Monday, December 10, 2018

The market is not taking care of puppy stores, unsafe places

Kim Miles takes Mt. Clemens store to court after purchasing
a puppy will liver shunts. She will live the rest of her life on a special diet and twice-a-day
 medication to keep her liver soft so she can 
absorb the proper nutrients.
The owner is still selling puppies.

As Senator Hune prepares the agenda for the Senate Agriculture Committee meeting tomorrow, animal welfare organizations have already submitted testimony opposing HB 5916/HB 5917 and will be attending the hearing to educate lawmakers about the cruel puppy trade and its impact on communities. My testimony below outlines why these bills will protect puppy mills and leave Michigan a "buyer beware" state. 

As Founder of Puppy Mill Awareness of SE Michigan and Michigan Friends of Companion Animals, I have spoken with hundreds of families who have purchased sick puppies from Michigan pet stores and were left with thousands of dollars in veterinary bills. The market is not taking care of the worst actors, nor is local law enforcement. Pet stores are not a safe place to purchase puppies and HB 5916 does not offer enforceable solutions to protect families and pets.

I urge you to oppose H.B. 5916 and HB 5917 for the following reasons:

  1. The bills would not require pet store licensing or inspections.
  2. The bills lack meaningful standards and are unenforceable.
  3. The bills rely entirely on the USDA’s minimal standards and enforcement which has plummeted this year.
  4. The bills would not ensure puppies are provided adequate veterinary care while on display for sale and families visiting the store are protected from Campylobacter.
  5. The bills would not prevent puppies with genetic abnormalities from being sold.
  6. The bills would not ensure puppies are properly vaccinated.
  7. The bills would not prevent predatory sales tactics.
  8. HB5917 prohibits local governments from enforcing or creating ordinances that would protect families and pets from irresponsible breeders and retail outlets.
  9. The bills undermine legislation passed last session.
The bills would not require pet store licensing or inspections. Michigan pet stores are not currently licensed or inspected by any agency. We have approximately 15 stores that sell puppies where families cannot easily see the conditions or meet the parents - site unseen purchases. Complainants who call local law enforcement are either told their complaint is a civil matter or pet shops are under the jurisdiction of the Michigan Department of Agriculture. The MDARD dropped the Pet Shop Program (1) ten years ago directing them back to local agencies.

The bills lack meaningful standards and are unenforceable. On the surface, they masquerade as animal welfare, pledging to protect puppies by guaranteeing that they are purchased from “qualified breeders” that are “USDA licensed with not more than three inspection violations in the last year and no direct violations in the last two years.” This means, pet store can still source from large-scale dog kennels with violations to the Animal Welfare Act. Even if Michigan pet stores fully disclose breeder names and addresses, the USDA inspection reports for commercial kennels are blacked out – entirely redacted (2). Consumers would be relying on the pet stores to provide those records.

The bills rely entirely on the USDA’s minimal standards and enforcement which has plummeted this year. The USDA standards are minimal and considered “survival standards” (3). According to a Washington Post article (4) published just this October, we learned the USDA has “revamped” their enforcement process moving away from penalties. Commercial dog breeders have no incentive to provide humane care.

“The department had issued 39 warnings in the first three-quarters of fiscal 2018, and it filed and simultaneously settled one complaint — with a $2,000 fine for an infamous Iowa dog breeder who had already been out of business for five years.
In August, USDA issued no warnings, filed no complaints and imposed no penalties through settlements with any of the 8,000 or so facilities it licenses and inspects under the federal Animal Welfare Act, …. “ per the Washington Post.

These bills would not ensure puppies are provided adequate veterinary care while on display for sale and families visiting the store are protected from Campylobacter. Veterinary clinics hired by the pet stores to sign off on the 30-day health certificates are the same clinics offering free visits after purchase creating a conflict of interest. There are now three lawsuits against Petland Novi (5, 6, 7, 8, 9) just this year including twenty-four plaintiffs all seeking monetary damages for breach of contract and multiple violations of the Consumer Protection Act. The puppies suffered from a range of issues, including genetic defects, infections and some had highly contagious diseases, costing the plaintiffs thousands of dollars in veterinary care. The lawsuits also allege fraud, claiming the store and its owner knowingly sold animals with deformities and illnesses, as well as, misrepresenting the origins of the animals.

