Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Toledo City Council hears debate on proposed pet sale regulations

TOLEDO -- Toledo's City Council heard arguments Tuesday for and against a proposal that would regulate the "sale of dogs and cats" by retail businesses. 

Both sides were represented at the forum, but those in favor of the legislation were the majority of those in attendance.  

Supporters say it would help ensure that unknowing consumers do not buy animals that may have come from puppy mills. 

Some believe the measure would also encourage those looking for a family pet to seek out animals in shelters, where they are in the care of rescues and local humane societies. 

Several of the animal advocates in attendance contend that the Franklin Park Mall's "Family Puppy" store gets their "product" from puppy mills. 

It's an accusation that the owner of the store has denied numerous times and did so again during his comments before City Council members. 

READ: "The Family Puppy" prepares to open at Westfield Franklin Park Mall 

"If you pass this ordinance, what will happen is the families that would come to our store, that want a good source, that want somebody that has gone to the breeder that is a good source, they will go somewhere else," Family Puppy owner John Stottele said Tuesday.

Animal advocate and founder of a Lucas County dog rescue, Jean Keating told City Council she researched "The Family Puppy" background and found otherwise. 

"I gave you a packet about a week ago that had some actual data in it, from 3 of the major suppliers of [The Family Puppy]. I think you can see the USDA is a government agency and they come in about once a year to these facilities," Keating said of the conditions reported at the suppliers. 

Keating also pointed out that the ordinance would do more to help keep animals safe than to hurt local businesses. 

According to Keating, around 30 percent of dogs are still euthanized by the Lucas County Dog Warden despite efforts to get as many adoptable pets into loving homes as possible.  

The proposal, which would allow the adoption of "companion animals" from certain groups, would also take a stand against puppy mill practices. 

City Council could vote on the ordinance as early as next Tuesday.


Sunday, October 6, 2013

Demonstrators speak out against new store in mall

Demonstrators speak out against new store in mall

About 70 Toledo area residents protested at the Westfield Franklin Park Mall on October 5, 2013. The mall signed a new lease with Michigan’s largest chain and supplier of puppy mill dogs – The Family Puppy. The store has a history of working with bad commercial breeders with violations to the Animal Welfare Act. Even when the federal inspector tells them to treat an animal in pain in suffering, they ignore the inspector. These breeders do not listen to The Family Puppy – they don’t’ care about their standards. The store ends up dropping the breeder because we exposed them, not because of the violations.

Contrary to The Family Puppy’s claim that “we only use breeders that will meet our standards, and those standards are above those of the Animal Welfare Act”, 14 of the 16 primary suppliers have been cited for violations to the Animal Welfare Act and many have been chronic offenders.  Some violations include shelters with temps exceeding 87 degrees, excessive feces, no heat, unlicensed personnel performing surgeries, unattended bite wounds, poor ventilation, feet dangling in wire floors, dirty dogs, accumulated grime and lack of veterinary care.

The Family Puppy states they know how to screen a breeder because the co-owner has “been working with breeders for 35 years”, yet neither owner carries any professional credentials in the fields of animal husbandry and disease control.  The majority of Indiana USDA Licensed breeders - who on average, house 52 animals with 8-16 different breeds - also lack professional credentials in these fields.

According to recent inspection reports, two primary suppliers for The Family Puppy are not adhering to directives from federal inspectors or following rules as mandated under the Animal Welfare Act (AWA):

  • In 2012, The Family Puppy’s largest supplier, Marlin Bontrager of Rome City IN, was cited for direct veterinary care violations and when the inspector returned there were six more violations including more veterinary care related violations.

  • Two other main suppliers, Lavern Whetstone of Goshen IN and Verlyn Weaver of Topeka IN, were cited for not seeking veterinary for animals that were in pain and suffering. Whetstone was told by the federal inspector to seek veterinary care and the kennel instead had a “non-professional” remove the membrane of a dog with cherry eyes. Weaver was cited for a pregnant dog with a build up of thick dark crust on her teeth. The store continued to work with both breeders despite these continued violations. 

