For the past several years, a new business model has been evolving for one Naperville pet store. Ever since Dog Patch Pet and Feed decided to stop selling puppies to move to a humane model, the store has been experimenting with a rescue/adoption model aimed at saving lives without putting the store in financial distress.
Greg Gordon had been working toward a humane model - adoption instead of puppy sales - since he took over as owner of Dog Patch several years ago. However, he had a hard time gaining the trust of the rescue community to move the model forward 100 percent. Then, he connected with The Puppy Mill Project two years ago as protests were starting to become commonplace at other Naperville pet stores. The partnership opened the door to Chicago's rescue community and a new way of doing business.
Thanks to the support of The Puppy Mill Project and the rescue community and Gordon's on tenacity and passion, it appears that Dog Patch has finally hit that successful model. As of late last year, Dog Patch Pet and Feed has been working with Bernie Berlin and A Place to Bark, a non-profit that pulls dogs from high kill open access shelters in rural Tennessee and transports them to communities where they have a second chance at a happy life.
On Saturday from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m., this partnership will be celebrated with a special adoption event that includes Dog Patch, A Place to Bark (along with Berlin) and The Puppy Mill Project. Berlin has transported another vanload of dogs up for the adoption event…a group that includes six dogs recently saved from a puppy mill.
“We are using the event to educate the public about puppy mills and to promote what we do,” says Gordon. “Since the start of the year, we’ve adopted out over 250 dogs, all saved from high kill shelters. We count on the support of the rescue community and events like this remind them to shop where their cause is not just supported but where it is being lived each day.”
“What Greg has done at Dog Patch is a shining example of how the humane model should work,” says Cari Meyers, founder of The Puppy Mill Project. “We proud to have been able to help Greg and encourage those in the rescue community to continue to support his store. We are also happy to work with any pet store that wants to do the right thing and become a humane store.”
Dog Patch’s move has been very near and dear to Gordon’s heart. I’ve been talking to him since he made the announcement around Thanksgiving two years ago that his store would stop selling puppies. To say that he has become passionate about saving dogs since then is an understatement…he is all in and has been working to find the best way to save lives without breaking the bank at his store. That means that he's continued to tweak the model looking for success.
Initially, many of the rescues came from Chicago Animal Care and Control. The higher cost of vet care in our area combined with the fact that many of the dogs had lots of health issues, made this an expensive proposition for a for profit business. Then, one day Bernie Berlin walked into his store. She was looking for additional adoption partners for animals that she’s pulled from high kill, open access shelters in her community. Berlin is now working with Dog Patch in conjunction with her group - A Place to Bark.
Dogs and puppies are being pulled from Tennessee shelters and are spayed or neutered through a non-profit in that area. Gordon pays those costs, which are a fraction of what he’d pay here. Most of the dogs rescued from this area also haven’t had the health issues that plagued rescue efforts here.
Dog Patch is Naperville’s oldest pet store. They’ve had the reputation for a long time for having great customer service and for their outstanding knowledge of pet products – from food to toys to leashes and more - and their love and knowledge of all things puppy. In a community with three large stores getting negative publicity for selling puppies from puppy mills, Dog Patch truly is a shining example of what can happened when stores move away from puppy and kitten sales. It also shows that The Puppy Mill Project is about so much more than staging protests...it's about working together for animal rescue.
Gordon tells me that over 600 animals - dogs and cats - have been rescued and adopted out since he's moved to a humane model. For the record, his store was working with a Wisconsin shelter for decades to adopt out cats prior to his move to stop selling and start adopting puppies and adult dogs. His staff works closely with adopters to get a good match and does take dogs back into the program that don't work out.
I highly suspect that negative publicity will continue to grow for Furry Babies, Petland and Happiness Is Pets in the coming months as protests continue outside those stores and lawsuits against Furry Babies and Happiness Is Pets continue to move ahead in court. It's good to see that the other big pet store in the area - the independently owned and operated Dog Patch - continues to work to save more lives and do so much for rescues in our area.
That's why it's important for rescues and others to stop by on Saturday to see Dog Patch in action. And, it's vital that the rescue community support Dog Patch's work by shopping in the store and spreading the word. Follow the rescue efforts of Dog Patch, A Place to Bark and the work of The Puppy Mill Project on Facebook.
You can help support the educational and rescue efforts of The Puppy Mill Project at their next fundraiser - Miles for the Mothers in the Mills. The event is a walk and fun family (and dog) afternoon at Larry Fink Park in Highland Park starting at 10 a.m. on Sunday, October 20. Learn more in this story.
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