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

 

First Do No Harm – How to Choose a Vet

“The physician must … have two special objects in view with regard to disease, namely, to do good or to do no harm” - Hippocratic Corpus

Boots and Bee Photography - By Brittany Graham

Boots and Bee Photography – By Brittany Graham

Clients frequently ask me for advice with regard to their dog’s health, and I will answer them honestly (the biggest of which is that yes, your dog is overweight.  Now do something about it.) However, I have a very limited knowledge base of most things having to do with a dog’s physical health.  It’s not my area, and there are plenty of well-qualified individuals who can answer questions beyond “How do I clip my dog’s nails?”.  That’s where your vet comes in.

Choosing a Vet

Choosing a doctor or vet can be a very difficult thing.  It’s almost as dramatic an undertaking as choosing a pediatrician.  You are placing the health and welfare of your dog/child in the hands of someone else, essentially asking them to Pilot your dog’s/child’s health.  It can be scary handing over control.  So take your time when choosing your dog’s doctor.

Sometimes it can take ten tries before your get the perfect doctor.

Sometimes it can take ten tries before you get the perfect doctor.

Use your resources and referrals.  Do you like your dog’s groomer?  Ask who they recommend for a vet.  Did you adopt your dog?  Ask the shelter who they like to use. Don’t forget to ask your friends, or even post on Facebook to get some recommendations.  You may notice a trend of vets whose names frequently pop up, either good or bad.  Choose wisely.

Just kidding...you can change

Just kidding…you can always change vets if you need to

So you’ve got a recommendation, and you’ve made your first appointment.  Think of it as a first date.

column_010-dog-memes

Things to look for:

  • Clean offices.  No, I don’t expect the floors to be spic and span, but if there is anything other than dog/cat hair on the floor (is that dried blood?!) step away from the reception desk.  Keep stepping.  Right out the door.
  • Friendly staff.  If reception makes you feel like a jerk for just checking in for your appointment, then how do you think you’re going to feel when you call them later asking a “dumb” question about your dog’s symptoms?  Yes, they may be very, very busy, and you may have to wait to have your question answered, but you should never be made to feel stupid for caring about your dog’s health.  Expect respect, for both you and your dog.
The staff here is a joke

The staff here is a joke

  • Easy set-up.  For those of you with dog-reactive dogs, you know what I mean.  It can be difficult working with your dog’s reactivity while out on a walk and another dog is across the street.  It can be very difficult in a crowded waiting room.  If the waiting room is over-crowded, approach the staff and ask if there is another option (waiting outside, or even better, a small room where you can wait).
  • Good communication.  Ask your vet a question, you should get an answer.  Note I did not state you should get the answer you are looking for. However, you should not feel shamed or stupid for asking questions.  You and your vet are a team both working together to keep your pet happy and healthy.  So if you don’t understand a procedure, or a medication, or symptoms, ask your vet.  They should give you an answer in terms you can understand.
  • Good “dog-side” manner.  Yes, your dog is scared, and perhaps you are, too.  Your dog might not like the vet at first.  Allow for some time to get a good relationship between your dog and your vet.  Watch your vet: do they seem comfortable working with your dog?  Do they take safety precautions when necessary (such as a muzzle or another person to assist)?  Those are good signs.
  • And sometimes “I don’t know” is an acceptable answer.    If your vet knows everything, know that they don’t.  It’s okay for them to say they aren’t sure, or don’t feel qualified to make a diagnosis.  Remember, first do no harm!  Knowing your limits (even as a vet) is a good thing.

And makes for wonderful BBC mock-umentaries.

Finally, be aware that any vet can be subjected to biased reviews, undeserved slander, and malicious attacks.   The very nature of their practice unfortunately includes taking animals to the Rainbow Bridge.  Understand the difference between a poor practice and poor circumstances.

4b4134082daceed3ba1de68721569bfe

Damnit Jim, he’s a doctor, not a time traveller!

Choosing a vet is a very personal thing. You are asking someone else to care for the health and well-being of a very important part of your life:  your pets.  It’s okay to take a pass on a vet just because you got a “strange vibe”.  Listen to your gut, don’t be afraid to speak up if you have questions, and trust your instincts.  Your pet will thank you with a long, happy, healthy life.

Keep calm and pilot on

Kerry Stack
Darwin Dogs
Dog Training in Cleveland, Ohio