A CLOSER LOOK: Animal Control discourages buying puppies from pet store

A Closer Look

NORTHWEST ARKANSAS (KNWA) — Petland, a pet store chain that sells puppies, is coming to Northwest Arkansas, but a local animal control agent said people should not buy puppies from such a store.

“We don’t need a store that sells puppies,” said Cpl. Lori Hodges, Washington County’s animal control supervisor. “The puppies, like the ones at the pet store in Rogers, people think, ‘Oh, they’re so cute,’ but people don’t realize where [the puppies] are coming from.”

Petland Rogers will soon open up at the Pinnacle Hills Promenade in Rogers.

Petland has come under some fire on Facebook by people concerned about where the company acquires their puppies from. Petland has claimed in the past that the puppies they sell are purchased from United States Department of Agriculture-licensed breeders.

However, a Humane Society of the United States report states almost every Petland store in the country either buys puppies directly from puppy mills or from people who deal with puppy mills.

“America’s largest chain of puppy-selling pet stores, Petland Inc., is also the nation’s largest retail supporter of puppy mills,” The Humane Society’s investigation summary states.

The Humane Society’s blog described a wide array of deficiencies in how Petland cares for the puppies they sell. The blog reported numerous instances of puppies being sick at Petland stores.

Petland representatives issued a statement regarding the Humane Society’s report on Petland practices. Here is a part of what they said:

HSUS is a politically-oriented fundraising group that is out of touch with the animal world. HSUS has demonstrated they lack acceptable ethics and has lost their place as a credible source to those who truly put animal-welfare first, evidenced by their ‘D’ rating from Charity Watch. We can’t imagine the number of animals that could be helped if they spent just a quarter of the energy and money they use targeting regulated sources of pets and instead, focused on true animal welfare.”

Hodges said while licensed breeders are more legitimate than puppy mills, acquiring pets from either is problematic.

“A puppy mill is basically a slang word for what we call breeders,” Hodges said. “There are two types of breeders. You have breeders who go through a broker who sells to pet stores and then you have breeders who just breed because they can.”

Hodges shut down a puppy mill located in the area where Lincoln city limits meets Washington County in early 2018. The woman who ran the puppy mill was arrested on dozens of animal cruelty counts.

“She was a puppy mill back yard breeder,” Hodges said. “She didn’t use a broker. She didn’t vaccinate her dogs. She did not care if the dogs were sick or unhealthy. She was the typical puppy mill breeder who did it for whatever money she could get off the pups.”

Hodges searched the puppy mill and found around 76 puppies — Yorkshire Terriers and other small breeds — living in miserable conditions. She also found the remains of what was determined to be eight dead dogs.

“The ones inside were in crates that were very small. The house smelled horrific. There were maggots in their food. There was [feces] and [urine] in their water. [Their cages] were stacked on top of each other. The dogs on top would [urinate] and [defecate] on the dogs beneath them,” Hodges said.

More legitimate breeders breed puppies and sell them to brokers. Brokers sell the puppies to pet stores such as Petland.

“The ones who use a broker are inspected by the USDA, because brokers don’t want dogs that come from places like [puppy mills]. They want dogs that are vaccinated, dogs that are healthy,” Hodges said.

Hodges said she has dealt with a few legal breeders who were USDA-regulated.

The first legitimate breeder Hodges met in Washington County had 450 dogs. She said the breeders were a husband and wife team who employed a couple of workers. The kennels were kept clean, all the dogs were vaccinated and measures were taken to prevent the puppies and their mothers from contracting diseases.

“I’m not an advocate for puppy mills. I’m not an advocate for breeders, especially when you have that many dogs. But I inspected it on several occasions and they were not breaking any laws,” Hodges said.

Puppies bred by legitimate breeders do not suffer in miserable conditions, but many of them are killed, though humanely, because they’re not profitable, according to Hodges.

Breeders show litters of puppies to brokers. The brokers purchase the puppies they think they can sell to pet stores, Hodges said.

“Those other [puppies in the litter] are automatically euthanized. The breeder doesn’t need them for stock. Either way a dog is euthanized,” Hodges said.

Hodges said the puppies places like Petland sell come from breeders who treat puppies like for-profit products.

“If a breeder has a dog that has health issues or something happens and they need to see a vet, they’re not going to take them to a vet. They’re going to euthanize them because it’s cheaper to euthanize than to treat,” Hodges said.

While it’s not illegal to breed dogs for profit in Arkansas, the state’s laws are behind the times when it comes to animal treatment and business practices involving animals, Hodges said.

“We don’t need a store that sells puppies,” Hodges said. “They’re just advocating for the type of business that Arkansas needs to change.”

Hodges said she believes that community members looking to buy a puppy from a chain such as Petland should instead find a dog at their local humane society.

“I don’t see paying $600 to $1,200 to $1,500 for a dog when you can go to a shelter and find one for much less that needs a home,” she said.

Petland representatives released a statement regarding their treatment of the puppies they sell. Below is a portion of what they said:

“We have full time puppy care technicians whose only job is to care for the puppies under the direction of our veterinarian while waiting their forever family. Please know we will Always visit our breeders and hold them to the highest standard. There is nothing more important than the health and happiness of all of our pets.”

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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