Jean Keating from the Ohio Coalition of Dog Advocates is leading the campaign to block The Family Puppy from expanding in Toledo. Here is a link to her interview with Channel 24 at the protest. 

Michigan Pet Stores Linked to “Horrible Hundred” Breeder List

Michigan Pet Stores Linked to “Horrible Hundred” Breeder List
Five on the HSUS’s list of problem puppy mills sold puppies to Petland and The Family Puppy

CONTACT: Pam Sordyl, (734) 718-7100,

Novi, Mich. – Puppy Mill Awareness of Southeast Michigan announced today that two Michigan pet stores receive puppies from substandard breeding facilities listed in a recent report by the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) in May. In May,
The HSUS’s “Horrible Hundred” report lists 100 problem puppy mills, based on the conditions documented in publicly available inspection reports and on evidence obtained during HSUS research and investigations. According to interstate transport records, Petland in Novi and The Family Puppy in several east Michigan locations received puppies from five of the breeders on that list between 2009 and 2012.

Michigan consumers need to know where these puppies are coming from,” said Pam Sordyl, founder of Puppy Mill Awareness of Southeast Michigan. “The cute displays in pet stores don’t tell the whole story—that those sweet puppies may have come from horrific conditions in a puppy mill far away.”

Petland is located in The Twelve Oaks Mall in Novi. The Family Puppy pet store operates five locations in the Detroit Metro area: Genesee Valley Center in Flint, Fountain Walk in Novi, Green Oak Village Place in Brighton, Macomb Mall in Roseville, and Oakland Mall in Troy.

The Family Puppy received shipments of puppies from Marlin Bontrager of Rome City, Indiana a large-scale breeder. Shipping almost 250 puppies to The Family Puppy stores in 2011, made him the largest single supplier to the pet store chain. Bontrager made the Horrible Hundred list after multiple violations of the federal Animal Welfare Act, including repeat veterinary violations.
Petland Novi received shipments from four of the Horrible Hundred puppy mills between 2009 and 2012:
o       Darlene and Charlene Koster/Rainbow Ranch Kennel in Minneapolis, Kansas: Received an official warning from the USDA for violations of the Animal Welfare Act.
o       Kimberly Coleman/TLC’s Kennel in Clinton, Missouri: Fined $8,250 by the USDA for violations of the Animal Welfare Act
o       Ervin Raber/Golden View Kennels of Baltic, Ohio: Cited for “Potentially Devastating” violations of the Animal Welfare Act for the presence of zoonotic disease and sick and injured dogs.
o       Daniel Schlabach/Evergreen Designer LLC in Charm, Ohio: Cited for several violations of the Animal Welfare Act.
The case of a puppy from the last breeder on the above list, Daniel Schlabach/Evergreen Designer LLC of Charm, Ohio, demonstrates the hereditary health problems often associated with puppy mill dogs. In 2011, newlyweds Rod and Lindsey Rebhan purchased an Australian shepherd puppy named “Jack” for $1,000 from Petland Novi. “We considered Jack to be our first baby, our little boy," said Lindsey Rebhan. About a month after being purchased, Jack had his first seizure. After 25 seizures over the next four months, the Rebhans made the difficult decision to have him euthanized. Because Jack's epilepsy was so severe, his veterinarian said that the condition was probably hereditary. Petland Novi eventually refunded the sale price of the dog, but did not reimburse the Rebhans for the veterinary bills.

Lindsey Rebhan said that if they had seen the “Horrible Hundred” report they would not have gone to the pet store to purchase him. Photos of the kennel taken on November 2, 2011, show a dog with scabs and ulcerations on his muzzle; an underweight dog; four dogs with diarrhea; dirt and hair buildup in den boxes; two dogs with raw skin on their paws; a dog with a cloudy left eye; and a dog with a runny nose and a cough.

