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 /

Monday, July 14, 2014

Human Chain Through Novi

Let’s tell Novi to stop selling puppies from puppy mills! Join us to form a Puppy Mill Awareness Human Chain through Novi 

Novi is Michigan’s “Puppy Retail Capital” with two big box puppy stores. Petland is located in the Twelve Oaks Mall and is our nation’s largest retail chain importing an average of 80 puppies a month. The Family Puppy is located in Fountain Walk across the street and is our state’s largest retailer of puppies with three remaining stores. Learn more about their suppliers on our website.
Join us on Saturday, September 20, 2014 from 12:00 pm – 1:30 pm to form a Human Chain through Novi. Wear a red bandana. Rain or shine, so consider bringing a rain coat as it will be hard to hold an umbrella and hold hands.
Our goal is to have 300 people holding hands from the south end of the 96 overpass to the entrance of the Twelve Oaks Mall.  Participants are asked to stand on east side of road. Check-in near Denny’s or Famous Daves.

HOSTS: Puppy Mill Awareness of SE Michigan and The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS)

PRIMARY CONTACT:  Pam Sordyl 734-718-7100

CO-HOSTS:  If your organization, shelter or business would like to co-host this event, please send an email to, attention Pam Sordyl. Early notification requested by July 14th.  Co-hosting would only involve a few things:
  1. Your logo on our flyer and other event materials.
  2. Event promotion on your facebook, twitter and website. Very easy!
  3. Attend! Wear your organization’s t-shirt and a red bandanna.
The more organizations behind the event, the louder the message to the City Council and Mall Management. We want the mall to GO HUMANE and the city to prohibit the retail sales of puppies!


  • DO wear a red bandana.
  • DO wear your animal welfare organization’s t-shirt. If independent, wear a black or white shirt.
  • DO bring a rain coat, umbrella’s won’t work if we are holding hands!
  • DO NOT Bring your dog. Novi road is too busy and dangerous.
  • DO NOT Bring your own sign. We will provide them.
  • DO Park in designated parking areas.
  • DO NOT walk or park in Twelve Oaks mall parking lots. We have to stay on public property. For this event we will not need to cut across the mall property. The easement is approximately 20 feet from the road.
  • DO NOT go into either puppy store, before, during or after the event.
  • DO NOT block the footpath, so please make sure that you stay up against the east-side railing of the overpass and allow free passage of cyclists and pedestrians.
  • DO NOT pass out flyers. We will have approved literature and can not interfere with traffic.
  • DO NOT interrupt the flow of traffic.  Tell people to pull around near one of the check-in areas if they have questions.
  • DO NOT approach cars exiting the mall at the light.
  • DO be peaceful and do not engage with any opposition.
  • DO NOT respond to any taunts, verbal abuse or insults coming from passerbys - YOUR ADVERSE REACTION is what they want. We usually just wave as if they were supporting us!
  • DO obey police officers, no questions asked. Always cooperate even if you feel like something is unfair. We can always handle issues at the police station the next day. Direct officers to an event coordinator.
  • NOTHING is permitted to be put into the ground. We may have pre-approved banners, but they will need to be held.
  • NOTHING is permitted to be affixed to any part of the overpass, railings, or municipal signs.
  • NOTHING is permitted to be dropped or thrown from the overpass.


Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Oakland County kennel listed on The HSUS “Horrible 101” Dog Breeder List

Oakland County kennel listed on The HSUS “Horrible 101” Dog Breeder List

Chien d’Or Kennel, a golden retriever breeding facility in Farmington Hills, Michigan, has failed many county inspections but remains open


CONTACT: Pam Sordyl, (734) 718-7100,

Farmington Hills, Mich. – Puppy Mill Awareness of Southeast Michigan is taking part in the Humane Society of the United States’ (HSUS) eighth annual “Puppy Mill Action Week” by releasing photos from a Michigan dog breeding facility listed in an annual report of 100 of the nation’s problem puppy mills. Chien d'Or Kennel, a.k.a. “Gabriel’s Ark Kennel,” located in Farmington Hills, is featured in the report “101 Puppy Mills: A Sampling of Problem Puppy Mills in the United States,” released yesterday by The HSUS.

The operator of the kennel, Mary Kathryn Gabriel, breeds AKC-registered golden retrievers and sells puppies online directly to the public. Photographs taken during Oakland County Animal Control inspections in 2013 show dogs with patches of missing fur and confined to small, rusty cages, enduring dirty conditions and overcrowding. The kennel has failed many county inspections since 2008 and has been the subject of numerous complaints from buyers of the kennel’s puppies.

