How to End Puppy Mills & Brokers – Starting with Tom Collins

Heartbreaker, soul-shaker I’ve been told about you
- Nazarath

puppies

I feel as if I can legitimately call myself an animal advocate.   I’m not vegan – I have dog hair in every meal. #ShepherdLife

 

But still, I will help an animal in need, and speak for those who have no voice.  Right now the focus for me is puppy mills, and their slimy colleagues, puppy mill brokers and puppy mill flippers.

Puppy Mill Flipper (n): A person who knowingly goes into a puppy mill to purchase a  puppy with the intent of flipping the puppy for profit.  See also Tom Collins and Pick of the Litter.

So recently I (kinda) met The Man.  Tom Collins.  He showed up to the council meeting on October 1 to defend his actions. To bring you up to date, there have been many grievances filed against Tom Collins and Pick of the Litter, which were eventually brought to my attention.  I wrote an open letter to him, asking to hear Tom’s side of the tale (tail?) but I never heard back. So after doing some research, I held the first protest against his establishment on January 2017 (to all 35 of you who stayed 2 hours outside protesting in 11 degree weather: thank you,and I’m so sorry!)

I froze my tauntauns off!!

I froze my tauntauns off!!

We’ve had subsequent protests where we have fried in the heat, frozen again, and then finally had nice weather, but let me ask this:  who goes to these events, in this kind of weather, missing Game of Thrones, to protest a pet store?

Dedicated animal lovers do.  It’s not fun for us.  It kinda sucks.  But we develop a solidarity. We know why we are here: for the animals.  So we suck it up.  Just as we did tonight (though I wizened up and moved the meeting to City Council…indoors!).

#Solidarity.  No, literally, we were frozen solid. #YetWePersisted

#Solidarity. No, literally, we were frozen solid. #YetWePersisted

So we took it to Strongsville City Council.  First, I would like to thank Council.  It seemed to me that they took our grievances quite seriously.  Strongsville Law Director, Neal M. Jamison addressed our concerns and made note that due to legislation HB60 (“Goddard’s Law”) passing back in 2016, City Council’s hands were tied with regard to regulating puppy mills and brokers, as governance had remanded to the state level.  He also made note that Tom Collins & Pick of the Litter had been visited by Animal Welfare over 20 times in the last year, yet has found no violations.  Well, things have changed since a year and a half ago.

HB 506 passed this year, governing the regulations for how the dogs are to be treated.

Cage Space:
- Ceiling must be at least 6 inches higher than the dog’s head
-Floor space should be length of dog, tip-to-tail,  plus 9 inches, squared, x 2.  We had Sheldon do the math for you.

 

For dog below, that would be roughly 15.12 sq. feet of floor space.  Doesn’t look like he’s getting it.

pitbull pol

 

Exercise:
Daily exercise of at least 30 minutes, given opportunity for mental stimulation and socialization, and run at full stride during daylight hours.

I spoke with a former employee (Tom calls them “volunteers”) of Pick of the Litter, who, under condition of anonymity, stated:

“Tom didn’t like the dogs to run around.  They were kept mostly in the cages at all times. He didn’t allow volunteers to take the dogs out to play.”

Finally, and most importantly under Ohio’s new animal welfare law, H.B.506:

-Prior to purchasing a dog, broker [Pick of the Litter/Tom Collins] MUST request breeder sign document stating compliance with standards of care established.  If breeder doesn’t supply documentation, broker shall not purchase dog. Documentation available for inspection during store hours. Effective immediately.

There was absolutely no documentation available.  No standards of care, no inspection availability, regardless of which employee was asked.

So let’s delve deeper.

Rescue vs. Pet Store

Tom Collins keeps stating that he “rescues” dogs. Let’s see what HB506 has to say about that (emphasis added):

“Animal rescue for dogs” means an individual or organization recognized by the director of agriculture that keeps, houses, and maintains dogs and that is dedicated to the welfare, health, safety, and protection of dogs, provided that the individual or organization does not operate for profit, does not sell dogs for a profit, does not breed dogs, does not sell dogs to a dog broker or pet store, and does not purchase more than nine dogs in any given calendar year unless the dogs are purchased from a dog warden appointed under Chapter 955. of the Revised Code, a humane society, or another animal rescue for dogs. “Animal rescue for dogs” includes an individual or organization that offers spayed or neutered dogs for adoption and charges reasonable adoption fees to cover the costs of the individual or organization, including, but not limited to, costs related to spaying or neutering dogs.

