Tuesday, October 30, 2012

USDA releases over 60 horrific dog breeding photos

Local watchdog group plans protests at
store’s five locations over the holidays

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has released over 60 kennel inspection photos taken at The Family Puppy’s suppliers. The Family Puppy is Michigan’s largest puppy retailer. Photos reveal horrific cramped conditions and nightmarish activities involving unlicensed surgeries. Puppy Mill Awareness of Southeast Michigan plans to warn the public with protests at the chain’s five locations this holiday season. 

Photos are published on the groups website.

The Family Puppy stores are located at the following malls: Genesee Valley Center located in Flint Mi; Fountain Walk located in Novi Mi; Green Oak Village Place located in Brighton Mi; Macomb Mall located in Roseville Mi; and Oakland Mall located in Troy Mi. The protest schedule can be found on the group’s Meetup calendar. Concerned citizens are invited to join the protests. 

“These photos are like scenes from a horror movie,” said Pam Sordyl, founder of Puppy Mill Awareness of Southeast Michigan. “Families looking for a puppy this holiday season should rethink spontaneous puppy purchases and always avoid puppy stores.”

According to a PetShopPuppies.org report, The Family Puppy has been shipping puppies from a mega mill, Brad D.S. & B.E. Grotewold located in Lake Mills, Iowa since 1998. The last known puppy purchased in 2011 was reported to have giardia, a bladder infection, be under weight, and very itchy. This puppy was delivered through a third party (broker) named Patrick Fulton. Fulton supplied two parvo puppies, a very deadly virus for puppies, this spring and investigated by The Michigan Department of Agriculture. 

Photos from Grotewold’s commercial kennel show a build up of dirt and grime on walls, severely rusted cages, chewed and warn surfaces, an excessive accumulation of feces and food waste in the furnace room and a large amount of maggots and flies. 

“These puppies are sick and underweight because they are coming from filthy puppy factories like Grotewold’s,” said Sordyl. “Since the public can not easily visit the parents located in distant states, we feel these photos are crucial to our group’s outreach campaign.”

In addition to these photos, USDA inspection reports can also be found online open to the public.

This year the store’s primary breeders had some serious direct violations to the Animal Welfare Act. Marlin Bontrager, from Rome City Indiana, is The Family Puppy’s top supplier of puppies. According to this summer’s federal inspection, Bontrager was caging 177 adult dogs and had two serious direct violations including not seeking veterinary care for a sick puppy. Suffering was prolonged by not taking the puppy to the veterinarian. In addition, the inspector also cited Bontrager for housing dogs in temperatures in the 90’s. Dogs were observed heavily panting and puppies were stretched out on the wire floor trying to stay cool. Bontrager has a history of violations going back to 2008 related to housing, shelter, primary enclosures, cleanliness, feeding and vet care.

“Our organization has reached out to the owners of The Family Puppy asking them to stop all orders from this kennel, he is clearly a repeat and chronic offender,” said Sordyl.

Devon Schrock, another of the store’s primary breeders, was cited for accumulations of grime and hair in the primary enclosures. This harbors diseases. In addition, Schrock’s drainage system was cited as the upper washdown was draining into a pen on the bottom where two dogs were exposed. There was hair and sludge accumulating.

“This is disgusting and would not meet the standards of the general public,” said Sordyl. 

The Puppy Mill Awareness Meetup is working to build awareness toward ending mass production of dogs in "puppy mills." The group’s public education campaign teaches the public about the origins of pet store puppies and lobbies for stronger laws for animal breeding.  

Monday, October 15, 2012

Watchdogging Puppy Stores that claim “Adoptions”

"The kittens arrive on Tuesday with the puppy deliveries" stated one employee.
Eyebrows were raised when The Family Puppy announced their All American Adoption Program around the same time they hired a public relations company in March of 2011.

Was the store trying to “look good” with the new campaign being launched against them in Flint? We scratched our heads wondering what this new program was really all about. How come there were not puppies “for adoption” in the store? You will be surprised at what we found out with a little survey.

Let’s start with the back story on this. First, The Family Puppy claims to have saved over 11,000 unwanted puppies and kittens, according to their website in October 2012. Wow, that is a lot of rescued animals and would surely make them look like heroes in the community. But wait, 11,000 animals would equal 785 pets a year. Detroit area animal shelters don’t even take in that many kittens per year at their individual shelters. How can that be possible when the store usually only has 3-4 kittens in the store at one time and sometimes no kittens at all?

This was the first red flag. 

