Open Letter to Tom Collins, Puppy Mill Broker

Companies should not have a singular view of profitability. There needs to be a balance between commerce and social responsibility…

– Howard Schultz

Robin, don't be a douche

Robin, don’t be a douche!

Hi Tom.  (You don’t mind if I call you “Tom”, right?).  I don’t think we’ve been formally introduced..  I’m Kerry Stack.  Dog lover, animal rescuer, Supernatural fan girl.

dog dean

A German Shepherd and Dean Winchester in a ’67 black Chevy Impala. It’s on my Christmas list every year.

One thing you may not know about me is that I’m passionate about animal rights. You may be asking yourself what the purpose of this letter is.  Well, to put it bluntly, I’m truly hoping you can convince me that you are passionate about animal rights as well.

I’m aware that you run “Pick of the Litter” pet store in South Park Mall in Strongsville, Ohio.  Let’s just say that the results of a  search for reviews of your establishment have been less than stellar.  Reports of sick animals.  Stories of puppies stuffed into fish tanks.  And of course, the allegations that your animals are coming from puppy mills.  Knowing how the internet can sometimes be more of a lynch mob than a school of thought and logic, I think it’s you deserve to get a fair shake, and have your say.

So I ask you:

Why the fish tanks? With pine chips?

Yeah, I know puppies can be destructive little twerps sometimes.  As soon as you clean up a mess from them, they are off to make another.  And given your choice of (ahem) profession, I can see why you would need to keep them contained.

In fish tanks? On pine chips?

Two  dogs, one fish tank.

Two dogs, one fish tank.

Where are these guys supposed to run?  Play?  Not inhale sawdust?  I understand that you are in the business of selling dogs for profit, but is the most profitable way to sell them is to stuff them in fish tanks?  I’m aware that other puppy mill brokers pet shops such as yours (ahem: Petland) need to keep track of their inventory puppies, and that it’s better than the wire cages that Petland utilizes….

But that's like saying the guy on the left is cuter.

But that’s like saying the guy on the left is cuter.

Inhaled and ingested wood chips, small, confining fish tanks for puppies?  Seriously, you can do better.


…and that’s not a challenge.

What are your responses to the allegations that your dogs lack fresh water and adequate health care?

According to Lisa*, who purchased a pup, the puppies are unable to use the hamster water bottles placed in all the cages.  Luckily she is a veterinary technician, because her puppy almost died from lack of care given by Pick of the Litter:


 I am a registered veterinary technician so I had fluids on hand I gave him. I just remember him being very lethargic and dehydrated. As soon as I gave him fluids and some food he perked up. And then I realized as I was trying to give him water in a bowl he was just putting his mouth in the bowl but he didn’t understand he had to lick. He loved licking my hands though so I started putting my hand in the bowl for him and that is the only way he would drink any water for over a week until he figured it out. So since I couldn’t be home 24/7 I would supplement him with the fluids. All you have to really do is go in there and look at the gums on the dogs and if they feel tacky or if you pull on there[sic] skin and it doesn’t go right back they are dehydrated. My dog had both of these signs.
Unfortunately, this lack of concern does not sound like the actions of a person who has an animal’s best interests at heart.  There have been numerous stories of peoples’ contracts with your business being voided because they took their puppies to a vet other than your own personal vet.
Consider the story of John & Cindy Yakim who purchased a puppy from Pick of the Litter in 2013:
 I didn’t check the background of this pet store at all. First mistake.  Within the first 24 hours she was dying do [sic] to pneumonia. They told us at the store to bring her back and a portion of her purchase price could go towards another dog. Of course we didn’t do that and took her to our own vet. Some $4000.00 later she got well.  The store told us as soon as we took her to are own vet any contract was on null and void. I love my dog very much but feel I would rescue one from a shelter all though if I didn’t purchase her she would have been left for dead and no records would show how many puppies die in there[sic] care. I also feel she was not the breed that they told us she was. The callous nature of the sales and facility should have been my first deterrent.   The girl’s name was Diane and was dating the owner at the time. They wanted us to bring her in and they would take her to there [sic] vet. Never once did they give a name. She was close to dying at our vets and once they heard that the deal was off ( in there [sic] words). If any paperwork from our vet would help your cause I could get. We are not opposed of using our name. I have heard almost the same story regarding this store. I am personally sad they are still open.

