According to Susan Robinson, head of Family Puppy Boycott, 99 percent of dogs in pet stores come from puppy mills that are commercial establishments, whose only purpose is to breed dogs for profit. By purchasing a puppy from a store or internet website, you are ensuring that those dogs are kept in confinement, living a life that no dog should ever have to live, Robinson said.
Robinson started this organization four years ago, with the help of her friend Pam Sordyl, in response to a puppy store opening in Toledo. The owner of this store has a chain with four locations, including three in Michigan and one in Toledo.
“Our purpose all along has been education," Robinson said.
Initially, the group started off with 70 people protesting and educating people on puppy mills, but, in recent years, the size has reduced, Robinson said. However, their purpose to educate has continued.
"We get a lot of positive reactions from people. You’ll know when we're on the corner every Saturday; we get honks and waves and thumbs up," Robinson said.
She added that hearing people change their mind about buying a dog from the store is what makes a difference to the organization. Her inspiration behind this organization were her three dogs who came from Amish Puppy Mills.
Robinson adopted her first dog, who was discarded from a puppy mill, from the company “Petfinder.” Understanding what her puppy had gone through encouraged her to get involved, Robinson said.
The group’s efforts almost stopped the puppy store from opening in Toledo, Robinson said. By connecting with the Toledo City Council and adopting an ordinance that banned the sales of puppies in Toledo, Robinson was optimistic about the change the group would bring about.
However, by the time the ordinance passed, the store had already opened. She added that it was difficult to get the ordinance passed, as some of the council members felt they would appear anti-business.
"They did put a lot of restrictions on the store and sales of the puppies,” Robinson said. “Unfortunately, that was overturned just about a year ago by the Ohio legislature.”
Mary Stuplin has also been involved in educating people for the last four years. Since all four of her dogs are puppy mill survivors, Robinson’s efforts to bring attention to how they’re treated interested Stuplin to join.
Stuplin rescued her little poodle, Sally, when the dog was six years old. Sally was a breeder on an Amish puppy mill and, due to how many times she was bred, her uterus fell apart.
"People see that cute little doggie in the store and it's the conditions that the cute little doggie's parents are kept in," Stuplin said.
She added that the man who owns the puppies will tell you that these dogs all come from licensed breeders and he can get access to these records where the puppies come from.
"They are licensed breeders, but license means the dog has to have shelter, food and water," Stuplin said.
This means that the shelter can be an unheated barn that doesn’t have windows or a cage with no heat during the winter nor air during the summer. Stuplin said that there isn’t a law saying the dogs have to be outside at any time, meaning anything can be classified as shelter.
"He can literally be born in that cage and stay in that cage until he either dies or is no longer a breeder,” Stuplin said.
When Robinson went down to the Ohio legislature to testify, the owner of the store told the legislature, if he changed the rules of selling dogs, it would cost him too much. Robinson added that she doesn’t know if what he said is true, since she believes he has lied before.
To educate people, she does research on the store’s supplier inspection reports with the founder of Puppy Mill Awareness of SE Michigan, Pam Sordyl.
Sordyl shared that she first starting campaigning outside a mall when The Family Puppy opened a new store in Flint, Michigan. Her organization protested for three years, educating shoppers about the store’s puppy suppliers.
“My organization is focused on puppy retail sales, and our goal is not to allow any new stores to find outlets in Michigan,” Sordyl said.
The group has been involved in 19 pet store closures and prioritizes new stores. However, their goal is to not put store owners out of business, but rather to end puppy sales and prevent new stores from opening, Sordyl said.
To educate the public on puppy mills, Sordyl posts information on a message board, including shipping records through the Michigan Department of Agriculture, inspection reports and photos through the USDA or local zoning departments.