Thursday, November 20, 2014

How holiday pet seekers can avoid puppy mills

Getting a new puppy or kitten for the holidays? Puppy Mill Awareness says
be on the lookout for unscrupulous puppy mill resellers and sick pets

Metro Detroit, Mich -- If a new puppy or kitten is on your family’s gift list this holiday, be sure to ask lots of questions about the pet’s health and history before you bring him or her home. Otherwise you could be at risk of costly veterinary bills, holiday disappointment or the heartbreak of having to return a sick pet.

“The holidays put families at risk,” said Pam Sordyl, founder of Puppy Mill Awareness of Southeast Michigan. “There are more bad sellers advertising. The commercial pet trade actually times litters for the holidays.” Puppy Mill Awareness of Southeast Michigan seeks to educate the public about the pet store/puppy mill connection and to end the sale of massed produced or “puppy mill” dogs in retail stores.

Puppy mills are high production commercial breeding facilities that confine large numbers of dogs together, often in unsanitary conditions, in wire cages, and without heat or human interaction. Due to the large volume of dogs, and the desire to keep costs low and profits high, dogs in these facilities often go without veterinary care and quality food. As a result, puppy mill puppies often suffer from any number of genetic defects and serious health issues.

Photo: Chelsea VonFintel with Magglio

When Chelsea VonFintel of Royal Oak bought her Lhasa Apso puppy from Petland of Novi, she was told that the dog, named Magglio, did not come from a puppy mill. For $1,399 she was given a pedigree from Royale Kennel owned by Richard and Opal Featherston, Whiting KS. During a Novi City Council Meeting in May, VonFintel shared her long list of health issues Magglio has suffered since then (video testimony Magglio has developed severe allergies, a herniated a disc, bladder stones and now a failed liver requiring a prescription diet ($100/bag) and daily supplements. “I have spent nearly $6,000 in caring for his genetic disorders. My vet believes that he is the product of in-breeding,” said VonFintel. “My heart breaks for my sweet boy every time he has to see the veterinarian for another procedure or medication.”

About two dozen pet stores in Metro Detroit and surrounding areas still sell puppies; see the list at Since 2008, many stores have closed or have been shut down by local authorities related to animal care. Some owners were prosecuted for animal cruelty. Around the United States, the number of stores selling live pets is significantly down as ordinances are being passed to prohibit retail sales of pets, and consumers become better informed and opt instead to adopt from shelters or go to reputable breeders.

The following metro Detroit stores have been linked to out-of-state commercial kennels through interstate health certificates:

Petland, Novi, Mi
The Family Puppy, Troy
The Family Puppy, Novi
The Family Puppy, Flint
The Little Pet Shop, Utica
Westland Dog Food Co., Westland
Critter Pet Shop, Allen Park
House of Pets, Garden City
Pet City Pets, Wyandotte
Pet City Pets, Ypsilanti

How can you tell if a dog has come from a puppy mill? “If a store sells puppies, they are likely coming from a puppy mill or back-yard breeder since responsible breeders never sell wholesale to a store,” said Sordyl. “In Michigan, stores are not required to provide information about the pet’s origins. Even if this information is provided, many puppy mills are out of state making a visit to the facility difficult. While the State of Michigan requires all dogs sold to have a 30-day health certificate signed by a veterinarian, some vets fail to identify serious health problems for fear they will lose the store as a client.”

If you are shopping for a puppy or kitten at a pet store that sells pets, Sordyl says to watch out for:

Misleading Ads

• Advertisements promoting tiny, teacup, micro and toy puppies. They are often simply underage dogs
• Designer dogs are really overpriced mixed breeds.

Genetic Defects

• deformed paws
• under bite or over bite
• hernias
• inverted eyelids
• retained testicles
• loose knee caps
• abnormally small nostrils

Signs of Illness

• lethargic or lacking energy
• skinny
• runny nose or eyes
• scratching at ears
• red or inflamed ears
• coughing
• diarrhea
• vomiting

Stores that sell dogs, and in some cases, cats, are different than those that collaborate with rescue groups to offer homeless pets for adoption. Most national chain pet supplies stores like PetSmart, Petco and Pet Supplies Plus do not sell puppies or kittens. Instead, they may have rescue groups set up adoption events at the store.

So how should I find a pet? Families looking for a holiday puppy or kitten can also go to their local animal shelter, to animal rescue groups and to Pet Finder which is a comprehensive website with thousands of animals up for adoption. Sordyl recommends rescue groups that are certified for best practices by the Michigan Pet Fund Alliance. Many of these groups offer a “foster to adopt “program that allows families to make sure the pet is right for them before adopting. See pet adoption resources, upcoming adoption events and a list of certified animal rescue groups at

Have your heart set on a new holiday puppy or kitten? Sordyl says that while families love the excitement of the new furry family member, the holidays are often not the best time of year to bring home a new pet. “Pets do not make great gifts or surprises,” she says. “This is a long-term commitment, so please make sure you have matched the right pet with the right person or family.”

Photo Credit: USDA Inspector 2011. Lorilee Thomas and Featherston, Opal (Whiting, KS)
Shuh tzu # 0A01472763 has hair loss along the sides, chest and legs.

Photo Credit: USDA Inspector 2011.Lorilee Thomas and Featherston, Opal (Whiting, KS)
Broken wire mesh with sharp points by dog feeder.

Photo Credit: USDA Inspector 2011.Lorilee Thomas and Featherston, Opal (Whiting, KS)
Chihuahua # 068827636 had excessively long toe nails. There were hair loss and thinning hair along the side. The skin was also reddened.

See more at:

Puppy Mill Awareness to form human chain on “Black Friday” on November 28, in Novi Puppy Mill Awareness of Southeast Michigan will form a human chain in Novi to raise awareness of puppy mills on “Black Friday,” November 28 at 11:00 a.m. The chain will begin at the entrance of the Twelve Oaks Mall on Novi Road. Petland, the nation’s largest puppy retailer is located in the Twelve Oaks Mall and The Family Puppy, Michigan’s largest chain puppy retailer, is located in Fountain Walk across the street. For information on joining this event, go to

CONTACT: Pam Sordyl, Puppy Mill Awareness of Southeast Michigan 734-718-7100 /