Sorry, Tom. You're a pet store/broker

Sorry, Tom. You’re a pet store/broker

Average cost of a puppy is $1,000 at Pick of the Litter. Sorry, Tom.  Pick of the Litter is a pet store, not a rescue.

“Pet store” means an individual retail store to which both of the following apply: the store sells dogs to the public; and with regard to the sale of a dog from the store, the sales person, the buyer of a dog, and the dog for sale are physically present during the sales transaction so that the buyer may personally observe the dog and help ensure its health prior to taking custody.

Falsified medical records given by Pick of the Litter, as presented and taken into record during the Strongsville Council Meeting on October 1, 2018, show that the animals’ health conditions are not being observed and recorded, as required as a pet store.

Dog Brokers

Tom Collins claims he is not a dog broker:

“Dog broker” means a person who buys, sells, or offers to sell dogs at wholesale for resale to another or who sells or gives one or more dogs to a pet store annually.

If Tom is buying the dogs through various puppy mills (it’s okay, though, folks; he shops only at local puppy mills), that means Tom is the broker who is then selling as an entity, Pick of the Litter. Tom is the broker.  Pick of the Litter is the pet store. So how does HB506 apply to brokers?

Sec. 956.03. (A)(9)(a) States that:

A requirement that an in-state retailer of a puppy or adult dog provide to the purchaser the complete name, address, and telephone number of all high volume breeders, dog retailers brokers, and private owners that kept, housed, or maintained the puppy or adult dog prior to its coming into the possession of the retailer or proof that the puppy or adult dog was acquired through an animal rescue for dogs, animal shelter for dogs, or humane society, or a valid health certificate from the state of origin pertaining to the puppy or adult dog;

 

I’m sorry, Tom.  You have yet to identify from whom you’ve purchased your dogs (aside from identifying them simply as “in-state breeders”). You mean like these? Nine of the worst puppy mills in the country are located less than a 45 minute drive away from Tom’s house.

ohio-webPhoto Credit: Bailing out Benji

Section Sec. 956.041.

(B) A dog broker or the owner or operator of a pet store that seeks to purchase a dog from an in-state high volume breeder or out-of-state dog breeder, prior to completing the transaction, shall request the breeder to sign a document prescribed and provided by the director of agriculture. The document shall state that the in-state high volume breeder or out-of-state dog breeder is in compliance with the standards of care established in rules adopted under section 956.03 and in section 956.031 of the Revised Code. The broker or owner or operator shall keep and maintain the signed document. If the in- state high volume breeder or out-of-state dog breeder does not provide the signed document, the broker or owner or operator shall not purchase the dog. The broker or owner or operator shall allow the director to inspect the signed document during normal business hours. With respect to a pet store, the requirements established under this section are in addition to the requirements established under section 956.20 of the Revised Code. (C) No dog broker or owner or operator of a pet store shall knowingly sell a dog unless the broker or owner or operator has obtained a signed document with respect to the dog as required under division (B) of this section. The director shall not assess a civil penalty under section 956.13 of the Revised Code against a dog broker or the owner or operator of a pet store for a violation of this division if the broker or owner or operator has obtained such a document with regard to the dog.

Which is legal-speak for, “Where did you get your dogs from again, Tom?”  For a complete break down of how the new law affects dog brokers, pet stores and “puppy mill flippers”, like Tom Collins, please check out this link.

So how do we solve this little problem?  A few ways.

1) Contact the Department of Agriculture. Like, now. Let them know that Pick of the Litter is non-compliant with regard to the information above.  Demand inspection. Send letters, emails, carrier pigeons or even owls!

Whatever it takes:

Office of Chief Legal Counsel
8995 E. Main Street
Reynoldsburg,Ohio 43068
Phone: (614) 728-6430
Fax: (614) 995-4585

2) Contact Strongsville City Council, as well as the Mayor’s office.  Find out why they are allowing pet stores in their city, whom they know are breaking the law.