One man was man hospitalized after purchasing a puppy infected with Campylobacter at the Petland store in Novi (5). This is currently being investigated by the Better Business Bureau who has been logging other sick animal complaints at the store.

On the other side of the state, six puppy buyers are also seeking legal advice after purchasing ill animals this year at Michigan’s newest pet store, The Barking Boutique (Grandville, MI) (10)

In 2015, over 30 plaintiffs filed multiple lawsuits after purchasing sick puppies at the Gibraltar Trade Center. The owner of Pollywood Pets / Little Dogz continues to sell sick puppies online as criminal charges were not filed (11).

The owner of Michigan’s largest puppy store chain, The Family Puppy, testified at the May 2018 House Agriculture Committee meeting “he was not aware of any complaints”, yet we know this is not true.  I was recently contacted by Toni Kastanos who set up a GoFundMe page (12) in an attempt to cover over 7,000 in veterinary costs after purchasing an anemic puppy from the store’s Novi location. This is not the only complaint my organization has received. NBC 25 covered a story about a puppy that was purchased from the store with many health problems (13).

The bills would not prevent puppies with genetic abnormalities from being sold. The industry has set up what we are calling “showcase” breeders who have new kennels or upgraded kennels, but still lack oversight. There are only a handful of these kennels that are used in marketing packages, while the stores actually source from hundreds of other kennels. Even these “showcase” kennels are sending puppies to our Michigan stores with abnormalities. The Barking Boutique (Grandville, MI) has been regularly shipping puppies with genetic abnormalities listed on the Certificate of Veterinary Inspection records (14). 

The bills would not ensure puppies are properly vaccinated. The only regulatory oversight the state provides regarding pet stores is to ensure animals are properly vaccinated during importation. Last year the state conducted two investigations (15) related to missing vaccinations impacting over 110 puppies at The Barking Boutique (Grandville MI), yet the store continued to import animals throughout the year without proper vaccinations even after an official warning letter was sent by the state. Some of those puppies with missing vaccinations were also sold will illnesses.

The bills would not prevent predatory sales tactics. Some Michigan puppy stores offer high interest rate loan options or leases, where the puppies are held as collateral! Consumers can be easily misled by the financing language because the store employee did not understand the loan terms or wanted to make the sale by glossing over them. The loans include attractive low monthly payments, yet those payments are spread over years making the interest portion seem minimal (16). In addition to offering easy financing for high priced puppies, in June, The Humane Society of the United States petitioned the Federal Trade Commission to create a Trade Regulation Rule that would define the following acts at pet stores as unfair or deceptive (17):

  • Advertising as, or as Only Doing Business with, Breeders who are “Reputable,” “Responsible,” or Other Like Terms;
  • Claiming to Be, or Only to Do Business with, “Licensed,” “Certified,” or “Inspected” Breeders;
  • Selling Puppies who are Unfit for Sale;
  • Labeling Puppies as Vet-Checked, Healthy, Health-Guaranteed or Health-Certified, and/or Falsifying or Misrepresenting Veterinary Records;
    Offering a Deceptive Health Guarantee;
  • Advertising Puppies for Sale as Pedigree “Registerable,” “Registered,” or from Registered Parents;
  • Representing the Breeder as “Local” without Identifying the Verified Locality;
    Failing to Disclose Material Facts about the Breeder or Puppy;
  • Misrepresenting the Traits of the Puppy for Sale;
  • Offering Misleading or Predatory Finance Options;
  • Utilizing Misleading Testimonials, Rating Systems, or Endorsements;
    Describing the Transaction as an Adoption rather than a Sale;
  • Advertising Certain Breeds of Puppies as “Hypoallergenic”;
  • Advertising Certain Breeds of Puppies as “Micro” or “Teacup;”
  • Failing to Deliver the Puppy Purchased.

