About 70 people held homemade signs outside of Westfield Franklin Park Saturday afternoon and chanted, “Don’t shop, adopt,” and “Boycott the Family Puppy.”
One of the signs encouraged passers-by to “Google Amish Puppy Mills.”
Jean Keating, co-founder of the Ohio Coalition of Dog Advocates that helped to organize the event, said the goal was to educate Toledo residents about why they should not buy a puppy from the Family Puppy, a Michigan-based store that is opening a location at the mall in mid-October. The store will be located near BD’s Mongolian Grill, next to California Nails and across from Relax Magic.
John Stottele, owner of the Family Puppy who was at the mall Saturday inspecting the construction of the store, said he only obtains puppies from “reputable Amish breeders in Indiana.” He said he personally inspects them and that they “meet our specific standards in quality of kennel conditions and treatment of the animals.”
The “family friendly” puppies range in price from $700 to $1,500, he said. Breeds to be available include bichon frises, Shih Tzus, pugs, golden retrievers, German shepherds, Labrador retrievers, Siberian huskies, and so-called “designer” mixed breeds, such as the labradoodle. Breeds that the store chooses not to carry include “pit bull”-type dogs, Rottweilers, chow chows, Akitas, and Cane Corsos, which are breeds of dogs “that are commonly involved in mauling incidents,” Mr. Stottele said.
“If it was just about making money, I’d carry Rotts because I could sell a lot of Rotts,” Mr. Stottele said.
The store also will not carry beagles “because they often howl,” which is not an attribute that makes for a good dog in an apartment or in a yard with neighbors nearby. Weimaraners are off the table too because they don't like being in crates and sometimes will hurt themselves by ramming their heads into the top, said Debbie Stottele, the co-owner of the business with her husband.
Ms. Keating of Sylvania Township said nearly all of the Family Puppy’s primary suppliers have been cited for violations to the Animal Welfare Act, and many have been chronic offenders.
“Some violations include shelters with temps exceeding 87 degrees, excessive feces, no heat, unlicensed personnel performing surgeries, untended bite wounds, poor ventilation, feet dangling in wire floors, dirty dogs, accumulated grime, and lack of veterinary care,” she said.
According to recent inspection reports, three breeders in Indiana from which the Family Puppy obtains dogs have been cited for veterinary-care violations, including a “nonprofessional” surgically treating a dog with cherry eyes.
Mr. Stottele said he has stopped working with breeders that he discovers are not meeting his standards, which include providing an exercise area, teeth-cleaning of all breeding dogs yearly, and genetic testing.
Puppy stores are necessary because animal shelters and pounds don’t always have the breeds of dogs that people want, he said. Shelters are running out of dogs to sell, he added, citing the Michigan Humane Society’s claim that they find homes for 100 percent of all adoptable dogs that come into their three large shelters in the metro-Detroit area.
Julie Sanderson, a spokesman for Westfield Franklin Park, said the mall was aware of the demonstration, which took place off mall property on the public sidewalk.
“We welcome the retailer,” Ms. Sanderson said. “We only do business with retailers that follow state and local laws. We support them coming.”
Besides the demonstration, which Ms. Keating said is “the first of many,” the group is encouraging shoppers to boycott other businesses at the mall in protest of the Family Puppy, with the goal of encouraging business owners to ask Franklin Park’s new owners to not honor the store’s five-year lease, which was negotiated by the mall’s previous owners.
Susan Robinson of Woodville also helped organize the demonstration. She said her two rescue dogs originally came from Amish puppy mills, and both have many physical ailments because of bad breeding and the conditions in which they lived before they went into rescue.
“Because of them, I have learned a lot about Amish puppy mills,” she said. “It’s something that absolutely horrifies me.”