Who is this “personal vet”, and why are the the “health records” you provide from said vet  (according to at least 3 testimonials I’ve received so far) merely some scribbles on a note card, if they even exist at all? If your standards are high, then why would a second opinion from a new dog owner’s vet be of concern to you?  Are you unable to stand by your puppies’ health?  Because the list of illnesses and congenital defects found in the puppies you sell are staggering:

- ear infections
- giardia
- patellar luxation (knee problems that require surgery)
- parasites
- heartworm
- pneumonia 
…and the list goes on.  It would seem that any diseases that are common in puppy mills, your puppies seem to get.  Which brings me to my final question:


Where do you get your puppies from?

The answers I’m receiving from previous customers and even some of your own friends and acquaintances are truly disturbing

I interviewed Cathy*, a former friend of yours.  She had initially defended you (on the Darwin Dogs’ Facebook page) from the allegations made against you.  She soon realized the awful truth.  Here’s what she had to say only one day later:

I have know Tom for years. I believe he once had compassion and truly tried and wanted to help animals. Last night I argued with numerous people on sight defending him. Now I have never supported the aquarium “cages” it not healthy in my opinion. But long story short after defending the man I knew who truly had a heart of gold I reached out to a few people who have close contact with him. I myself haven’t seen him in at least 4-5 years. Today I was given confirmation he DOES in fact get his dogs from Puppy Mills. He has a broker who obtains them from the mills. He said everyone does it. He claims to have local breeders which is a blatant lie. Please understand that this was devastating news for me to hear. I trusted him, I believed in him and I defended him. But today my respect ended. Today I learned he has become a money hungry monster seeking fortune at the expense of these helpless defenseless dogs.  … So to get confirmation that Tom is in fact utilizing Mill Puppies to stock his store. It’s inexcusable! I am extremely sorry I defended him last night. I’m extremely sorry to now know he in fact is using Mills. Thank you for doing what you do. Awareness makes a difference!!! Like the awareness of a man I respected is now an enemy to me.  Again my apologies for my defending him. But the sources and information today come from people close to him that are well aware of his doings. I hope the protest is wonderful and raises questions for many and changes are made. Thank you.

There’s a pretty slippery slope when it comes to selling animals.  For a lot of unwary and unsuspecting soon-to-be pet owners, it can be difficult to determine if a pet you’re considering purchasing is from a puppy mill or from a reputable breeder.  In short, some pretty damning evidence and testimony has been uncovered regarding your business practices and the inhumane treatment of your “stock”, or as we refer to them: pets, animals, living beings.  We await your response, Tom Collins.UPDATE - On January 2, 2017 we started receiving some messages from supporters of yours, including the following.  Please explain this, Tom.
It's okay, he's "rescuing" them from puppy mills.  And by "rescuing" he means "brokering".

It’s okay, he’s “rescuing” them from puppy mills. And by “rescuing” he means “brokering”.  Thanks for the clarification, Lynnette!

