPaws conferences, and I plan to attend all the future ones that I can as long as health and finances will allow.
    Anyone who attended the most recent conference knows that BlogPaws DOES NOT SUPPORT PUPPY MILLS. And anyone who knows Tom, Yvonne and Caroline knows that they would never knowingly allow a speaker affiliated with puppy mills on the program.
    Almost to a person, every speaker on the program at the last conference made comments against puppy mills, so it is ridiculous to comment that BlogPaws supports them.
    BlogPaws has become a great force not only in the pet blogging community, but they have also made significant waves in the broader media about the importance of pet bloggers. They have reinforced legitimacy of blogging about pet concerns, and they have helped many pet bloggers increase their skills and creative potential. They have offered resources and created a community that has helped me personally in many ways. I cannot tell you how many other bloggers have told me the same thing.
    It was inevitable that BlogPaws would eventually have a speaker on the program that raised questions to someone. No matter how much vetting an organization does, it is inevitable that some speaker will spark some controversy. THAT DOES NOT MEAN THAT BLOGPAWS ENDORSES EVERYTHING THAT EVERY SPEAKER DOES, OR MAY HAVE DONE IN SOME PERSON’S EYES.
    So even if Michael Ayalon DID do what he has been accused of (no evidence has convinced me), it is an incredible leap to assume that BlogPaws: 1) was aware of it, and 2)supported it.
    I will leave it to Mr. Avalon, and perhaps his attorneys (I’d be consulting one if I were he) to defend his honor. But I will defend BlogPaws ferociously until someone can prove to me that they are in support of puppy mills, which they cannot do. Because BlogPaws has demonstrated to me over and over and over again that they place the welfare of animals over the financial gain of ANYONE at ALL TIMES, and puppy mills are NEVER OK to them.
    Anyone who decides that this flap is worthy of avoiding BlogPaws in the future – How sad for you. You will be missing the best time and the best education about blogging you could ever find. The rest of us will enjoy it all in your absence.
    Now, can we get back to blogging about animals and their special ways and their welfare, and stop this ever so human spat? What good does it do to go back and forth like this? Animals could care less. They just want us to love them and keep them in our hearts.

  19. Wow, this is my first visit to BlogPaws and certainly my last. How you accuse someone else of lack of professionalism or poor journalism is bewildering to say the least. First, when someone writes a critique of an organization, article, or anything else, they are not required to inform that party about it. Second, your facts are clearly regurgitations of the other writer’s research and unsubstantiated rebuttals and loosely drawn statements about apparently nothing. Third, that BlogPaws failed miserably to vet the speaker list is obviously even to a noob like me, and it is equally obvious that you are trying to cover your embarrassment by shining a negative anywhere than on your mistakes. Shame on you.

  20. I can only say that I am deeply disappointed it has come to this. I can only respond with some of the evidence I have. It’s pretty damning if you work in the animal welfare arena. I only ask that you review the information and provide a fair and honest response on what I provided, not what you implied I said.
    Despite what you may think, I never intended to attack BlogPaws. Clearly, you don’t know me well enough to know this. All I can say is that for me, the damage is done, and that makes me sad.

  21. I know Mel and realize Blogpaws does not. I have to say that she is not a female Nathan Winograd. Hers is not an attack dog blog, and I think the view that what she said was an attack on the BP organization is wrong-headed. Mel is not responsible for commenters who go off the rails and say erroneous things like “you knew”. I have commented on her blog, on Edie’s and have left my summary for this blog.
    I don’t think BlogPaws purposely brought in a web designer who enables puppy mills and I don’t think Mel does either not in her initial post or in her follow-up post. I think she never got an answer to the information she sent, she saw he was a speaker and commented on her feelings about that referring to year old post.
    I think people in animal welfare recognize earmarks that raise red flags regarding internet puppy mills and most certainly the “petite” and “boutique” have all the red flags. This is not a court of law, it’s a common sense screening. If it walks like a duck, etc. People outside the industry do not understand these earmarks. ASPCA offers pointers on how to spot puppy mills online, at least they have in the past.
    While the economy has forced some responsible breeders onto the internet, none of them operate on the basis of year-round availability for any breed you might want, or let you think you can have a dog at all just because you can pay. Check with Christie Keith now at VetStreet.
    None of us knows everything all the time. I don’t think the community is unrealistic in that way. But I too am confused and upset at the response to Mel and to Edie who I consider to be friends and members in good standing in this community. For the record I thought Edie’s post about vetting was benign and pointed to an area of concern that might need attention. But I also know things can hit you just the wrong way sometimes.
    I hope this can be resolved without any further acrimony and we can go forward believing that when we ask questions of each other and make statements we do so in good faith. We can all take something wrongly when it was not meant that way depending on what else has happened that day to color the way we see things.

