Monday, April 29, 2019

Predatory pet leasing schemes in Michigan

In 2017, The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) issued consumer alerts through the Better Business Bureau and media outlets warning families about predatory financing practices, including “pet leasing” where the puppies are held as collateral. 

Financing options allow puppy stores to sell puppies to families who otherwise are not able to pay the full price. Depending on your credit history, you might end up "renting" your puppy.

Check the fine print!

When puppy buyers sign a lease agreement, the leasing company buys the puppy from the puppy store and retains ownership of the puppy until the customer makes all the monthly payments.

Puppy buyers can be easily misled by the financing language because the store employees do not understand the loan terms or simply desire to make the sale by glossing over them.  

The Family Puppy (Novi, MI) September 27, 2011
Photo Credit, Puppy Mill Awareness SE Michigan
Two Michigan pet stores offer pet leasing: The Barking Boutique (Grandville) and The Family Puppy (Flint, Troy, Novi), resulting in complaints filed with the BBB. 

Both stores advertised “My Pet Funding” last year as a financing option on their websites. 
The ad’s fine print read as follows: 


Now both The Barking Boutique and The Family Puppy stores advertise "Credova" on their websites. According to Credova's wesite, they are not actual lenders. The bottom of their website states:

"Credova provides a software platform for retailers to access third-party providers for lease-to-own financing and other lending products based on a consumer’s credit profile."

The Barking Boutique and Petland (Novi) puppy stores also offer high interest rate loans through Lending USA. 

According to a recent USA Today article “Pet leasing has been drawing scrutiny from lawmakers and animal welfare groups since media reports highlighted consumer complaints against Reno, Nevada-based Wags Lending, which pioneered the practice. Nevada and California have now outlawed pet leasing, and New York lawmakers are proposing legislation prohibiting lease contracts "where dogs or cats are used as collateral." 

In January, Florida joined the list of states with plans to ban predatory pet lending. The bill would require contracts to be voided if the pet could be used as collateral to ensure payments of the contract.

Even the American Kennel Club, a longtime supporter of the commercial dog breeding industry, opposes pet leasing:

“AKC supports a ban on predatory pet leasing schemes that victimize potential owners, undermine a lifetime commitment to a pet, and do not confer the rights and responsibilities associated with legal ownership of a pet.”

Bloomberg’s March 1, 2017 article “I am renting a dog” includes the most thorough coverage of this new tactic to help peddle puppies.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Letter to Twelve Mile Crossing at Fountain Walk

Twelve Mile Crossing at Fountain Walk, 44175 W 12 Mile Rd Novi, MI 48377
September 22, 2015

Dear Ms. Kaufman,

This letter is to inform you are we holding our annual Puppy Mill Awareness Day event in Novi again this year on September 27th with 27 other local organizations near the Fountain Walk. Last year, nearly 200 participants created a human chain along Novi Road to bring awareness to the very important social issue involving Michigan pets.

Puppy importation records show The Family Puppy, operating out of your shopping center, is shipping in puppies with diseases, illnesses and genetic issues and are still working with out-of-state commercial breeders. Read More:

“Puppy mills” and “kitten mills” are large scale commercial breeders that produce millions of animals every year for commercial sale without regard for the health and well-being of the animals. Pet stores selling live animals have traditionally been a sales outlet for young dogs and cats bred in puppy mills and kitten mills both within the United States and abroad. It is estimated that 10,000 puppy mills produce more than 2,400,000 puppies a year in the United States and that most pet store puppies and many pet store kittens come from puppy mills and kitten mills, respectively.

Responsible dog breeders belong to local breed clubs, which normally have a Code of Ethics that does not allow sales to pet stores. Good breeders have waiting lists and never a surplus of puppies. Responsible breeders take pride in their work and want to know where their puppies are being placed so they can re-home them if there are any problems. It is not feasible for large-scale commercial breeding operations to provide appropriate care to the animals because it would eliminate the profits these businesses seek. It is cost prohibitive to employ the number of people necessary to clean, perform maintenance, feed, exercise, socialize, bathe and groom the animals, as well as, to provide proper housing, space, food, water, supplies, and veterinary care. These operations are relying on as little expense and as much production as possible. The animals are sold as a commodity at auctions, to brokers, and to retail stores. There is no concern for the quality of life of the dogs. In itself, keeping a dog confined for its lifetime for the sole purposes of continuous breeding is cruel and inhumane.