UPDATE:  Read about our most recent efforts to end puppy mills here, and help us be a voice for the helpless.
 Keep calm and pilot on
Kerry Stack
Darwin Dogs
Dog Training in Cleveland, Ohio
*Some names in this post have been changed for privacy

28 thoughts on “Open Letter to Tom Collins, Puppy Mill Broker

  1. Stopped in with my fiancé today just to give some of the pups some love, while walking around (not even regarding the horrid conditions these poor babies are in) I noticed an AQUARIUM with 4 English Bulldog pups. Firstly, having 4 puppies of a bigger breed in a fish tank is utterly ridiculous. But upon looking at them I noticed that they all had mucus coming from their noses. My fiancé and I have fostered for local animal shelters before and know enough to know that those poor babies were terribly ill. Two of them were coughing their poor little lungs out and having problems breathing. UPPER RESPIRATORY IS SUPER COMMON IN LITTERS BUT NEEDS TO BE TREATED. The associate I wanted to speak to about this issue REFUSED to make eye contact with me as soon as she heard me mention something to my man. And continued to walk right past them.

    I knew someone who used to work at petland and they even told me that both managers at the respective stores meet a truck at the loading dock and choose the puppies they believe will sell. The rest go lord knows where.

    Note: many of the other pups either had symptoms or were starting to show signs of upper respiratory issues as well. Actually had to double take to make sure a husky pup in the center pen was STILL BREATHING. I’m aware there was a recent raid (the case number was listed but I still can’t find it online) BUT THIS IS HORRID! I hope that they find a way to get shut down soon.

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  3. My mom rescued animals and was friends with Tom since I could remember. He lived animals and when he was in Brunswick, he had such a passion. He started to lose himself and did things that really upset my mom. I remember something bad happened to his shop in Brunswick and my mom was asked if she could take in the animals. We came to the store with crates taking animals and my mom never spoke to him again.

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  5. Wow it is so ridiculous to see some of your supporters calling others who’s opinion differs from their own call them names! Then you post it as if it is ok! This owner is an animal lover and no dog, cat, bird, pig or reptile has ever been shot or sent to an Amish puppy mill! You are just slandering his name! He has had multiple drop in inspections and guess what he passed! Stop trying to ruin his business by using animals saying they are abused! He has rescue animals as well as breeder animals! He loves every amimal in there!

  6. My husband worked for Tom years ago when he was in Brunswick. The Amish breeders would come to the store after hours and pick up the dogs Tom couldn’t sell and no longer wanted. Sometimes they would take them out back and shoot them or drown them in buckets of water. Tom knew this and said nothing. Once my husband saw this and talked to other employees and found out this happens often, he quit. He made calls to animal control and the police and they DID NOTHING. Said there was no proof. Hearsay. My husband saw this but because he didn’t have photos and there were no bodies, there was nothing they can do. This man is DISGUSTING.

      • April, please tell me where Tom gets his dogs from and where they are vetted. Also, please let me know why they are in fish tanks, and why they are completely lethargic. Thank you.

        • Tom gets pups from local breeders. He picks them up himself so he can see the conditions they are in. We have four vet offices we use depending on if it’s a check up or an aliment. Kitten krazy, Rolling hills animal hospital, Litchfield animal hospital and Premier spay and neuter wellness clinic. Pups are in glass enclosures because it is more sanitary and bars are awful for a pups feet. Tom comes in between 3:30 am-4 am. All cages are cleaned and all pups are up till 11ish. I can wake any pup up with no problem because they know me and my voice. If the pups woke up every time it was pet it wouldn’t sleep. I have gotten all my animals from Tom. My beagle, that I got from the old location in Brunswick, just past away four months shy of 16 yrs old. I have 3 cats, 2 dogs and a bunny from the Strongsville store. All are healthy!

  7. I was wondering if they ever were investigated for possibly drugging these puppies? I was there today and was truly bothered that not one puppie was up. Didnt even respond to interaction with them.

  8. Some videos of a puppies reportedly at Pick of the Litter (a pet shop at Southpark Mall in Strongsville, Ohio) documented them to be so lethargic that they failed to respond to vocal and tactile stimulation. This alarmed me and caused me to do some online research which led me to your open letter (and a multitude of complaints about this pet store, as well as photos taken by other customers backing up the video reports and complaints. I commend you for taking a strong stance, and I hope that action is taken to protect those innocent creatures who cannot protect or speak up for themselves.