  22. This entire event could have been handled in private by both parties and would have saved face on both sides. Moreover, if it had been handled privately, the problem could have been addressed and perhaps even solved in such a manner that both sides walked away without feeling attacking, insulted, or hurt. Just because we can blog about a thing doesn’t mean we should, especially when the potential for this kind of backlash is so prominent.
    This, to me, is a grossly unprofessional event that – in the world of dog training, behavior, welfare, etc – should have never happened. This is also the reason why I am starting to open my eyes – something I had refused to do on the grounds that I adore most of the people involved in these things on a personal and professional level – to the fact that twitter, blogging, and social networking is unprofessional, potentially damaging, and all around insane.
    However, on the note of blogpaws, their response was unprofessional, petty, and extremely damaging. I have lost so much respect for the dog world as a whole over this one event. Regardless of the nature of the facts or opinions, the problem should have been sorted out privately in a professional manner. The fact that blogpaws made the decision to publicly degrade a professional over the internet, on a blog, where it can never be taken back has left me astounded and questioning my associations with the social media side of this profession.
    Here is where the note of a professional vs. a personal blog should be made. On a personal blog, an open letter, review, rant, or insult can be posted without much in the way of worry. It’s not a big deal if someone doesn’t agree or like what you have to say. When we are speaking of a professional blog, the game is entirely different. Everything posted, everything you have to say MATTERS to the extent that, as a professional site, it is ill advised to post a response of the nature posted on blogpaws.
    It sounds as though the blogpaws post was created in an attempt to clear up some misrepresented views/facts in the original article, but the terminology/language used suggests hostility and, yet again, an unprofessional attitude that I find extremely damaging to the reputation and continued good-nature of dog bloggers as a whole. I just can’t see the reason to publicly criticize any individual no matter the nature of the original post, its hostility, professionalism (or lack thereof), facts, or attitude.
    I am disappointed in the reaction of blogpaws as a professional organization on the simple grounds that it is seen as a professional organization, as a gathering place for (pet) bloggers as a whole and should therefore be impartial and treat all incidences with discretion and courtesy regardless of the nature of the initial event.

  23. I don’t think there is anything else I can say that wouldn’t just echo the comments above by DancingDogBlog and JJ.
    Shame on you BlogPaws for turning what should be a warm, open, caring community into a place of hostility. I expected better than this emotional, knee-jerk response. That’s what bullies do, not leaders of professional organizations.
    It’s just too bad. And it makes me very sad.

  24. Believe it or not I believe it’s early enough in this ‘situation’ to still mend fences if people on both sides are big enough to do it or care enough to do it. Neither party is 100% right and neither party is 100% wrong.
    All of this comes on the tail of, what I would guess, was an exhausting several months putting BP2012 together. So does anyone think it’s possible that the response from BP may have hit the ‘your baby is ugly’ nerve just when they thought their baby was beautiful? Or maybe Mel didn’t step outside of her post enough to read it again as an observer and see that it might be interpreted as a slam? This might be a good time to focus on a few old lines from a very OLD BOOK
    Ephesians 4:31 Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice:
    4:32 And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.
    Luke 6:36 Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful.
    6:37 Judge not, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: forgive, and ye shall be forgiven:
    John 8:7 He That Is Without Sin Among You, Let Him Cast the First Stone….
    And from a very NEW BOOK
    Dr. Phil: “Do you want to be right or do you want to be effective”?
    Dr. Phil: “Opinions are like asses, everybody’s got one!” ….
    ……. including my own.

  25. Very good points, Linda. There is no need to be circling the wagons here.
    I am very glad to see Mel and others acknowledging that they do not believe that BlogPaws supports puppy mills and are instead lamenting their belief that a poor choice of speakers was made. Period.
    Certainly Tom sought to protect not only the BlogPaws organization, but the community that is developing around it. I can see how others took his words to be over the top, just as other people took the words of those he challenged to be over the top.
    But as Kyla said, we are all passionate about doing good things for the pets in our world. We are on the same team. Might be a good time to shake hands and say, “What were we theenking???” instead of keeping the negative energy flowing. There is so much more that we can do together with positive energy.

  26. This is one of the most unprofessional things I’ve witnessed, and I’m very disappointed in BlogPaws for reacting in such a way.
    That being said – inviting someone to BlogPaws who clearly supports puppy mills makes you an accomplice, as far as I’m concerned. In the future, you really should consider who you team up with.

  27. I would really like to hear a response directly from Michael Ayalon (@petwebdesigner) about this.
    As I tweeted, I’d like to know if he is aware that PPF Kennels, whose website he did as evidenced on his testimonials page and the bottom of their website, sells dogs at the biggest dog auction in the midwest. Links I found that support this: http://bit.ly/qyJeAw and http://bit.ly/qfCbEF
    I’d also like to know how he affords to travel from Long Island to places like Puppy Love Farms in Noble, Oklahoma or Cavalier Palace in Gavilan Hills, CA
    to visit their facilities when his websites start at only $350. Can he provide any sort of proof like a receipt for a plane ticket that he visited these places?

  28. If this is the way you respond to concerns about your organization, I can guarantee I won’t be joining it. And any organization that’s even loosely associated with puppy milling won’t be getting my visits or links either.
    Go ahead and delete this comment. I won’t be visiting again to see if it sticks around.

  29. If pet lovers and bloggers would like to learn more about how to recognize a high-volume commercial kennel/factory farm for dogs, an advocacy group here in Iowa called Iowa Voters for Companion Animals has a Q&A on just that here: http://iowavca.org/puppyMills.html
    I recommend that anyone who considers themself an advocate for dogs understand these concepts.

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