Have you been to your neighborhood pet store lately?
If you have, it’s very likely that something is missing – puppies and kittens for sale. Around the country, boutique pet stores are thriving by offering a variety of healthy food options, pet products, grooming, training and seminars aimed at keeping our pets healthy and happy for the long haul. They’ve not been put out of business by refusing to sell puppies and kittens.
In fact in Chicago, two boutique stores have been growing by leaps and bounds – Kriser’s and Bentley’s Corner Barkery. Neither have ever sold pets and both have done tons to support local rescues. Kriser’s started with one store in Chicago and now has 12 in Chicagoland, six in California, five in suburban Denver and two in Houston. Bentley’s as grown to five stores in Chicagoland.
A wide range of other pet stores have been successful with one or two locations also providing great products, their know-how and their support to the rescue community. These stores have a lot in common – they all work hard to know their market and make changes to keep their clients coming back.
They also don’t sell puppies and kittens and do host adoption events (some even foster in their store). They also have built a business on developing long-term relationships with their clients that keep them coming back. It’s not only helped their business model, it’s vital for survival.
Why is this so important?
In Chicago and Cook County, laws have been passed that will prevent pet stores from selling puppies and kittens obtained from commercial breeders. Those commercial breeders are puppy mills and kitten mills that put profit over the well being of the pets they produce. Breeding dogs and cats live in cages their whole life with little exposure to people (let alone play), poor diet and little to no veterinary care. There also are no breeding standards in the mill.
For years, a small number of stores in and around Chicago have been selling these dogs to consumers. They claim they come from great breeders, but often dogs are sick…they definitely are not the product advertised. They are coming from puppy mills. It’s a horrible mix of consumer fraud build on the backs of animal cruelty.
The Cook County ban was to start October 1…but it’s now on hold. In Cook County last week, three pet stores – Happiness is Pets in Arlington Heights, Petland in Hoffman Estates and Chicago Ridge - filed a lawsuit to prevent the county’s ban on the sale of commercially bred dogs and cats in their stores. They claim it messes with interstate commerce and will put them out of business.
Cook County officials agreed to delay the ban until the judge sorts out the arguments in the case. But, here’s the deal. Banning the sale of dogs and cats is not aimed at putting anyone out of business. Its goal is for these stores to change their business model – stop selling commercially bred dogs and cats and go humane by offering rescue animals.
It’s a model that does work and has worked right here in our community – Greg Gordon of Dog Patch Pet and Feed adopted out nearly 400 dogs last year and over 100 cats. His business is thriving. Alsip Nursery has switched to an adoption model at its two locations and their adoption numbers are growing and their pet department is thriving.
Outlawing the sale of pets from puppy mills won’t put stores out of business unless stores had little to offer to begin with. If you walk into a Happiness is Pets, what will you find – Puppies, lots of puppies, and very little product. If you walk into Petland, there do have a lot more choices but nothing like other boutique stores.
So, why puppies over product. The store is purchasing puppies from anywhere between $50 to a few hundred dollars a dog from brokers and breeders. They turn around and sell them as pure breeds for $800 to $2,000 a dog. You gotta sell a lotta kibble to hit those numbers.
The profit margin is huge and there is very little work involved in making big bucks. Big bucks off the backs of breeding dogs and big bucks off consumer fraud. And, many of the dogs sold for over a grand each are the new hybrids – something-poo or doodle, Chi-wienies and more. In rescues, there is a name for mixed breeds – mutts. Yes, they are making a fortune by selling mutts.
If you own a small business, you know that you must always be adapting and trying new things. Your model changes on a consistent basis. It’s a must to stay in business. You add and subtract products and services to continue to make a profit. And, you may be prohibited on what you can or can’t offer – its also part of doing business called obeying the laws.
You also know that fraud is illegal and will eventually get you. So, you adapt and work at it every single day. Consumer needs change and laws change but your business changes to go with the flow.
And, if you know any reputable dog breeder – and there are many out there – you know they don’t sell to pet stores. They work hard at making sure they uphold breed standards and are even more picky than many rescues on who purchases their dogs. Many of the dogs are raised in their home with human interaction, great food, lots of play and veterinary care. They make very little profit on any puppy they sell.
So, as the judge in Cook County gets ready to look into the pet store ban, I hope he realizes that the ban won’t be putting any pet stores out of business. Not good ones anyway. Just the stores that have been going for the bucks with little regards to their clients or the dogs.
It’s pretty simple.
Puppy Mill Awareness Day
Sunday is Puppy Mill Awareness Day around the country. Join The Puppy Mill Project for their educational March on Michigan Avenue in Chicago. The march steps off at noon in front of the Tribune building (just North of the River). And, fellow ChicagoNow blogger Steve Dale will be the emcee.
The grand marshals will be City Clerk Susanna Mendoza and County Commissioner John Fritchey– both were instrumental in passing the puppy mill bans in Chicago and Cook County. Come out and support the cause or come to learn why pet stores should not be selling puppies and kittens.
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