    • Thank you so much for your kind words! I feel that as a community of animal lovers, it’s our obligation to stand up for those without voices. This is truly a team effort.

  9. I used to visit Toms establishment when he was in Brunswick and truly was a rescuer. He had a monkey there, had cats and kittens that people would just dump, rabbits and even a few birds. He had dogs very few were puppies that people just dumped and he tried to find new homes for them. I even bought a kitten from him 10 years ago. She’s awesome and I’m very glad I got her. One day we went in and he told us he was moving to the mall because he was tired of coming to the store because people just dumped animals at his doorstep. He even said he was gonna go to Strongsville so he could start making money instead of taking in everyone’s hand me downs. Somewhere along the way he lost his care for rescuing animals and just wants to roll in the cash. And if these are from puppy mills then he’s overcharging. Most of their puppies are over 500 and some closer to 1000. So if he really cared he would pay just enough to save them and pay his rent. Not the overpricing. He is one of the only pet stores that sells Bengal cats. And you pay for it that’s for sure. Investigate and look into where you get your pets from these babies are just abused. Most of the littler ones sit in those aquariums and shiver because they have no beds or blankets. Shame on you Pick Of The Litter. Start thinking of the innocent babies and not the money. Remember you reap what you sow. Someday this will all come back on you!!!!!!,

  10. I was at the protest last year when Tom and a woman with a baby in a stroller and their entourage came walking down the sidewalk all ticked off, angry and got inches from some of our faces, ranting and raving on how wrong we are and how dare we interfere with their business. I was in his store days before the protest. I saw the puppies in glass boxes, some with wood shavings stuck to their eyeballs and Tom was spraying some sort of cleaner on the windows without even taking the animals out first. I couldn’t believe my eyes. They have to be stopped once and for all. No regard for the safety and well being of the poor animals whatsoever. I honestly don’t know how they sleep at night.

    • You’re not the first one to give such a description of Tom’s demeanor. I’ve heard it many, many times. I’m sorry you were treated that way!

      I’m sure the sounds of dollar bills keeps them sleeping soundly at night.

  11. Tom also sells piglets and keeps them in aquariums. He claims they are mini pigs (which don’t exist) and provides no alter surgery or shots. Livestock are illegal in Strongsville but he’s gotten away with having pigs in his store.

  12. We had protested their pet store last year. The owner and two other adults came to the corner we were on (public property) and cursed at us and got in faces in a very threatening manner, until we said we were going to call the police, then they left. Very sadly, they brought a baby in a stroller with them who witnessed this man’s violent outbursts at us. One would think if he had love or compassion for his animals and someone questioned that, he would step up to the plate to be certain he was doing all he could for them. This certainly was not the case. All he wanted was to be sure we didn’t interfere with his business.

    • I am horrified to read this! If someone is willing to put a child into such a position, I’m sure they would have no qualms against the malicious treatment of animals for profit.

  13. Tom Collins is not , as he and his supporters claim , a ” rescuer”. No rescue would , knowledgeably allow this man to adopt for the purpose of selling in a pet store. He purchases puppies from very unethical backyard breeders. This is not rescue. The animals in his store are commodities.
    He breeds cats as well.
    Furthermore , these animals are sold without being neutered. No animal should ever go to a new home without being neutered.
    Pet stores owner by unethical people such as Tom Collins only perpetuate the daunting and overwhelming task of legitimate rescue. Over 7 million animals are in shelters annually. And this man is breeding more cats and dogs ? And does he care if the purchasers of his products neuter? Many of them , sadly , help to keep shelter open and overflowing.
    Please find an honest way to earn money , Tom. Stop exploiting the vulnerable that are at your mercy.

    • Well stated.

      Quite a few stores now only offer (verified) rescued animals for sale. Some pet stores ask various shelters and rescues to bring their animals in to their stores to be adopted. I’m loving this approach, and these stores seem to be doing well financially.

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