Companies should not have a singular view of profitability. There needs to be a balance between commerce and social responsibility…
– Howard Schultz
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.
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?
Yes that's two dogs crammed into a fishtank
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.
Inhaled and ingested wood chips, small, confining fish tanks for puppies? Seriously, you can do better. And no, 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 known 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”. 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.