Pam Sordyl of Puppy Mill Awareness, who has gathered extensive documentation from public records, reports by visitors to the kennel, and dog buyers, stated, “Ms. Gabriel is a chronic offender with repeat violations of the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development’s ‘Regulation 129’governing standard for dog kennels. The deplorable conditions of the kennels seem to have directly impacted the dogs’ health and may have even violated Michigan’s animal cruelty laws.”

Gabriel has been primarily breeding and showing AKC golden retrievers since 1999 and advertises them on her website

Inspection reports by Oakland County Animal Control officers detail shocking conditions and include recommendations for removal of the animals. “The dogs standing had a mere few inches from the top of the cages,” wrote officer Sgt. Brzezinski in a report. “The cages themselves were caked with dirt, filth, rust and animal waste. Several of the dogs were itching, and biting themselves nonstop which is consistent with a flea infestation. The water buckets, clipped to the cages…also included dirt, hair and grime. It was difficult to breath from the smell and cloud of flies in the room.”

To address the problems associated with large-scale dog breeders in Michigan, Senator Steve Bieda (D-Warren) and Senator Rick Jones (R-Grand Ledge) have introduced the “Breeder Registration Bill,” S.B. 560. Once registered, dog breeders with 15 or more animals would be required to meet minimum care standards and guidelines for the care of their animals. Concerned Michigan citizens are encouraged to call or send letters to their legislators to support S.B. 560, which the bill’s authors hope will receive a hearing this spring.

To see the HSUS’s 2014 report “101 Puppy Mills: A Sampling of Problem Puppy Mills in the United States,” visit

Puppy Mill Awareness of Southeast Michigan is working to end the mass production of dogs in commercial kennels, or "puppy mills.” Our mission is to educate the public about the cruel cycle of commercial dog breeding and the pet store link. Read more at

More photos.


Friday, April 11, 2014

The Little Pet Shop Press Release

Group Asks New Pet Store to Adopt
Puppy-Friendly Practices
Detroit area dog advocates share information
about the pet store-puppy mill connection
CONTACT:  Pam Sordyl, 734-718-7100,
An animal advocacy group sent an invitation to the new owners of The Little Pet Shop located at 45460 Van Dyke Road, Utica, asking them to become pet friendly by not selling puppies that come from puppy mills and instead to feature only rescued and adoptable dogs in their store.
Pam Sordyl, director of Puppy Mill Awareness of Southeast Michigan, said “We hope that The Little Pet Shop will join the ranks of so many other pet supply stores across the nation and adopt a policy to help stop pet overpopulation.”
Sordyl sent a formal invitation to The Little Pet Shop to stop selling puppies and to take the Puppy Friendly Pet Store pledge through the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) initiative. The Little Pet Shop has yet to respond to the group’s requests.
“We hope the store will take our request seriously,” said Sordyl. “We've worked with over 100 Michigan pet supply stores to sign them onto the Puppy Friendly Pet Store pledge. Unfortunately, some other stores have been reluctant to do so, and we then enacted a public campaign to educate the public about the stores’ puppy mill suppliers.” Nine area stores that sell puppies have closed after such campaigns were launched.
The group’s investigation of The Little Pet Shop shows the puppy store began working with two out-of-state brokers: Pinnacle Pets, Neosho MO and Fulton Enterprises, MN in March. These brokers are working with breeders located in Arkansa, Iowa, Missouri, Minnesota and Oklahoma.
One such breeder—Gina Boer, Iowa —shipped a Havanese/Pomeranian mix puppy to the store via Pinnacle. United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) inspection reports show Boer was cited for violations of the Animal Welfare Act related to barns with no insulation, no heat, no cooling and no shelter structures for the dogs. One violation report read, “The barn has holes in the roof where the rain can easily come through where the dogs are.”  Other violations indicate unsanitary and unsafe conditions: underneath the grated floors of the enclosures has a build up of old food and excreta, there is dust, dirt and a build of up grime throughout the building on the enclosures, light fixtures and objects.
“With 47 adult dogs living in unsanitary barns, this is certainly a puppy mill” said Sordyl.  
Michigan families care about their pets, while The Little Pet Shop is being irresponsible and working with out-of-state breeders who are mistreating their animals.”
Puppy Mill Awareness of Southeast Michigan will be protesting Saturday, April 12th, and has stated that if the store does not opt to end its puppy mill connection, the group plans to conduct a public education campaign outside the store.
The group has also invited the store to attend the next City Council meeting scheduled for April 15th where they would like the owners to explain how they selected these breeders and how can they ensure families are not purchasing inhumanely breed pets with genetic defects.