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

 

What That Pet Store Puppy Represents

I am a great believer in found families and I’m not a great believer in blood.

Joss Whedon

Puppies-at-a-pet-shop-in--001

A few weeks ago I was chatting online with a friend of mine.  He wanted to know what I thought about a certain “breed”of designer dog.  His wife wanted one for the family, and she had fallen in love with a friend’s new puppy, and they wanted one, too.  He told me that the puppy was from a well-respected “breeder”.  They got the information on a breeder website….as in, “We breed schoodles, morkies and shih-poos…”.  As soon as I saw that, flags went up.  This wasn’t a breeder – this was a puppy mill.

I tried to explain to him that respectable breeders didn’t advertise online.  Nor did they specialize in more than one breed, let alone claim to be breeders of dogs that aren’t even a breed.  Unfortunately, it all fell on deaf ears.  They proceeded to purchase a puppy.  I don’t believe they even set foot in a shelter.  Rather than rescuing a new family member, they attempted to purchase a designer label.  But at what cost?

Puppy Mills

We all know the horror behind-the-scenes of a puppy mill.  We’ve seen the numerous dogs who were rescued.  I’ve worked with dogs who were saved from years spent in a tiny 2′x2′ crate, giving birth to litter after litter in squalid conditions.  These dogs are no more than livestock, there as a commodity, conditions be damned.  Each one of those viable puppies is worth between $800-$1000.  Unfortunately, those chasing after the supposed prestige that comes with having a purebred dog usually don’t want to pay purebred prices.  So they buy a knockoff.  Unfortunately, just like knockoff Prada, someone always pays the price, usually behind the scenes.  Child labor in sweatshops or abused and neglected animals. Both victims of the “designer” label.

ipj53

 

If you buy from a real breeder, you should feel as if you are applying for the CIA.  Background checks may be involved.  These are their lives’ work!  A breeder’s dogs are more like a family dog/work of art/live’s mission all rolled into one.  They will never let ou pick a dog from their litter – they interview you to find out which one of their puppies’ personalities will fit best in your household.  In other words, they have dogs, not investments. They aren’t a money making device!  Breeders typically don’t breed their dogs more than a handful of times in the dogs entire life!  According to Animal Rescue Corps., dogs in a mill have a much different schedule:

“Females are bred repeatedly, usually twice a year, every year, until they can no longer produce puppies. This is incredibly stressful on their bodies but they are viewed as moneymaking machines, as disposable property, not as individuals with inherent worth. Female dogs are commonly bred before it is safe to do so because the earlier they start, the more puppies they will produce in a lifetime. Puppy mill breeding dogs are often given hormones and steroids to try and increase the number of puppies they produce. These drugs can cause extreme pain and serious side effects – all in an attempt to increase the number of puppies for profit.”

But at least you got your cute puppy.

Designer Puppies

I just got a new niece. Her mother is Chinese, and her father is a mix of Finnish and Irish.  The baby is beautiful.  However, I am intelligent enough to know that she is one of a kind. I can’t recreate her, no matter how hard I try, even with parents of the same ancestry.  She will always be unique, from her looks to her personality.  My own children don’t even look like they’re related to each other, and their personalities are about as polar as they can be.

River and Eric at their favorite ice-cream shop.

River and Eric.  Or as my husband and I call them, Machete and The Professor.

So why are you trying to recreate your neighbor’s adorable puppy, who happens to be a something-poo?  Your inability to realize that you can’t recreate a living being is disturbing to me.  I can understand having a type…. I personally prefer Am-Staffs (or pitties). I also love Shepherds.

Yes, Orion.  Papillons too.

Yes, Orion. Papillons too.

But here’s the thing:  I can rattle off why I love those breeds:  I love how fun-loving and goofy pitties are.  How they are desperate to have a rollicking good time and want nothing more than a good snuggle, followed by more fun.  I love how Shepherds are always so desperate to learn something new, and how absurdly stoic they can be.  I love how Papillions are such lively little creatures who are really too big on the inside for those tiny little bodies.  I love how they are just as rugged of a dog as a Coonhound or a Lab.  I understand that each dog in a specific breed will always have its own personality, it generally falls within a certain area.  If you’re going with a purebred, finding out breed standard for that specific breed is a very good start to having a wonderful companion rather than a chore, or even worse, an owner surrender to the local shelter.

In other words, I love these dogs based on more than how I think they look. When I asked my friend why they were heading towards the designer “breed” they had in mind, the response was, “he’s cute”.  Seriously, they’re basing living the next 10-15 years with a dog on nothing more than “he’s cute”.  Temperament is merely an afterthought.  As is exercise requirements and how much Piloting the dog will need.  It is imperative to come up with a list of wants vs. needs when choosing a new dog, whether it be from a shelter or a breeder!

Remember that a mutt (which is what your designer dog is) is a dog that can not be reliably bred to have a certain standard.  In other words, if I were breeding Golden Retrievers, I can with a high degree of certainty state that the next litter will contain pups who will grow to be a certain size, with a very predictable temperament (fun, easy going, eager to please, and friendly).  Same with Poodles:  I can reliably breed very intelligent and active dogs of a certain “look” who, while easy to train, want to know why they should be listening to you and not following their own orders.  (For that reason, I generally steer families with small children away from poodles.)  Now, let’s breed a Golden and a Poodle together.  What do you get?  Just about any mix of all these traits.  Anywhere from a dog who looks exactly like a Golden but acts just like a Poodle (and vice versa), to a complete blending of the two looks and temperaments.  In other words, a mutt.

Mutts are awesome, but just like every other dog, they must be judged on an individual basis before you decide to buy/adopt. Judge the dog on who they are, not what they appear to be.

You Blew Your Chance to Save A Life

Seriously, Robin.  Don't be a douche.

Seriously, Robin. Don’t be a douche.

Let’s not forget the biggest reason to adopt rather than shop. Or rather the 2.7 million reasons to adopt.  That’s the number of dogs and cats euthanized each year.  Yeah, sure, you can argue that you can only rescue one,and what’s “one” in the face of such a large number?

"Just one" is the most important number Boise can think of.  He only has a 1/600 chance of making it alive out any shelter.  Check out Boise, who's up for adoption, at the Cuyahoga County Animal Shelter.
“Just one” is the most important number this little guy can think of. He hopes it’s his, because as a pittie, he only has a 1/600 chance of making it alive out any shelter.

To be truthful, I had high hopes of convincing my friend not to shop for a puppy, especially not from a place that hit every single hallmark for being a puppy mill. I’d like to say this hasn’t changed how I view my friend, but there are only so many matted, filthy dogs I can help rehabilitate before it becomes personal.  Only so many dogs I can work with who are afraid of everything, who’ve never been outside their breeding box in the 2, 3 or even 8 years they’ve been on this planet, before I become judgmental and angry, even with longtime friends.  There’s a finite number to the dogs I can say goodbye to, and take them for their last long walk and few moments of fetch, before their time is up before it gets personal.

Yes.  It is personal.

Keep calm and pilot on

 

 

Kerry Stack
Darwin Dogs
Dog Training in Cleveland, Ohio