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Pick of the Litter - The Fire at the Puppy Mill

Greed is the inventor of injustice as well as the current enforcer.

- Julian Casablancas

Over the past several years, I, like countless others, have been crusading against puppy mills, but especially Pick of the Litter in Strongsville mall (SouthPark Mall). On Monday, August 30, the Pick of the Litter caught fire. Numerous selfless people raced inside to save the animals. As of now, one puppy has died. One human was treated for smoke inhalation. Local rescues and shelters will most likely be needing help to rehome these animals, which is difficult under even the best of circumstances.

So what is the history of this local puppy mill broker, and its owner Tom Collins? Let's find out.

We all know cash is king, and easy money is the best money. Let’s face it, corporations’ sole reason for existing is to make more money. But at what cost? When does the search for more money become inexcusable due to the swath of destruction of innocents that lay in its wake? In other words, is the enrichment of corporations and businesses acceptable if the cost is the health and safety of innocent animals?

Over the past several years, Darwin Dogs has been picketing Southpark Mall over their support of puppy mills by allowing Pick of the Litter (and Petland) to continue their practices in the mall. Council meetings have been attended by those horrified by what goes on in the mall. So what information has come to light recently? And more importantly, why is Southpark Mall’s management ignoring this information, even at the cost of risking their shopper’s health and safety? Is animal abuse really acceptable in return for a better bottom line? Read the disturbing evidence for yourself.

1) Animal Control Turning a Blind Eye to Cruelty Due to Friendship

Strongsville Animal Control Officer, Chuck McCleary, had visited Tom Collins 22 times in the past year.

Exactly what has McCleary been inspecting? The recent photo of the very sick husky above was taken by me, personally, on Sept.20, 2019, and posted to Darwin Dogs’ Facebook platform. In a series of Facebook posts, as well as PM’s, McCleary reached out to inform me that the dog in the picture “is by itself, in its own cage not on display on oral antibiotics.” That dog looked about as far from “by itself” as the dog could possibly get.

2) About those Aquariums Full of Sawdust and Puppies

City of Strongsville’s own ordinance states that is an individually is criminally liable if they

“Keep animals… in an enclosure without wholesome exercise and change of air” *


“Whoever violates this section is guilty of a misdemeanor of the second degree. In addition, the court may order the offender to forfeit the animal or livestock and may provide for its disposition including, but not limited to, the sale of the animal or livestock.” *

One of Pick of the Litter’s breeding cats. POTL is a puppy mill broker who also breeds and sells kittens. The cat scene in this video has never left this enclosure, and has been forced to breed for years. This is all happening in Strongsville Ohio, Southpark Mall.

This puppy will live in this aquarium for the duration of its stay at Pick of the Litter, located in Southpark Mall, Ohio. No exercise, no interaction with the outside world.

To put it bluntly, Tom Collins’ puppies, as well as his breeding cats, never see the light of day once he acquirers them. They are never taken out of their pens for healthy exercise. So every day that his puppy mill store has been operating, he has violated Strongsville law, and McCLeary would have seen this all 22 times he inspected in the last year. As a matter of fact, he may have seen the same exact animals in the same exact cages over the past year.

Why is this happening? The account of one person I spoke with may shed some light on this. Speaking with her, she informed me that, “Chuck McCleary flat out told me he is a friend of Tom’s when called because he had a dog for sale in the store with a note on it saying it was found in the parking lot of the mall that day.” The individual I spoke with was an employee at the mall at the time, which was a bit over a year ago. The mall employee went on further to state that, “The warden chewed me out for calling him and that he wasn’t going to do anything to Tom, and they’ve been friends for a long time, and as far as he was concerned, Tom was doing it a favor.”

I have asked McCleary if he is indeed friends with Tom Collins; he denied any such relationship.

3) Falsification of vaccination records/medical history **

Kaylin, a local animal advocate as well as a vet tech, recently adopted a puppy from Pick of the Litter, against her better judgment, based solely on the fact of how far in distress one of the puppies looked. She adopted her puppy on July 14, 2018. Having a vet tech background, Kaylin knew that the puppy was only 6-8 weeks old on the day of adoption. POTL told her the puppy was 4 months old. Kaylin knew better, as her puppy had absolutely no adult teeth in her mouth. To make matters worse, Kaylin was told by the employees to give the puppy crushed Fruit Loops on top of her dry food, as the puppy was hypoglycemic. And if she didn’t, her puppy may go in and out of consciousness.