HB 5917 prohibits local governments from enforcing or creating ordinances that would protect families and pets from irresponsible breeders and retail outlets. The market is not taking care of problem pet stores. After a hundred complaints, two lawsuits including twenty-four plaintiffs and regular news coverage exposing sick animals being sold, Petland Novi continues to sell puppies (18). Novi city council choose not to pass a retail ordinance addressing these chronic issues. Mt. Clemens, Utica and Grandville also choose not to pass proposed retail ordinances that would address the sale of puppies being sold at local puppy stores with illnesses. Only three Michigan cities, without existing puppy stores, have passed retail restrictions: Eastpointe, Fraser and New Baltimore. Therefore puppy stores are not be shut down due to local ordinances.

The bills undermine legislation passed last session.
Rep. Mike McCready (R) updated Act 287 of 1969 just last session. New regulations went into effect January 2017. McCready’s bill was championed by the Michigan Humane Society and supported by the Michigan Veterinary Medical Association and the Michigan Association of Animal Control Officers. The Michigan Department of Agriculture provided supportive testimony.  
The real problems lie at the commercial kennels and happen long before the puppies arrive in the stores. Poor breeding practices and lack of veterinary care are two of the biggest problems that are not easily fixed with more state regulations. Unless all breeders make huge investments and agree to higher standards, some kennels will simply be used as “showcase” kennels while the pet stores continue to source from sub-standard breeders.

Michigan pet store owners, local law enforcement and the MDARD have no control or oversight of USDA commercial breeders --the only way to protect families to end the puppy mill pipeline to our communities.

Please do not support these bills which would overturn all the progress we have made to protect families and pets from the cruel pet trade.

Thank you for your time in this matter.
Pam Sordyl
Founder of Puppy Mill Awareness of Southeast Michigan
Founder of Michigan Friends of Companion Animals
8758 Deerwood Road
Clarkston, MI 48348
cell: 734-718-7100
(1)   The state no longer regulates or inspects pet stores. 

(2)         The USDA no longer provides inspection reports online. Reports are fully redacted and take months to receive.  

(6)         Petland sold sick, worm-infested puppies, lawsuit claimsDetroit Free Press Published March 19, 2018

(7)         Novi Petland sued for allegedly selling diseased and sick puppies The Oakland Press Marcy 14, 2018

(8)         Lawsuit says Novi Petland sells unhealthy puppies Local 4 March 16, 2018

(9)         Couple says Novi Petland sold them sick dog that had to be put down FOX 2 Detroit MAR 16 2018

(14)     Puppies are shipped with genetic abnormalities on their health certificates and the store continues to purchase from the breeders

Kennel Name
Veterinary Inspection Date
Abnormality Noted
Cloveridge Kennel
Luxating Patella Grade 1 L Latfral

Small open font.

Open font  

Moderate open font (all 3 dogs)

one of the three female cockapoo had mild underbite

Puppy 174655-04 has a moderate open font

Puppy 174656-06 has a mild open font
Oakridge Kennels
Unilateral Crypt Orchid

Crypt orchid neuter done 1-31-18
Shadow Valley
Not provided
Left knee grade 5 patella not in trochlergroorse

Open Font ~ 3mm

Double inguinal hernial repaired

Castrated, double inguinal hernia repaired


Very small double inguinal hernia

Unbilical hernial repaired by Dr. McClintock

Umbilical Hernia and double inguinal hernia

Umbilical hernia repaired by Dr. McClintock

Castrated by Dr. McClintock

Neutered by Dr. McClintock had an abscess on right side of chest – healing

Right testical not fully descended into scrotum

Very small open font, left knee grade 2 patellar luxator, right knee grade 1 patella lux

Umbilical hernia repaired by Dr. McClintock

Grade 1 right knee, small open font

Umbilical Hernia repaired Dr. Mcintock, Umbilical Hernial repaired Dr. McClintock

