If you look at these photos from Reddit, you expect to see it connected to a story about dogs needing rescue from a hoarding or abusive situation. The pictures are not what you think. And, the dogs’ location would surprise many people. A customer of the Naperville Petland took the alarming shots.
It worked, in a way.
That person sent the photos to a friend in Ohio. He posted them on Reddit and reached out to The Puppy Mill Project to investigate. This prompted Dee Santucci of the organization to do something she normally doesn’t do, visit a pet store that sells puppies. It also triggered an inspection from the Illinois Department of Agriculture…he just happened to be conducting the inspection while Santucci was at the Naperville Petland.
“I was so upset before I went in there and I tried to be calm,” says Santucci. “I did have my camera and took pictures of the dogs. In person, the dogs were in just as bad a shape. There were two puppies with ribs showing but the dog with an apparent broken tail in the photo had been sold according to a store employee.”
Because she came into the Naperville Petland with a camera, Santucci said that she expected to be escorted out. She ended up having a conversation with Adam Stachowiak, the owner of the Naperville Petland. She asked to see information on all the breeders and was shown just the information on the Weimaraner. That paperwork showed that the pup had been in the store for about 3 weeks, which prompter her to wonder why the pup was so thin, but she hasn’t received an answer as of yet.
“It’s the same old story that most pet stores tell you,” she said. “They say that they select their breeders and they know whom they are working with. He showed me a picture book from the breeders and said that he looks for places with exercise runs. All the pictures, however, looked like they were pulled from the Internet and did not show the kennels or how many dogs were at that kennel.”
“Most looked like so many other puppy mill situations – even the best one isn’t the best place for a dog to be,” she added. “If you put together a list of what it takes for a dog to be healthy and happy, these puppy mills do not provide things on that list."
Meanwhile, the inspection from the department of agriculture wrapped up. Even with the emaciated dogs on site, the Naperville Petland passed inspection without any violations. The breeder information also was not visibly displayed on or near the cages as required by the Illinois Pet Store Disclosure Act, but in a binder. According to the act, consumers shouldn’t have to ask to see the information.
“These puppies and their parents are classified as livestock under the USDA and are NOT protected under companion animal laws,” says Santucci. “They fall under the Animal Welfare Act, which is inadequate but legal. This is a multi-billion dollar business with a strong lobby.”
How is the Animal Welfare Act inadequate? For example, the AWA outlines that animals need adequate water, but doesn’t say that it needs to be clean, safe or fresh. Adequate food is mandated, but it doesn’t have to be healthy. The cage that the dogs spend their entire life in must be 6-inches bigger than the dogs stands tail. The list of adequate goes on.
“Our best shot at helping these animals is to raise public awareness,” adds Santucci. “Around 70 percent of consumers that were surveyed recently didn’t know about puppy mills or their connection to pet stores, the Internet, markets, newspaper ads, even out of the back of vehicles. Protests are one way to educate the public.”
Santucci has organized protests of Petland and Furry Babies on behalf of The Puppy Mill Project. The next protest will be on Sunday, August 25 from noon until 2 p.m. at the the Westfield Mall in Aurora. There's also another protest scheduled for August 10th from noon until 2 p.m. at the Stratford Mall in Bloomingdale.
The peaceful protests conducted are open to anyone who wants to participate. The protests educate and also send a message that the animal advocates don’t want the puppies sold in their town.
Note – After this story broke, a Saturday protest was scheduled for Petland and 18 protesters attended (see photo).
Pet store puppies
“I had a difficult night after seeing the puppies in Petland. I kept picturing the thin, Weimaraner who looked at me with the saddest eyes, just begging to be rescued,” says Santucci. “I see why people feel like they need to purchase these dogs. I know people think they are 'saving' the puppy, but in reality they are rewarding the pet profiteers and creating demand, which will create more supply. A new shipment of puppies came in Wednesday that would not be coming in if people would stay out of the pet stores.”
”It's not just about the puppies. I've also seen the conditions the breeding parents are in and it is even worse. No walks, no beds, no toys, forced to eliminate where they live, no families to play with or love them. What happens to these breeding dogs when the mills are done with them? The puppies at least have escaped the mill and have a chance.”
Santucci points out that she and other volunteers from the advocacy organization hear from people frequently that bought a pet store puppy. Those dogs come with AKC papers, which are no guarantee of health or quality breeding. Puppy mill puppies get all kinds of “papers,” even though their parents have numerous hereditary issues.
Private breeders would never sell through a pet store or over the Internet. In the case of the puppies that Santucci investigated, the store paid $400 and was selling them for $2,000 while misleading consumers on the health and origin of the puppies. Earlier this summer, The Puppy Mill Project facilitated a consumer fraud lawsuit that was filed against another suburban pet store chain – Furry Babies – for selling sick dogs and claiming their dogs came from reputable breeders when they came from puppy mills.
The Puppy Mill Project is working with pet stores to move to a humane model – offering pets for adoption instead of pet sales. Dog Patch Pet and Feed successfully made that change November of 2011. Santucci talked to Petland’s owner about making the same move there. He points to an unsuccessful attempt at going humane at his Wheaton store, which has since closed, as to why the store isn’t moving to an adoption model again anytime soon (see letter).
The Puppy Mill Project is a consumer advocacy organization that educates the public about puppy mills and their connection to pet stores and online pet sales. Learn more about The Puppy Mill Project online and on Facebook. Another great consumer resource is Pupquest, a site created by veterinarians to help consumers searching for a healthy puppy. For more information on how you can help, contact Dee Santucci at email@example.com.
If you'd like to read an updated story about Dog Patch, please go here and share.
Writers note: Some animal welfare volunteers went into Petland this afternoon and the emaciated puppies are gone. We have no information if they'd been sold or just hidden someplace. We'll keep you updated on developments. You may also email the department of agriculture at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (217) 782-2172 and ask for Regina Burris or Dr. Ernst.
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