The City of Strongsville
Attn: City Council
16099 Foltz Parkway
Strongsville, Ohio 44149
440 580 3100
Email(s)
michael.daymut@strongsville.org,
ann.roff@strongsville.org,
kelly.kosek@strongsville.org,
gordon.short@strongsville.org,
jim.carbone@strongsville.org,
matt.schonhut@strongsville.org
city@strongsville.org

3) Contact Southpark Mall, and demand to know why they allow puppy mill brokers and pet stores selling puppy mill dogs to do business within their mall. Let them know publicly, via reviews, that we will not do business at establishments that allow for animal abuse.

Southpark Mall
c/o Starwood Retail Managers
500 SouthPark Center
Strongsville, OH 44136
(440) 238-9199

So in short, protests bring a lot of attention to situations like Tom Collins and Pick of the Litter, but at the end of the day, not all of us are willing/able/crazy enough to protest outside in all kinds of weather.  The way to shut these establishments down can be as simple as one phone call.  One email.  One review.  Let them know this won’t be tolerated anymore, and that we demand better. And we will fight for it.

-  For more information on puppies and puppy mills, read this.

- For information about AKC and breeding practices, read this.

- For information on why puppies suck anyway and you should adopt an older dog instead, read this.

keep

 

Kerry Stack
Darwin Dogs
Dog Training in Cleveland Ohio

 

Nailed It – The Art of (not) Cutting Your Dog’s Nails

Photo: Ruby Schmank @rubyschmank

Photo: Ruby Schmank
@rubyschmank

Knowing others is wisdom, knowing yourself is Enlightenment.

- Lao Tzu

Nail cutting time.  My favorite. If given the choice between cutting Sparta’s nails and skipping voting on mid-terms this year…I’m going to still fucking vote!!! Are you crazy?! Register!

Seriously, though, there’s nothing I hate more than cutting Sparta’s nails.  Her nails are black.

 

 

I’ll admit, I was even terrified to cut my kids’ nails when they were little.  Unfortunately, I had a bad experience with my first dog, Darwin.  He had black nails as well, and the first time I tried to cut his nails, I cut a little too deeply.

 

It was awful, and it scarred me forever.  Looking back, I barely nicked him, and literally a drop of blood came out, but still, I was traumatized for life.  So for the rest of Darwin’s life, he went to get his nails trimmed at a groomer. Same thing with Orion and Sparta.  Now here’s the problem, though.  I have plenty of clients who would tell me that their dog was terrible about getting their nails trimmed, getting all Cujo on them.  They would ask while I was there if I could show them how to do it safely.  Sure thing!

I would Pilot  the dog, moving slowly, but confidently. I would take the clippers in my hand, continuing to maintain calm.  I take the dog’s paw in my hand, position the clippers on the dog’s nail…

“And then you cut”, I would say.  But here’s the rub. I never would actually cut the nail myself because I was terrified.  In my mind, my rationale was that my clients weren’t having problems cutting the nail, it was cutting the nail without being shredded by their dog that was the issue. I didn’t want to project my on neurosis onto them, so I faked it.  My clients would always take the clippers from me, Pilot their dogs as I had just shown them, and then actually cut the dog’s nails.  Voila!  Mission accomplished.

However, something about it didn’t sit right with me.  Yes, technically I solved their problem, and they were happily cutting away at their dog’s nails, but I felt awful that I couldn’t make that leap myself.  So a few months ago, I became determined to do it.

I grabbed my clippers and had Sparta in a down position on my floor.  I grabbed my clippers and headed towards her holding her paw out.

Yeah…she kinda sensed there was a slight problem.

 

Now here’s the thing: I have Piloted Sparta through some pretty terrible things.  For example, when she was 11 months old,she tore her ACL.  The examination by her vet was pretty rough and painful.  Her vet took her leg, and gently moved it, causing Sparta to jump up in pain, swing around, and pretty much ask if she could bite the vet.

My answer was “no”.

Remember, Sparta was in pain, and she was asking if she could hurt the vet to make him stop hurting her.  I obviously knew that the exam was indeed necessary to help her heal.  Yes, it hurt my heart to tell her that the vet was allowed to hurt her, but she accepted my answer.  Because I accepted my answer. I had complete faith and trust in my answer, and was able to convey that to her.  She calmed down, accepted the exam, and was set on the road to recovery.