Double inguinal hernia, open font ~ 4mm, extremely small underbite 1 mm
Walnut Ridge Kennel
Puppy has a moderate overbite
Ervin Lee Mast

Grade 3 knees right and left
David Troyer
Castrated by Dr. McClintock

Umbilical Hernia..small amount of fat on the outside.
Melvin Nisley
Puppy had crypt orchid neuter done 1/10/18

(15)     Missing vaccinations at The Barking Boutique. Warning letter sent, yet the store continues to import without required vaccinations

(18)     Petland Novi’s lawsuit outlines negligence, yet the store continues to sell puppies.

Link to “Ten Reasons Petland Novi is Michigan’s worst store” blog

Learn more about The Family Puppy’s breeders:

The Family Puppy’s breeders had serious direct violations to the Animal Welfare Act.

1) Marlin Bontrager, from Rome City Indiana, was The Family Puppy’s top supplier of puppies. According to a federal inspection, Bontrager was caging 177 adult dogs and had two serious direct violations including not seeking veterinary care for a sick puppy. Suffering was prolonged by not taking the puppy to the veterinarian. In addition, the inspector also cited Bontrager for housing dogs in temperatures in the 90’s. Dogs were observed heavily panting and puppies were stretched out on the wire floor trying to stay cool.  Bontrager has a history of violations going back to 2008 related to housing, shelter, primary enclosures, cleanliness, feeding and vet care.  

2) Devon Schrock, another of The Family Puppy’s breeders, was cited for accumulations of grime and hair in the primary enclosures. This harbors diseases. In addition, Schrock’s drainage system was cited as the upper washdown was draining into a pen on the bottom where two dogs were exposed. There was hair and sludge accumulating.

Learn more about Michigan’s newest puppy store: The Barking Boutique (Grandville, MI)

The Barking Boutique (Grandville, MI) features “showcase” kennels on their website, yet sources from 82 different Midwest breeders. Cloveridge is one of the “showcase” kennels that changed their name and business license for a clean inspection history.

Many of The Barking Boutique’s suppliers have violated the Animal Welfare Act.
One breeder with violations, Shady Oak Frenchies owned by Jonathan Detweiler (Princeton, MO), housed 177 dogs in 2014 and was not disclosed on the store’s website.

  • A Golden Retriever was observed limping on his right front leg. Applicant said "he may have been in a fight." (April 23, 2013).

  • Multiple Animal Welfare Act violations related to attending veterinarian and inadequate veterinary care program. (April 11, 2013)

  • A Bulldog with a bottom jaw sticking out 2 inches more than her top jaw causing her tongue to stick out and be exposed, dry, wrinkled and reddened (April 11, 2013)

  • Two adult Golden Retrievers were seen wet and shivering in the outdoor enclosures with no way of getting inside unless the breeder propped the door open. (April 23, 2013)

Another supplier of The Barking Boutique, Melvin Nisley of Seymour, IA, was cited for not having a complete program of veterinary care (April 2013). This kennel is not disclosed on The Barking Boutique’s website.

Link to USDA photos.

The Barking Boutique owner stated he only works with breeders with no violations in the last two years – which is the new requirement outlined in HB 5916 -- yet breeder David Nisley (Drakesville, IA) was cited for a direct violation of the Animal Welfare Act in 2016.

Link to USDA records.

  • DIRECT VIOLATION: A Boxer was extremely emaciated, very little fat covering her frame causing her flanks to sink behind her rib cage. (August, 2, 2016)

  • Note, this USDA report was available online before the 2017 “record black out”. 

Learn more about our Daniel Hochstetler, a USDA Licensed Kennel:

Daniel Hochstetler, a Michigan breeder, testified at the May 2018 House Committee meeting. He did not mention his USDA violations, or how large his facility was. He was cited for expired medications and a poodle was observed with a wound on her shoulder. Daniel Hochstetler’s adult dog inventory:

Inspection Date
# of Individual Licenses
Compared to USDA Inventory


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