According to our latest interstate shipping records, Steven Lehman (Middlebury, IN) has been a primary puppy supplier to The Family Puppy. In 2015, Lehman was cited for having expired medications, not seeking veterinary care for a senior (9 year old) breeding female with lumpy discolored breasts, leaving excessive hair and grime on feeling containers and leaving water with accumulated grime. Lehman has a history of similar violations to the Animal Welfare Act going back to 2009 and kennels from 16 to 39 adult dogs at one time. The USDA has not been able to inspect Lehman’s kennel annually. On many occasions, no one is available at the kennel when the inspector arrives.

Most families would never purchase directly from facilities like these, and the standards are far below what almost any person would consider acceptable.

In 2013, Lehman shipped 95 puppies to The Family Puppy stores and 17 (or 18%) of them had some genetic related item listed on their interstate shipping record as noted by the store’s veterinarian. The genetic items noted included unclosed soft spots on skulls, missing testicals, loose knee caps, and under bites. The Family Puppy should not work with irresponsible breeders that would ship animals with these conditions. The USDA standards are mostly ‘survival standards’. These standards are poorly followed and badly enforced. In 2010, the USDA’s Office of the Inspector General (OIG), the law enforcement arm of the agency, released a report criticizing the USDA’s long history of lax oversight of commercial dog breeders under the Animal Welfare Act. The report reviewed inspections and enforcement actions taken against dog dealers from 2006-2008 and found that USDA inspectors failed to cite or properly document inhumane treatment and brought little to no enforcement actions against violators.

We hope you address this problem and consider signing a Puppy Friendly Pet Store Pledge agreeing not to sell puppies or any live animals in Fountain Walk. Just last month, the Humane Society of the United States assisted the Gibraltar Trade Center, a large public market in Mount Clemens, Michigan, in implementing a “puppy friendly” policy. The market’s new policy does not allow any animal sales at all, but welcomes adoptable dogs, cats and birds from Macomb County Animal Control. Read more: Animal Control now offering open adoptions at Gibraltar 

I would be happy to speak with you about any concerns or questions you may have about converting your shopping center to a humane outlet for homeless pets, or puppy mills in general. I can also offer to help facilitate relationships with local shelters and foster-based rescue organizations to reduce the number of healthy pets euthanized in Michigan.

Pam Sordyl
Founder of Puppy Mill Awareness of Southeast Michigan

Monday, July 14, 2014

Human Chain through Novi

Let’s tell Novi to stop selling puppies from puppy mills! Join us to form a Puppy Mill Awareness Human Chain through Novi 

Novi is Michigan’s “Puppy Retail Capital” with two big box puppy stores. Petland is located in the Twelve Oaks Mall and is our nation’s largest retail chain importing an average of 80 puppies a month. The Family Puppy is located in Fountain Walk across the street and is our state’s largest retailer of puppies with three remaining stores. Learn more about their suppliers on our website.

Join us on Saturday, September 20, 2014 from 12:00 pm – 1:30 pm to form a Human Chain through Novi. Wear a red bandana. Rain or shine, so consider bringing a rain coat as it will be hard to hold an umbrella and hold hands.

Our goal is to have 300 people holding hands from the south end of the 96 overpass to the entrance of the Twelve Oaks Mall.  Participants are asked to stand on east side of road. Check-in near Denny’s or Famous Daves.

HOSTS: Puppy Mill Awareness of SE Michigan and The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS)

PRIMARY CONTACT:  Pam Sordyl 734-718-7100

CO-HOSTS:  If your organization, shelter or business would like to co-host this event, please send an email to, attention Pam Sordyl. Early notification requested by July 14th.  Co-hosting would only involve a few things:
  1. Your logo on our flyer and other event materials.
  2. Event promotion on your facebook, twitter and website. Very easy!
  3. Attend! Wear your organization’s t-shirt and a red bandanna.

