We all love simplicity. Who doesn’t want a firm good vs evil argument, reducible to a memorable sound bite, to buttress our firmly held opinions in ways that are convincing to others? You know, like pet stores that sell puppies are evil because they support puppy mills, whereas animal shelters are good because they try to save animals.
Life doesn’t often cooperate, however. The universe keeps insisting on nuance, presenting us with those pesky shades of gray instead of black and white.
I hate that. But it’s what’s been happening with some Petland franchises — and it’s the topic of Mary Haight’s fascinating pair of interviews on this week’s Animal Cafe.
A bit of background
It’s hard to know whether it was because of popular outcry or economics — or whether it really matters. The fact is that the Canadian corporate offices of the Petland chain of pet stores recently determined they would no longer sell puppies in their stores.
This made pet lovers in Canada very happy, because it’s well known that 99% of puppies sold in pet stores come from puppy mills. And it made pet lovers in the U.S., where there are many Petland stores selling live animals that come from puppy mills, very envious.
She also got a group of pet bloggers — including yours truly – to devote a lot of e-space to publicizing that petition (which is on the column to the right). I wrote about it here.
All well and good. But then complexity started rearing its ugly head. Or as Mary put it, “We animal lovers of every stripe have to guard against making the perfect the enemy of the good.”
To that end, she interviewed a couple of people who are involved in adopting pets out of Petland stores in the Pittsburgh, PA, area — stores that also sell dogs.
Interview 1: Alan Caplan, Owner of a Petland Franchise
Alan Caplan is the owner of a Petland franchise, which has been a family concern since 1988. Some years ago, the family started adopting out kittens and cats from their store and, in recent years, they began bringing in puppies and dogs. Caplan says, “Adoption rates are up to eight to 10 shelter dogs a week. If we can get them, we take them.”
They have a vet on staff and, Caplan says, “We try to socialize and exercise all the dogs every day.”
He adds that they are getting a following in the mall where the store is located, and having a lot more conversations with people than they would have if they didn’t have shelter puppies. “We feel good about saving dogs on death row,” Caplan says.
The biggest challenge, according to Caplan, is getting enough dogs. “Not all shelters want to help us out.” Caplan doesn’t say why this would be the case but my guess is that it has to do with also selling what he alludes to as the “pedigree dogs” and “designer dogs” that some people still want.
This Petland franchise and others in the area get a lot of their dogs from Pet Match — a nonprofit discussed in the following interview.
Interview 2: Pamela Hoebeck, founder of Pet Match
Pamela Hoebeck has been involved with animal rescue in the Pittsburgh area for many years. She volunteered at a local shelter and, in 2006, went down to Mississippi to help bring dogs and cats up north after Hurricane Katrina. She ended up transporting 50 of them.
She thought that Pennsylvania animal welfare organizations would help her get them adopted.
Instead, she discovered, “The shelters turned their back on the animals. They felt that bringing animals in from another state was a slap in the face.”
So she reached out to various Petland stores, and she says, “They stepped up to the plate. We got so many animals wonderful homes.”
And instead of being just a one time thing, it turned into what Hoelbeck calls “a beautiful relationship.” Now her nonprofit organization, Pet Match — consisting of Hoelbeck, her sisters and a friend — help get animals to Petland stores all the time, running transports and acting as a go between because many pounds, rescues, and shelters won’t provide Petland stores with animals.
“They’ve taken in a huge amount of animals,” Hoelbeck says. “They can’t keep up.” The stores, she said, have “gotten doors shut in their face because of a misconception.”
Hoelbeck contends, as Caplan does, “It’s good press for shelter animals.”
Want to help?
Pet Match doesn’t have a website, but Hoelbeck would be thrilled if someone would volunteer to help create one, since she pays for everything out of pocket.
You can get the contact information for her and for Alan Caplan, who is helping other Petland stores create similar programs, by listening to the Animal Cafe interview.
What do you think?
Is it worth sacrificing the lives of adoptable animals for the ultimate good — shutting down puppy mills — especially since some shelters won’t take in animals to begin with, and on line puppy sales are thriving anyway? Or are you making a bargain with the devil to burnish the reputation of stores that sell puppies of questionable origin?
Mary titled her post about the interview, “Franchisees Show How to Lead from the Bottom Up.” Do you agree that’s what’s happening? I’d love to know what you think.