PJ’s Pet Stores in Canada have been getting a lot of attention after announcing they’d stop selling pure breed puppies and kittens. From now on out, they will work with shelters and rescues on animal adoptions. Since the pure breeds come from puppy and kitten mills and more people are aware of the horrors of those businesses, you’d think moves like these would be simple for pet stores to make.
Apparently, it is not.
In the Chicago-area, the war has been brewing between the store owners, who have no problem selling animals from puppy and kitten mills, and animal rights activists. The number of stores shut down by protests is on the rise with more of the worst offenders in the sites of the Puppy Mill Project. This organization works on educating the public about the horrors of puppy mills and working with merchants to stop the sale of puppies and kittens.
I’ve always been an animal lover and to me, the right thing to do is a true “no brainer.” Animal abuse is wrong and to abusively reproduce for profit should be criminal. One of my dearest friends has a dog rescued from a puppy mill and Reese is the face I picture whenever I discuss this issue.
There are pet stores that are doing the right thing and it is working. Dave Cozzolino owns Wilmette Pet Center. Although the store had sold puppies and kittens for years, Cozzolino had developed a relationship with North Suburban Adopt-A-Pet. The store would foster a cat for adoption and hold adoption fairs at the location.
When he took over as owner three years ago, he decided that he no longer wanted to sell puppies and kittens and wanted to work for more adoptions instead. He worked with Adopt-A-Pet to change over the cages in his store one by one to the rescue. He fosters the animals and the rescue handles the adoption. After a year, the move has been good for his business.
I interviewed him recently and a couple of things really struck me about Dave. First of all, he feels like many of us do – because there are so many homeless cats and dogs in the world, it’s just not right to sell so many puppies and kittens for profit. The other thing is his very strong sense of community.
Dave feels that if he is good to the community, they will be good to him as well. Along with Adopt-A-Pet, he works with Midwest Greyhound Adoption, the Midwest Labrador Retriever Rescue and has hosted events for other shelters and rescues. But in his Wilmette neighborhood, community is much more than that. He supports school groups and scouts and other local organizations. As long as he’s in business, he’ll be around to help out a lot of local folks.
Like most business owners, he is in the business to make a profit. But he also was genuinely concerned about who would support those organizations if his business wasn’t there any longer. So, he switched from selling to adopting – cage-by-cage – and worked to come up with new products and revenue streams with each change.
In the past year, his business is up and adoptions for Adopt-A-Pet are also up – especially the kittens. He reports he has lots of new customers who adopt from him and now shop there and from people who are now coming back in because he has stopped selling pure breeds and changed how he does business.
A few other small operations are also joining forces with rescues, shelters and even Chicago Animal Care and Control to help save lives and move Chicago a bit closer to being a no-kill city. We still have a long, long way to go.