The more organizations behind the event, the louder the message to the City Council and Mall Management. We want the mall to GO HUMANE and the city to prohibit the retail sales of puppies!


  • DO wear a red bandana.
  • DO wear your animal welfare organization’s t-shirt. If independent, wear a black or white shirt.
  • DO bring a rain coat, umbrella’s won’t work if we are holding hands!
  • DO NOT Bring your dog. Novi road is too busy and dangerous.
  • DO NOT Bring your own sign. We will provide them.
  • DO Park in designated parking areas.
  • DO NOT walk or park in Twelve Oaks mall parking lots. We have to stay on public property. For this event we will not need to cut across the mall property. The easement is approximately 20 feet from the road.
  • DO NOT go into either puppy store, before, during or after the event.
  • DO NOT block the footpath, so please make sure that you stay up against the east-side railing of the overpass and allow free passage of cyclists and pedestrians.
  • DO NOT pass out flyers. We will have approved literature and can not interfere with traffic.
  • DO NOT interrupt the flow of traffic.  Tell people to pull around near one of the check-in areas if they have questions.
  • DO NOT approach cars exiting the mall at the light.
  • DO be peaceful and do not engage with any opposition.
  • DO NOT respond to any taunts, verbal abuse or insults coming from passerbys - YOUR ADVERSE REACTION is what they want. We usually just wave as if they were supporting us!
  • DO obey police officers, no questions asked. Always cooperate even if you feel like something is unfair. We can always handle issues at the police station the next day. Direct officers to an event coordinator.
  • NOTHING is permitted to be put into the ground. We may have pre-approved banners, but they will need to be held.
  • NOTHING is permitted to be affixed to any part of the overpass, railings, or municipal signs.
  • NOTHING is permitted to be dropped or thrown from the overpass.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Is The Family Puppy closing stores?


Their Brighton location at the Green Oaks Village is definitely closed! Check out our store front photos.

Their Roseville location at the Macomb Mall has been closed for “maintenance” issues all week. The Mall Management stated they are having HVAC issues.

Over a year ago we learned The Family Puppy may be struggling in Brighton. Former employees were reporting reduced hours, layoffs and few customers.  This fall we learned that their veterinarian, Dr. Barbara Griffith, was servicing the store for free in exchange for referrals. In the past, the store actually paid their vets. Was this another sign the store was struggling? Possibly. In a 2012 statement to the Michigan Department of Agriculture, Dr. Pinkston, who was servicing their Flint store, stated he would no longer work with the store because of problems with animals coming in from out-of-state and the store had a huge debt and was unable to pay him.

We haven’t made it easy for The Family Puppy, Michigan’s largest retailer of puppies. We started protesting their Flint store in 2010 attracting regular media attention. After 70 protests in Flint, we extended the campaign to all the other stores with holiday protests in Novi, Roseville, Troy and Brighton. Every mall manager received an email stating why we were protesting. In 2012 we asked all the local SE Michigan Malls to pledge not to sell puppies or kittens including Green Oaks Village.

Our efforts at exposing the stores largest suppliers haven’t made it easy either. Box stores like The Family Puppy and Petland need big kennels or big brokers to keep the shelves stocked with 8 week old puppies. Marlin Bontrager (Rome City, In) went from almost 200 dogs to approximately 50 dogs after we broadcast photos of his USDA violations and brought the media to the Zoning meeting. Devon Troyer (Middlebury IN) stopped shipments after local media coverage of his kennel.

Combined with families learning about puppy mills and choosing to rescue instead, box puppy stores are no longer popular and will have a hard time opening new stores. Even high priced public relations firms can’t save them now.

We will be supporting the Toledo dog advocates in their campaign efforts and continue to educate families here in Michigan. Thank you everyone for all your hard work so far.

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.