In the May 9, 2013 press release about the “Horrible Hundred” report The HSUS called on authorities to more closely monitor these and the thousands of other facilities across the country, and urged state legislators to pass stronger laws to protect dogs in puppy mills. Most of the 100 facilities on the list have been cited repeatedly by federal or state inspectors for violations such as injured and sick dogs who had not been treated by a veterinarian, animals left in the freezing cold or blistering heat without protection, filthy conditions, and, in some cases, operators who performed surgeries on dogs without a veterinary license or shot and killed unwanted dogs.

There is currently no state law to regulate dog breeding facilities in Michigan or to protect consumers who purchase sick animals from pet stores or breeders. To address this oversight, Senator Steve Bieda (D-Warren) and Senator Rick Jones (R-Grand Ledge) have introduced the “Puppy Protection Act,” S.B. 117 and 118, to establish guidelines for housing, sanitary conditions, enclosure space, exercise, and veterinary care of dogs in all large-scale breeding kennels in Michigan, including those who sell puppies to pet stores and directly to the public. Senators Jones and Bieda have also introduced the “Pet Lemon Law,” S.B. 348, to alleviate burdening veterinary bills for dogs purchased from pet stores or breeders who turn out to have health problems. Both pieces of legislation are awaiting their first hearing in the Senate Agriculture Committee.

To learn more about the Horrible Hundred report, visit

Puppy Mill Awareness of Southeast Michigan is working to end the mass production of dogs in commercial kennels, or "puppy mills.” Our mission is to educate the public about the cruel cycle of commercial dog breeding and the pet store link. Read more at

More photos available on request.


Friday, January 4, 2013

The Family Puppy's Breeder in the Hot Seat

The Family Puppy had to drop another top supplier due to our campaign efforts. So much for having standards in place that the store can't enforce. If you haven’t been reading our Facebook postings, you missed all the media stories yesterday on our Noble County campaign targeting The Family Puppy’s big puppy farmer – Marlin Bontrager. Meeting photos on our meetup.

The Zoning Board of Appeals meeting lasted four hours and drew in 115 people, three tv stations and a couple local Noble County newspapers.

Six kennels were in the hot seat for not having their kennel permits, but the spotlight was on Mr. Bontrager. The news reporters turned on their camera’s for this young Amish man’s plea for 200 adult dogs. Not one board member seemed to be alarmed at the number of dogs he was requesting and no one asked about animal welfare conditions. However, the Zoning Administrator made sure the board knew that the kennel was “clean” for his announced visit.

Bontrager not only faced a row of cameras, but a photo display next to the board of his neglected dogs standing on wire floors over their own feces and urine with painful eye conditions. I brought enlargements for the room to see. 

Unfortunately the BZA board would only limit speakers in opposition to those that lived within ½ mile from the kennel. This is not normal protocol in other Indiana counties. Luckily, on Saturday before the meeting, I visited 15 of Bontrager’s neighbors. Many were Amish, some sharing the same name. So guess what? They were in support of their fellow Amish neighbor. I was able to snag two signatures and left packages for the rest including some embarrassing photos of his filthy kennels. You know how nose neighbors enjoy hearing these things. Maybe they will discourage him from embarrassing their community more.

It was disappointing that the BZA board selected their own items from the Comprehensive County Plan that would demonstrate how the kennel fits well into the community – It is a niche market! We could have made strong case as to why it does not fit. So the BZA could have looked at more than land use, but they choose not to. 

The BZA review process admittedly took no consideration of humane treatment of animals, compliance with laws - locally, at the state level - or federal (one petitioner claimed USDA oversight, yet USDA confirmed earlier in the day they are NOT licensed), nor the opinions, data, facts, or concerns from anyone in Noble County outside of those who live adjacent to the petitioners.

Overall, we still did an amazing job with what we ‘could do’ in the short time frame. We found out about the kennels coming forward mid December!

The petition was a huge tool - getting over 800 signatures and many included emails so we could send updates and invite locals to the meeting. We also were able to get 13 neighbors to sign in opposition.