Next, why was this All American Program not featured on their website for 10 years? When their newest store opened in Flint the store was asking for “unwanted” litters of puppies and kittens. They never mentioned their “All American Program” on these flyers. The store must have learned quickly that no one was going to just ‘give’ them popular small breed puppies. Even the shelters don’t have a surplus of puppies. Puppies simply do not stay puppies for long and are usually adopted out quickly. 

The store misleads the public by staying they are saving puppies.

When the Flint store opened in December 2009, Puppy Mill Awareness called in January to ask some questions about the Taking Unwanted Litters flyer posted in the store. We asked the manager about their claim that they "help adopt out unplanned litters to help overcrowding in shelters." The manager stated that the store adopted out 10,000 animals - mostly kittens - from unplanned litters. Ok, two years later they have increase their impressive number to 11,000. That would equal 500 per year. As a reference point, the Genesee County Humane society took in almost 600 kittens in one year. So is it possible for The Family Puppy to take in that many kittens when most people don’t even know they are ‘rescuing’ unwanted litters? Not the first place I would think to take my unwanted litter. 

The numbers just don’t add up. 

We decided to do a survey. 

Our initial survey in March 2011 showed that all five stores did not have any kittens and was offering only one dog that was actually a returned dog. A customer returned the dog. They were advertising this returned fixed beagle with prior health problems as an “adoptable” dog. He was 4-5 months old. On store did say they were expecting some puppies from their vet. They told me to check back in the spring for kittens. The Genesee County HS had 3 kittens and 40 cats available at that time. 

Why would the store not take in cats? For obvious reasons, they don’t SELL!

In October 2012, we completed another survey. This one revealed all five stores had young kittens available for $249. The price went way up from their initial prices back in 2010 of approximately $179. It appears the store decided to start fixing them before SALE. What I found most interesting was two stores actually had the exact date of births for the kittens. One store said they were not familiar with the program and the other employee in the store did not know about it either. All the stores stated they usually don't have unwanted litters of puppies available.

This is my favorite response - one store stated that the kittens arrive on Tuesday when the puppies arrive! So where are the kittens really coming from????

Survey Summary

~ Mostly kittens.

~ Kittens are also delivered with the puppies on Tuesdays! per Fountain Walk employee.

~ Only one puppy available for “adoption” during two surveys of five stores. This one dog was a returned purchase.

~ Employees stated they do not usually get in unwanted puppies.

~ Some employees were not familiar with the program.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Never, Ever Buy a Puppy From a Pet Store

Every pet shop will assure you, solemnly, that their puppies are different. Their puppies don't come from puppy mills, but from wonderful local breeders - pillars of the community, in fact. The reality is that no responsible breeder would ever place one of their puppies in a pet shop.
But my local pet shop says...

"We buy our puppies from responsible local breeders."

Yes, the employees are told to say that. Ignore it. Virtually all pet shop puppies come from commercial breeders and puppy mills, no matter what the employees say. And even if the commercial breeder or puppy mill is local rather than 300 miles away, what difference does that make? Irresponsible breeding practices are irresponsible whether the breeder lives in Timbuktu or just around the corner. The location makes no difference.

"We buy only from USDA-licensed breeders."

USDA stands for the United States Department of Agriculture. Their business is farming and livestock. The USDA knows little or nothing about dogs. As long as a breeder's paperwork is in order, the facilities are disinfected, cages are a (very) minimum size, and no infectious diseases are immediately obvious, the kennel passes.

The USDA has not the slightest interest in...

* whether the breeder knows anything about his breed

* whether the dogs used for breeding look like their breed

* whether the dogs used for breeding act like their breed

* whether the dogs used for breeding are free of genetic health problems such as hip dysplasia, eye diseases, or heart defects – all of which show up long after you buy the puppy.

A USDA license is not something that should reassure you. On the contrary, it is warning sign that a breeder is cranking out lots of puppies.


"Our puppies' health is guaranteed!"

Ah, yes. The wonderful pet store guarantee. This reassuring platitude is how pet shops try to get around the expenses of genetic health testing.

The pet shop offers to REPLACE unhealthy puppies – instead of seeking to prevent them in the first place by requiring their "wonderful" breeders to do genetic health tests on every parent dog used for breeding.

Let's look at this from the PUPPY'S point of view, shall we? Guarantees don't help a puppy at all. YOU get your money back, but the puppy still has to live with the health problem that might have been avoided if his breeder had been seeking to produce healthy lives instead of scrambling to keep his expenses down.