In Kaylin’s own words, “Well, also coming from a vet tech background, that does happen when you take a dog away from their mother too early and they aren’t getting the nutrients they need from the [mother's] milk. If you have to do that, you supplement with some kind of simple syrup, like a Karo syrup, not Fruit Loops. That’s going to cost her in the long run.” And unfortunately, Kaylin has had plenty of problems with her Pick of the Litter puppy. “Allergies, and things of that nature”, she stated, “Probably because her immune system didn’t get to be fully developed.”

But that was just the start of Kaylin’s problems with her puppy. remember, according to POTL, her puppy was 4 months old, born in March 2018. Kaylin believed her puppy to be 6-8 weeks of age, born on or about May 19-31 and her vet confirmed it. That made the vaccination records POTL provided to Kaylin with her new pup extremely disturbing:

“The records I have from Pick of the Litter for this dog are, some of the vaccine records written in. Working in a vet clinic myself, you take the lot number sticker off the vial, and you put it on the record for if there is any recall or any issue. Three of these are handwritten in. There’s no lot numbers. “

Even more disturbing evidence presented itself on the vaccination records, as Kaylin explained. The dates POTL has stated for the vaccinations of Kaylin’s puppy were before the puppy was even born. According to Kaylin (a vet tech) and Kaylin’s own veterinarian, the puppy was born some time between May 19-31. According to POTL, the puppy’s first shots were given on:

- April 21 (4 weeks before the puppy’s birth)- May 3 (2 weeks before the puppy’s birth)- May 20 (the week of birth)- May 25 (the week of birth)

Parvo and distemper are both very contagious, deadly infections, for which this puppy was never properly vaccinated against. During the Oct. 1 council meeting, Tom Collins stated, “I know the difference between a four week old puppy and an eight week old puppy. A lot of vet techs know everything and they don’t know everything. I’ve been in the business for 35 years.” *

As Kaylin puts it, though, ”This is just a blatant, falsified record of my puppy.”

Falsifying health records is a very serious thing, especially if you are supplying your store with puppies from unethical breeders. Evidence was given that the sick husky puppy photographed above, as well as puppies in the store, had been dosed with “metro” (Metronidazole), due to diarrhea. Metronidazole is used to treat:

  • Giardia (and other parasites)

  • Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)

  • Oral and dental infections

  • Other bacterial infections that cause diarrhea or sepsis

Animal Control Officer McCleary even stated in a comment that, according to his inspection at the beginning of October this year, “…this dog came from the breeder this way, and was going to be put to sleep”. He further states that, “…in reality it was saved [by POTL] from euthanasia by the breeder”.

Yet Tom Collins vehemently denies being involved with unethical breeders and puppy mills.

Southpark Mall is allowing these infected puppies in their establishment and allowing children to come in contact with them right before heading to the food court to eat. Evidence has also shown that Tom Collins falsifies his vaccination records, so who knows what else your children may pick up while there. But enjoy Southpark’s indoor trick-or-treat event on Sunday, October 27! Candy and parasites for everyone!

4) Bite Histories

What about all the bite instances we’ve been hearing about? It’s the most disturbing and gruesome story I’ve heard so far (and that’s saying a lot). I spoke personally with the witness, Ken, and here’s what he had to say.

Date of incident Aug 17, 2019
A puppy was kenneled in fish tank with other different dogs from a different litter. Puppy was in a 50-100 gallon fish tank. At least 7-8 dogs in there with him. I asked why he was in there, and an employee said that puppy (pittie) was in there b/c of the bite. A little kid was touching the puppy, and child was unsupervised, and there were no employees around. At least three employees were working that day, but nobody was with the public in the store, which was crowded. Dog jumped up and nipped the child. Employee told me that if nobody bought it, they would try to give it back to the breeder, and otherwise they would “put it down”. If the breeder didn’t take it back or if nobody bought it, it would be euthanized. I tried to find a home a home for the dog, but couldn’t.

POTL tried to sell the dog to Ken for $750 initially. Half an hour later, the employee said that the breeder didn’t want it and Ken could have the puppy for $30 . Ken tried to find a way to take the dog home, or find someone to take it, but he couldn’t as he has a newborn, and nobody else he contacted could take it.

We can only guess what eventually happened to the the poor puppy. By law, the puppy should have been micro-chipped within 24 hours of his arrival at POTL. Most likely, it wasn’t so we will never know.

5) APL Investigation/Dead Puppies in the Freezer

On March 28, 2018, Humane Agents from Cleveland APL executed a search warrant on Pick of the Litter in SouthPark Mall. Strongsville Animal Warden McCleary was immediately called by the Humane Officers, and arrived on the scene prior to the investigation being conducted, according to Humane Officers' records.

. It was during this raid the Humane Officers found:

- Dead animals in the freezer, including a puppy who had been mauled to death when left unattended with a strange dog locked in POTL bathroom overnight

- several bottles labeled with various parasite treatments including Pyrantel, Panacur, and Albon.

