Here’s a slightly interesting story that is actually an extension of an ongoing story involving a puppy mill bust in Upper Milford (near Allentown), PA.
The bust, which took place back in October 2008 was the largest in state history involving animal cruelty. The particular story earning my HOOT Award this week appeared in the January 27th edition of The Morning Call — an Allentown-based newspaper.
The story achieved HOOT status due to its timeliness and investigative foresight. Its running coincided with the first day of preliminary hearings for the defendants — the co-owners of the alleged puppy mill, Almost Heaven dog kennel.
The piece focused on accusations made by a former employee of the kennel regarding falsified records of dog parentage/breeding, vaccinations, etc.
The Morning Call decided to follow up on these allegations by locating three recent dog buyers (from the kennel in question), and providing DNA testing to verify their respective canine’s exact breed.
All three of the four-legged friends of man turned out NOT to be the breed their owners thought they were. It also turns out the dogs had not received all of the appropriate vaccinations, for which the owners themselves were assured (via signed paperwork) had been completed prior to purchasing their pets.
The story lacks one important element — the owners’ opportunity to respond to the accusations. I’m willing to concede slack in this case due to the ongoing nature of the story, and the legal proceedings involved (The owners were not commenting at all). Staff writer, Bill White, built a good story not based solely on someone’s accusations. He used the resources provided by the paper to determine for whether these charges had any merit. They did and his piece presents a informative warning for potential puppy buyers.