Pet shops aren't too worried about having to honor their guarantees, by the way.

* First, they count on your becoming attached to the puppy and being reluctant to return it. They know that most of us have soft hearts and would keep a sick puppy even if we're forced to spend a thousand dollars and heartbreaking months or years trying to nurse it back to health.

* Second, the guarantees are carefully written so that whatever your particular puppy develops probably isn't covered or you won't have all the "proper" documentation to prove it.

* Third, many genetic health problems don't show up for months or years. Either the guarantee has expired by then, or you're completely unwilling to give up a dog you've had that long.

My advice to you is to IGNORE everything pet shop people tell you. The pet store industry has sophisticated marketing manuals that teach pet shop owners and employees exactly what to say to persuade you to part with your money. Don't be gullible.

The Pet Shop Advantage

Oh, yes, pet shops do have advantages, which is why people buy from them in the first place.

Instant access to LOTS of puppies. Tracking down puppies from breeders and rescue groups takes time and effort. With less common breeds, you may find no current litters and your only option would be to put your name on a waiting list. Whereas the pet shop is just a short drive away and is open all day, six days a week. There are pet shops in neighboring communities, too. You just look them all up in the phone book and make the rounds until you find something you want. If they don't have the breed or color or

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Pet store refuses to accept diagnosis of parvovirus, orders puppy to die

Michigan’s largest puppy retailer is caught shipping in
urine stained, underweight and under aged puppies
 from puppy broker – vet quits
The Michigan Department of Agriculture has received multiple complaints involving The Family Puppy pet store related to a parvo outbreak and underage puppies resulting in discontinued vet services.

The Family Puppy pet store is located in the Genesee Valley Mall at 3341 S Linden Rd, Flint, Michigan.

Dr. Pinkston, of Swartz Creek Veterinary Hospital, who has been servicing The Family Puppy  since the store opened in 2009 put in his official notice to end the relationship on February 29, 2012. The Michigan Department of Agriculture workorder included an interview with Dr. Pinston stating “the puppies were coming in with urine stainings, unkept fur and underweight body conditions.” Pinkston was uncomfortable with the store working with brokers rather than breeders and the store owed him a large amount of money.

The relationship upbruptly ended after a pet store employee brought in a female Bichone Frise/Yorkshire Terrier mix  with diarrhea, lethargy, vomitting and anorexia. The puppy tested positive for parvovirus.

“Parvovirus is a very contagious and deadly disease that could cost $1,000 per night in veterinary costs to treat”, said Pam Sordyl, founder of Puppy Mill Awareness of Southeast Michigan. “Families who visit the store could bring this virus home to their own pets if the store is not quarrantined and disinfected properly”.

According to Dr. Pinkston’s report, John Stottele, the pet store owner refused to accept the diagnosis of parvious and ordered the puppy to be euthanized. Dr. Pinkston stated he felt Stottele was trying to dictate how to practice veterinary medicine.

The Michigan Department of Agriculture is currently investigating the store’s puppy shipments from out of state commercial breeders and brokers to ensure puppies are at least eight weeks of age.

History of Complaints

Puppy Mill Awareness of Southeat Michigan has been collecting complaints related to ill animals purchased at The Family Puppy. Over 70 complaints have been logged and 29 different type problems have been noted.

“The Michigan Pet Lemon Law SB 574, pending a hearing on the Senate Floor would protect consumers from purchasing ill dogs and cats from pet stores, breeders and dealers.” said Sordyl

Connection to Puppy Mills

Sordyl’s breeder investigation revealed that the Family Puppy has worked with breeders from Minnesota, Indiana and Ohio over the last three years. The store claims they pick-up and transport all of their puppies to the five store locations, yet over 170 puppies have been shipped from a broker/distributor, Patrick Fulton, in Minnesota with violations to the Animal Welfare Act, including selling puppies under age and insufficient floor space requirements.

“The female Bichon/Yorkie was brought into Pinkston’s office just under 6 weeks of age. It is illegal to sell puppies under eight weeks.” said Sordyl. “These dogs are coming off the truck sick because they are too young to be shipped from the Midwest. Their immune systems have not yet been developed”.

Pet stores, including The Family Puppy, will tell customers that they do not get dogs from puppy mills, but only mass-breeding facilities can fulfill the demand for retail pet store orders.

The Puppy Mill Awareness Meetup is working to build awareness toward ending mass production of dogs in "puppy mills." The group’s public education campaign teaches the public about the origins of pet store puppies and lobbies for stronger laws for animal breeding.