- several bottles of over the counter antibacterial such as metronidazole, sold as a treatment for fish and aquariums.

- various prescription medications for specific animals ranging from pain medication, nausea medication, and blood pressure medication, and Benedryl. None of these appeared to have been prescribed within the past two years

- some of the puppies showed signs of kennel cough

- a packet of Tramadol (Schedule IV controlled substance)

On Thursday, Oct. 3, I submitted a request to Strongsville Law Director Jamison, requesting all documentation of Animal Warden McCleary, specific to Pick of the Litter inspections/calls. Mr. Jamison informed me that Warden McCleary would be filling this request himself. The public records were given to me. I verified with the law department that this was indeed the complete records for Pick of the Litter.

It should be noted that on the date of the Humane Officers' raid, McCleary did not file a report, even though he was named as present in the reports of the Humane Officers.

Animal Protective League - Response to Search Warrant against Pick of the Litter SouthPark Mall. Case: C03968338
"The freezer portion of the fridge/freezer was filled with deceased animals wrapped in plastic bags. We removed them and accounted for 13 animals including five cats, four dogs, three rabbits and one guinea pig. I reviewed the animals with the clinic supervisor but we were unable to determine a definitive cause of death for any of the animals due to their being frozen. Two of the rabbits and at least one of the cats had blood around their mouth or nose."

But what about the individuals who are allowing this to continue? Let’s face it, money talks. Unfortunately, the puppy mill dogs and cats that Tom Collins deals with are unable to speak for themselves. It’s time we stand for those who have no voice.

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. Let them know via Facebook that you won’t stand for this mistreatment of animals. Or call/send a letter:

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

You can find out when we are protesting next on the Darwin Dogs Facebook page. 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.

Kerry Stack

Darwin Dogs

Dog Training

and Animal Activist in Cleveland, Ohio

For those who are interested, here are excerpts from the APL report.

* See Sections 618.05(a)&(c) of Strongsville Code **See Strongsville City Council minutes for meeting dated Oct. 1, 2018

2,848 views13 comments


Apr 02

You do realize there's another pet store in South Park right? They use some of the worst puppy mills in the country. They're objectively worse than pick of the litter but none of you say a word about that one. Why do you allow a worse place to escape your attention? Is it purposeful? Are you being paid by them to protest their competition? That's what's being whispered among Petland employees.


Oct 26, 2023

Is this vile place still in business?


You should be sued to oblivion for all of this nonsense. Thank God this isn't my business, I'd have you in court every day. There are consequences for spreading misinformation harmful to lawful businesses there Carol Baskins. Tom Collins has forgotten about more animals he has saved than you ever could. Half of the animals in that shop had been abandoned or abused, and the one some you idiots claim was dropped on the floor with a broken paw (even had posted pics of the cast) was an abandoned puppy with a birth defect he paid 3k out of his own pocket to provide surgery to correct. Let's call this what it is shall we? he is a Republican and…

Mar 01
Replying to



Kerry Stack
Kerry Stack
Sep 05, 2021

I couldn’t agree more. It’s up to us, as individuals, to help fight for the welfare of these animals.

Apr 02
Replying to

It's interesting how there's 2 pet stores in that mall, both utilizing fish tanks but you never hear a peep about Petland, which is a large corporation. Ever wonder why that is? Petland is objectively worse but the author ignores it as if it doesn't exist. Almost like she has a personal vendetta. Which is likely since she's an ex-employee.


Stumpicus Kat
Stumpicus Kat
Sep 05, 2021

Vile beyond belief! I wonder what the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals and the Animal Liberation Front would think of puppies in fish tanks and animals being sedated so they look cute and manageable for customers. Animal Liberation Front is considered a theorist group, but puppy mills and stores that mistreat animals are allowed to thrive and flourish in the name of free market. In short, money talks, and the more there is, the louder it talks. It talks so loudly in fact that it obliterates all other sounds - responsibility, charity, compassion, empathy, respect, humanity.

Vile, which also spells evil!

Replying to

Once again such stupidity. If only you animal nutcase people were intelligent enough to understand how long puppies sleep= Here this is right off Wiki you jackass- How many hours a day do puppies sleep?

  • The exact amount depends on a number of factors, including activity level and breed. However, most will spend anywhere between 16 to 20 hours a day sleeping. This time is spread throughout the day with small naps, often occurring after bouts of frenetic energy. Day Sleep Puppies spread their required napping hours throughout the day. 16-20 hours!!!! So sure though, the owner is investing thousands of dollars to tranquilize animals so they cannot interact with people who might want to buy them lol. What spells evil, is…

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