A few short weeks ago, Stacey Kranz didn't picture herself as an activist. Then, she purchased a puppy from Puppy Steps in Spring Hill Mall that was diagnosed with Giardia - a contagious parasite - she is now on a mission to educate fellow consumers about the connection between pet stores and puppy mills. And, the pet store that sold her the sick puppy will be closing at its current location on Sunday. Now, Kranz says her work has just begun.
Kranz's story is a bit different than other shoppers that have been duped by pet stores selling puppies. She's an experienced dog owner that has lived with rescue dogs most of her life. In fact, she told me that she never was a fan of pet stores and what they represent. And then, she walked into Puppy Steps on May 21.
"I don't know what drew me into the Puppy Steps, curiosity maybe," says Kranz. "Once I walked in and looked at Sadie, there was something that drew me to her. She really seemed to need me for some reason. She started sneezing when I was signing the paperwork. I didn't think much of it. After all, puppies do sneeze and I was a new person with new smells."
Where did these puppies come from?
Kranz says she asked the key questions about the origin of the dogs in the store and got the routine answer about puppies being hand picked from the best breeders. She added that the owner said she cared for the dogs like they were her own. So, she purchased the dog and signed the stacks of paperwork before bringing her home. A check of the paperwork revealed that the dog had come from Crane's Red Dog Kennel - a Missouri puppy mill.
"My heart just sunk when I read that. Within a few hours, I noticed she had diarrhea and then the next morning she appeared to have a full blown cold," says Kranz. "I had a free veterinarian appointment with the store's vet but decided I wanted our own family vet to take a look. He diagnosed her with an upper respiratory infection and found out she had Giardia, a very nasty parasite that is contagious and not easy to get rid of."
A call by Kranz to Puppy Steps Pet Store revealed that the puppy had been sick with a cold prior to adoption. Kranz suspects that the dog was loaded on antibiotics at the store so she wouldn't appear ill. She does say that Sadie was very calm for such a young puppy on the ride home from the store.
Kranz says the store owner blamed her for Sadie's illness because she "didn't take her to the designated vet." When she did follow up with that vet for vaccination records, she got nowhere because she chose to go to her own vet instead of the vet on retainer with the pet store.
"I'm so glad I went to someone I trusted. I found out that Giardia is very contagious parasite," adds Kranz."If healthy people are exposed, there is not a problem, but if a pregnant woman, an elderly person or someone with a compromised immune system or on chemo comes into contact...they can get very sick. We've kept her in our yard and limited her contact until we get the all clear."
The puppy mill connection
So, Kranz decided to speak up. She started researching puppy mills and connected with The Puppy Mill Project to get more information. She started to tell her story about her Puggle to anyone who would listen and also started an online petition to shut down the pet stores in her area that sell puppy mill dogs - Puppy Steps and Furry Babies.
"An estimated 78 percent of consumers do not realize that pet store puppies come from puppy mills," says Cari Meyers, founder of The Puppy Mill Project. "We hear this story over and over again about consumers being told that puppies were hand picked from reputable breeders. That just isn't the case - it's consumer fraud."
A member of the family
"When I look at Sadie, I realize that we were connected to each other for a reason and it's up to me to speak up for her and the other dogs," adds Kranz. "This whole puppy mill thing is ridiculous. We are a civilized society, yet we are selling living creatures that come from parents that are held hostage and never know what it's like to sit on a lap, get a treat or go on a walk. It's just wrong."
Even though Sadie was sick, Kranz said she took one look at the small, sick puppy and realized that she needed her family. Since the family had already been exposed, she brought home Sadie and went to work, fixing her home cooked chicken dinners to help her put on weight. She's quickly bonded with Kranz, her daughters and their rescued pit bull Toby, who has enjoyed having a little sister for a playmate.
"I'm sure she isn't the only dog that was sick in the pet store," says Kranz. "I've passed the information to the Department of Agriculture and the mall management. I've asked the store to get the word out. I've tried to get vaccination records from the store vet and they claim they don't keep them, which I find very odd. Shouldn't they have records of everything they do?"
She is waiting for Sadie to recover before taking her in to be spayed. Sadie had a hernia repaired at the puppy mill and it was also poorly done and will also need to be fixed. Kranz says there are other problems too. Sadie appears to be deaf and also appears to have some developmental problems that she's not seen in other puppies that she's raised.
"She just seems slower to catch on. We love her and we will continue to work with her," says Kranz who is reaching out to organizations that work with deaf dogs to learn more about what she needs to do . Unlike many people who purchased sick dogs, she's not been offered a refund, nor does she want one.
"It's a case of buyers beware. I really did know better," says Kranz. "I've decided to take this situation and use it to open up conversations with people who just don't know about puppy mills. Her story does get their attention. It breaks my heart to think of where she came from and how she was crammed in a crate with other dogs to get here."
Kranz has also started an online petition aimed at shutting down Puppy Steps and Furry Babies. Puppy Steps Pet Store's lease is up on Sunday and the store's lease is not being renewed by Spring Hill Mall. That particular location isn't new to pet stores though - it was once home to Furry Babies. That five store chain is now part of a consumer fraud suit for telling consumers the dogs they sell come from legitimate breeders when records show they all come from puppy mills.
"This goes beyond the cruelty of puppy mills to consumer fraud," says Meyers. The Puppy Mill Project was instrumental in getting that information together for this particular lawsuit. "When you go into pet stores, they tell you that dogs come from good breeders and that they are hand picked. They also say they are from USDA inspected operations. The USDA inspects commercial breeding facilities and they are generally puppy mills."
"The lawsuit is great and it does help make these stores accountable," says Kranz. "However, people are still shopping in pet stores. I would like it to be illegal to sell cats and dogs in pet stores. There are so many stores out there that are successful that have never sold cats and dogs and work to help adopt out homeless pets."
Puppy Steps last day at Spring Hill Mall will be Sunday. There is no word yet on if the store will resurface someplace else. In the meantime, Kranz continues to spread the word and pass her petition to close down Furry Babies as well. You may sign the petition here.
The Furry Babies Lawsuit
Learn more about the lawsuit filed against Furry Babies here. For more information about puppy mills and the pet store connection, check out The Puppy Mill Project's Website. There is a link there to check out pet stores and the source of their dogs. You may also follow them on Facebook.
To subscribe to my feed, type your email address in the box and click the "create subscription" button. My list is completely spam free and you can opt out at any time. You may reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org and also like my Raining Cats & Dogs Facebook page or follow me on Twitter.