PEOPLE | PETS | COMMUNITY

Connections: The Spotter

Robert Pregulman has a knack for spotting stories that dog lovers want to read, whether it’s the latest dog-friendly destinations, pet health alerts, animal cruelty stories, or heartwarming stories about people and their canine companions. When Pregulman founded Seattle DogSpot in 2010, he knew that he wanted to create the most comprehensive local source of information for Seattle-area dog owners – but he had no idea just how popular the site would become.

“While Seattle is one of the most dog crazy, dog friendly cities in the country, I’d found that, as an owner of two dogs, a good chunk of information on websites about dogs or dog-related activities in the area was often incomplete or outdated,” he explained. “I also thought that people would like a local website created specifically for Seattle dog owners by a Seattle dog owner.”

Pregulman, who had a background in economics and earned an Executive Masters of Public Administration from the Evans School of Public Policy and Governance at UW, had a lot to learn when he created Seattle DogSpot. “I had zero experience starting websites or writing about dogs,” he said. “Needless to say, my learning curve was steep!”

To gain a better understanding behind the science of dog behavior and training, Pregulman recently completed a 12-week program at the Northwest School for Canine Studies, where he earned a Certificate of Canine Studies. “Both the hands-on and classroom training gave me a much more solid understanding of dog behavior and the importance of using humane training methods, based on science and not on the whim of the latest flavor-of-the-month dog training ‘expert,’” he said.

The spotter for article

Prior to Seattle DogSpot, Pregulman had worked for 13 years for the state Public Interest Research Groups (PIRGs), advocating for consumer and environmental protection policies at the state and national levels. “That experience led me to investigate Washington’s weak animal protection laws and expose shady dog rescues that simply use dogs as commodities to generate money,” he said.

Some of Pregulman’s favorite stories chronicle organizations that use animals to help people. “I’ve loved writing about Courthouse Dogs, a local nonprofit that promotes using professionally trained dogs to provide emotional support for individuals in the criminal justice system,” he said. “Former King County Prosecutor Ellen O’Neill Stevens started the group after convincing King County to ‘hire’ a permanent courthouse dog, making it the first jurisdiction in the country to have a specifically-trained dog to help crime victims and work full time in a prosecutor’s office or any government agency. Since Ms. Stevens started Courthouse Dogs, dozens of jurisdictions, both nationally and internationally, now have them.”

Pregulman’s story about a dog named Max who was electrocuted on Thanksgiving Day in 2010 was the catalyst behind an investigation. “Max was electrocuted by ‘stray voltage’ from a faulty streetlight,” Pregulman said. “Former Seattle City Light (SCL) CEO Jorge Carrasco tried to sweep the incident under the rug, but after I wrote several posts about the incident, SCL committed to testing all their streetlights annually. I had the opportunity to educate dog owners about the danger of stray voltage, something few of them had heard of before.”

Pregulman, along with former KOMO reporter Jeff Burnside, was one of the few members of the media to cover the Olympic Animal Sanctuary (OAS) in Forks, Washington, from 2013 to 2014. “My coverage helped keep the spotlight on OAS, since most of the media, excepting Burnside, didn’t cover it all,” he said. “This also introduced me to dozens of rescuers around the country, and I still work with many of them.”

When Pregulman first started Seattle DogSpot, he didn’t plan to write about rescues and local jurisdictions about animal cruelty. “I naively didn’t know these problems existed,” he said. “It never crossed my mind. I still cover many happy, inspiring stories about the dog world, but I think it’s also critical to advocate for dogs and educate dog lovers about all aspects of the dog community in and around Western Washington.”

Pregulman’s no-holds-barred approach has included chronicling his own journey with his dog, Dylan, whose end of life was beautifully shared with the world. “The support from the community was amazing,” he said. “My posts about Dylan and our decision to let him go were far more popular than anything I’ve written; and the support and kindness people showed me during that difficult period was overwhelming. So were the hundreds of messages I’ve gotten (and still get) from other people sharing stories and pictures of beloved dogs they had to put down.”

After Dylan’s death, Pregulman’s family went through the Freedom Tails program at the Stafford Creek Corrections Center in Aberdeen to adopt a dog named Haley.

“A few years ago, I spent a day there observing offenders training dogs rescued from euthanasia at area shelters. I talked to them about the program and was so impressed with their work that when we were ready to adopt another dog last year, we went there – and learned that they had the exact dog we wanted.”

Learn more about Seattle DogSpot by visiting its website at www.seattledogspot.com.