But this was different.  I was still terrified of hurting her.  And she knew it.  I was acting differently.

We’ve secretly replaced your regular Pilot with Nervous, Shaking, Train-Wreck Pilot.  Le’ts see if Sparta notices.

Oh, yes, she figured it out right quickly, but I kept pushing on, ignoring the body language she was giving me. I had neglected to adhere to my own training rules:

1) Control yourself; and

2) Control the situation.

But I was plodding along like a dolt, ignoring the fact that Sparta was absolutely terrified.  Suddenly I realized what was happening.  Sparta was actually going to bite me, and I had been ignoring all of her body language that was absolutely screaming at me to stop what I was doing.  She wasn’t being willful nor disobedient; she was simply scared.  She was telling me with her body the equivalent of, “Don’t make me shoot, ’cause I will”.

I’ve written before about knowing your physical limitations when it comes to Piloting your dog, but mental limitations are a real thing, too.  And I suddenly realized that I was forcing a situation without having control of myself, let alone the situation.  That I had come *this close* to Sparta biting me, all because I kept pushing through a situation without taking the temperature of the situation.

So I stopped.  I put down Sparta’s paw and dropped the clippers.  Instead, we played a game.  The “I’m Not Clipping Your Nails” game, meaning she started to get positives for being calm (learn about positive reinforcement here).  It started with me taking Sparta’s paw, with the clippers on the ground. I would pinch her nail gently between my fingers, and then immediately give her a treat (frozen green beans – her favorite).  Pretty soon when I started to grab her paw, she would immediately look to the green beans, anticipating the Good Thing that was to come.

Next, I would take her paw in my hand, gently tap her paw with the clippers, and then give her a treat.  Sometimes I would just pick up the clippers, put them back down again, and give her a treat.  Soon, all things regarding the clipper were a Good Thing.  Finally, after a few days of this, I was ready.  I picked up her paw, did our usual game, but at this point both of us were condition to the clippers being No Big Deal.  I wasn’t a nervous wreck anymore. I was ready to cut.  Not trim her nail to where it should be, but just cut.  Such a small cut, that it really made no difference in the scheme of things except that I had just cut her nail.

And nobody died.  Nobody got bit.  Nobody was terrified.  And Sparta was looking immediately at the bowl of green beans, waiting for her treat for playing the I”m Not Cutting Your Nails Game. It had actually happened, though.  There was a little teeny-tiny piece of nail on the ground, proving we had done.  I didn’t stop there, but, more importantly, I didn’t push forward.  In other words, I continued our usual game of tapping her nails with my fingers, and generally messing around with her, but that day I only cut that tiny little piece of nail.  But I had done it.

Each day, we would do one more nail.  Sometimes two.  Just a little bit.  Now when I grab the nail trimmers, I usually feel comfortable enough to do all of her nails.  If I spend a little too long holding her paw while trying to determine how short I can cut the nail, I stop, put her paw down, give her a treat, and then resume the examination.  Things were going beautifully.

Until this past week when I realized that yes, I could cut her nails without drama now, but I was still being ineffectual.  They were growing faster than I could safely (in my mind) cut them.  I felt like a failure.  What was the point of this exercise, anyway?!

The point is twofold.

1) I re-learned how to control myself in a scary situation.  Piloting does indeed require a uniform.  Confidence. By making Sparta feel I had control, she felt safe enough to continue with The Scary Thing.  And the by-product was that the more I wore my Piloting uniform, the more confident I became.

 

 

2) I prepared Sparta for the groomer.  She will be getting her nails cut by a groomer, just like my other dogs, only this won’t be a new sensation for her. I’m sure she will look for a treat as her nails are getting done rather than for an escape route (or even worse, making her own escape route!).  But the difference now is that I know I can do it. Yes, I will be trusting a better Nail Pilot to cut her nails, but remember: Piloting is a contest,however, we all want who ever is best to win.  Mariah at Pet’s General is a much better Nail Pilot/Grooming Pilot than I could ever be. I will give it up to the professionals, but knowing full well that if it ever came to it, I could do it.

 

 

With a little more time…and green beans.

Keep calm and pilot on

Kerry Stack
Darwin Dogs
Nail Cutting Dog Training in Cleveland, Ohio