Are We Winning the Battle But Losing the War? Reflections on Rescue Groups’ Bidding at the Missouri Auction

I have been following the news of the auction of King Charles Cavaliers that took place in Missouri and the efforts by many in our rescue community, especially the Alabama Chapter of Cavalier Rescue USA, Brittney Wilk, and the Greater Birmingham Humane Society, to save these dogs.

Thanks to them, scores of our beloved breed will eventually be in forever homes and be cared for by people who love them. Many gave their time and money to make sure that rescue groups acquired every single King Charles Cavalier.

Joey Kennedy, on, reported on the condition of the dogs. Many had flea infestations, some had eye and ear infections, and a few had intestinal parasites.

I own three King Charles Cavaliers, and I have fostered more than twenty over the last several years. I am an enthusiastic, long-time supporter of Cavalier rescue groups.

I’m worried that we may have won the battle for the 95 or so in Missouri, but that we might be inadvertently losing the war to help the breed. There is a reason the US government doesn’t pay ransoms. It’s to prevent perpetuation of further kidnappings and funding terrorist organizations.

I am not writing to criticize anyone who was part of saving these Cavaliers. I’m writing to invite members of our rescue community to think about what we are doing and where we are headed.

It’s an iron-clad rule of economics that if you subsidize a behavior, you will get more of it. The money that we have raised and spent to buy these dogs will encourage future auctions.

Think about this: The last two Cavaliers purchased in Missouri reportedly cost $25,000. Even though rescue groups worked together, what they did made the auction much more lucrative for the breeder who shut down.

We all love our Cavaliers. We would go to the mat for them and regard them as priceless. We will never understand a person who would mistreat a dog while breeding it for profit.

Let’s not fool ourselves, though. The puppy mill owners are watching what happened in Missouri, too. Some may hold their own auctions and invite rescue groups. Some might even think about gaming the system and buying some King Charles Cavaliers from reputable breeders expressly to auction to rescue groups for twice of three times what they paid.

On the other hand, going to the auction and buying every Cavalier did a world of good. It raised awareness about mills. It raised money for rescue. It changed the lives of 95 dogs.

We would like to save every King Charles Cavalier. They are precious, every one. However, we don’t have unlimited resources.

Knowing the right thing to do isn’t as simple as it seems. And I am not sure I know what the right answer is. I am only inviting those who care about Cavaliers to think about the issues.

The rescue groups’ buying all the Cavaliers at the Missouri auction will probably encourage puppy millers to auction more. Even worse, the unscrupulous are sure to notice that the more abused the dogs have been, the more we are willing to pay to save them.

My goal is for the rescue community to get the best results with the resources we have. Consider what we could have accomplished if we had spent $500,000 (the reported amount raised by several groups) to draft model legislation against puppy mills and to push for changes in the laws in state legislatures? Or, if we had spent it to do a public relations campaign to expose the evils of puppy mills. Also, I hope there will be total transparency by the rescue groups involved on how much money was and is being collected, and how it was or will be disbursed.

What would be the best long-term way to use our resources to get the best results for the breed we love? Do you think we are at risk of winning the battle but losing the war?

I won’t even ask anyone to think with their pocketbook instead of their hearts. And I won’t ask you to confuse this issue with the love of your individual dog, which is priceless. But let’s think with our hearts on behalf of what’s best for the breed and worst for the puppy mills, and not confuse this discussion with our devotion for our own cavalier babies which are indeed priceless.

I like talking about solutions, not problems. I stand ready to make a significant donation to rescue to be earmarked for legislative activities to provide draft language of a bill that passionate volunteers can present to their state legislator to regulate and or penalize those that breed dogs inappropriately, while protecting quality breeders. Many states also have legislation regulating or prohibiting such auctions, which should be considered. Some would say that we’ve been fighting these issues for years, with little or no progress, but I would speculate that draft legislation has not been provided to the passionate volunteers to send to their legislator, and especially not in an environment like today when there is high awareness and concern about the issues.

We may disagree, but we should discuss and debate these questions. They are important to everyone who is involved in Cavalier Rescue. Please post your thoughtful and professional comments. Now is the time to have this discussion, while people are aware of the situation and passionate about these issues. The sooner we start collaborating the sooner we can find a solution and path forward, while minimizing the financial incentives for the breeders at these monthly auctions.

Please share this post whether you agree or disagree, adding your comments, so we can expand this discussion among passionate stakeholders.



  1. joan says

    We need to work to get rid of dog auctions… I agree with you and believe monetary limits must be set, sad reality that auction houses will drive up the auction price…defeating rescues’ desire to put the millers out of business…

  2. melvin phillips says

    First of all this is well written and I agree with your philosophy 100%. I express my concerns on Facebook about making these inhumane breeders rich off something as loving as a cavalier king Charles, I have two by the way & would have more if I could afford the vet ha. I enjoyed reading this I will help in anyway possible to change the laws/no laws!

  3. Jack D. says

    You make a great point here:”the money that we have raised and spent to buy these dogs will encourage future auctions.”. As someone who has an economics background, I too feared that this rescue might actually make the situation worse, by increasing the incentives for puppy mills to sell dogs at auctions. I was afraid of being called heartless so I didn’t say anything.

  4. Jack D. says

    You make a great point here:”the money that we have raised and spent to buy these dogs will encourage future auctions.”. As someone who has an economics background, I too feared that this rescue might actually make the situation worse, by increasing the incentives for puppy mills to sell dogs at auctions. I was afraid of being called heartless so I didn’t say anything.

  5. Penny Reames says

    We do NOT want to close the auctions. There are only 2 in the country, and they are both heavily regulated, open to the public and highly publicized. All other auctions are illegal. Breeders need to replace breeding stock. If they don’t do it publicly at auction, they will do it privately, like they are doing now in Amish communities in other parts of the country, with swap meets. Try regulating that. Try attending one. If they do that, we will have no access to the dogs.

  6. Penny Reames says

    By spending big bucks to save your Cavs, you have doomed my beloved Westies to continued hell in the mills. Now the breeders are no longer releasing the old and the undesirable to rescue. They go to auction. The shills in the audience are driving the prices up so that the rescues will spend more, because they know you will. Now small rescues like me, who have been getting dogs out through the auctions for years, can no longer afford to buy them. And the small breeders, who take good care of their dogs, can not afford healthy stock. They are left to buy the old and the undesirable, who previously would not have even been there. Last week a small breeder was bidding on a 10 yr old Westie who was just bred. She told me if she could get this litter and one more out of her, she could break even. Saving your Cavs like you did has caused irreparable harm to rescues like mine. I will probably have to shut down. My passion is rescuing mill dogs, and if breeders will not release to us, and we can’t afford to compete at auction, we are out of business.

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