Zoey’s Story could not be more grateful to both the local NBC affiliate, WNBC, the Humane Society of the United States and the website Gothamist for doing a story this past week on pet stores in Manhattan, specifically focusing on the fact that the puppies these stores sell come from puppy mills, despite what the owners claim (that they come from local breeders).
It’s even more exciting that one of the stores that was featured was Raising Rover and Baby, the one and only place where I bought Zoey; remember as well that the owners and employees adamantly promised me beforehand that Zoey was NOT from a puppy mill. As a bit of background, I had shopped at Raising Rover and Baby for supplies for my older dog, Abby, who was rescued from the Sebastian County Humane Society. When I started thinking about getting a second dog, I questioned the owners, with whom I believed I had a good relationship, about where they got their dogs from, noting that because I was from the South, I was aware of puppy mills and specifically did not want a dog that came from one. In response, the owner showed me his license from the USDA and stated adamantly that the dogs in his store were bred either by himself and/or by close friends/acquaintances on Long Island and upstate New York that he had known for over 20 years. On this promise, I decided to go ahead with the purchase.
Zoey became deathly ill the day after I purchased her, eventually necessitating her admission to an ICU for 3 days; had I not taken her to a pet hospital and instead listened to the advice of the vet Raising Rover suggested I use (that I take her home and “monitor her condition overnight”), she surely would have died. While Zoey was in the ICU, I asked for and was provided her breeding information. This was when I discovered that she was NOT from Long Island or New York state but instead had been born in Wheatland, Missouri. I was infuriated that the owners of Raising Rover had lied to me about where Zoey had been bred. When I confronted the owner with this new information, he immediately backtracked on his prior statements, claiming that he had never promised me that he uses local breeders. Either way, I was horrified by what had transpired (and Zoey was still not out of the woods as yet).
Longtime readers know that this story has a happy ending: thanks to the efforts of the vets at New York Vet Specialists, Zoey survived and has made the most of every moment since. Her unbelievably outgoing personality and always-upbeat attitude provides everyone who knows her with endless smiles and entertainment. But I still shudder at the thought of what this little dog was forced to endure for the first two-plus months of her life, bred to two puppy-making machines in Missouri, ripped from her mother before she was fully weaned, shipped to NYC under terrible conditions, and cooped up in a pet store for a few weeks, as if on parade for her eventual owner. It is this story, Zoey’s Story, and those of so many other dogs forced to endure similar-such lives without their own happy endings, that I started this blog and my non-profit, Protected Paws. I know change won’t come quickly or easily, but with the help of reporting like the story done this week by WNBC and others, we hope that hearts and minds will eventually come to understand that people should adopt rather than shop, and advocate for legislative and regulatory change that ends the large-scale puppy breeding industry once and for all.
For those who might be new to Zoey’s Story, below is the complaint I filed with the USDA, which summarizes the case:
Description of Complaint: Puppy (Zoey) purchased on 04/06/09 with DOB: 01/19/09. Customer who is aware of large-scale breeding facilities throughout the mid-west questioned the owner regarding the breeder. The owner explained that the dog (Zoey) was “bred locally in Long Island, NY by breeders he had personally known for close to 20 years.” I put a small deposit down to “hold” the dog while making a final determination that I wanted it and then paid the remaining amount on 04/07/09. NYS General Business Law 753-B states that “every pet dealer shall provide the Breeder’s Name and Address of the source of the animal. “ Under this section on the contract between the pet store and customer there is no identification number and a signature that is illegible which was signed at the time of the purchase in the pet store (Contract available upon request).
The dog vomited on the way home from the establishment on 04/07/09. The dog continued to vomit numerous times through the entire next day, 04/08/09. I called the store to express concern and was told to take our dog to East Side Animal Hospital, the pet store’s “preferred” veterinarian. The dog was seen on 04/09/09 by a veterinarian at East Side Animal Hospital under terms of a free medical check up with proof of purchase at Raising Rover and Baby. Upon leaving the veterinary practice, I called Raising Rover and Baby to inform them of what was transpiring. At that moment, the veterinarian from East Side Animal Hospital was on the phone with the owner of Raising Rover and Baby, providing him with a full medical update without my (the dog owner’s) approval.
The dog was treated at East Side Animal Hospital for approximately 6 hours on 04/09/09 until my return at 5 PM. At that time, the dog was returned to me with no firm diagnosis; the vet who treated her indicated that she would be fine to get her rest at home and bring her back in on 04/10/09 to continue fluids and rehydration. East Side Animal Hospital does not provide 24-hour care, making overnight observation impossible.
Because my dog could not walk or even hold her head up, I became extremely concerned upon leaving East Side Animal Hospital and took the dog directly to NY Vet Specialists for another opinion (records available upon request). The dog was immediately examined and admitted directly into the Intensive Care Unit.
NY Vet Specialists reviewed the dog’s medical records, at which point it was brought to my attention that the vet who initially saw the dog as a puppy was located in Missouri. This was the first indication that I had been lied to by the pet storeowner, so I called him immediately to obtain the puppy’s true place of origin.
There is a possibility that there is a violation of Section 65-3 regarding the health certificate being submitted to the New York Department of Agriculture and Markets for an imported dog or he simply just lied to me. The Pet storeowner subsequently provided the name and phone number of the breeder, Evelyn Brinlee (“Brinlee”) of Wheatland, Missouri. I spoke with Brinlee that evening in order to obtain information regarding the dog’s previous care. She verbally provided some of this information and politely told me that if my dog died she would just send me another one with the shipment she had coming to New York the following week.
While the dog was in ICU, the owner of Raising Rover and Baby repeatedly called my home and cell phone requesting that I take the dog back to “their vet.” I refused due to what I believed to be the inadequate initial treatment at East Side Animal Hospital and the subsequent disclosure that East Side Animal Hospital was providing all new medical information to the storeowner, not the dog owner. The storeowner also repeatedly called NY Vet Specialists to request information and attempt to have my dog’s care moved back to East Side Animal Hospital. Consequently, I had to instruct NY Vet Specialists to stop any and all contact with anyone associated with Raising Rover and Baby and East Side Animal Hospital.
My dog was released after 3 days in the ICU on 04/11/09 with strict dietary restrictions and medications (medical records available upon request).
Subsequent to the dog’s release, I reviewed the contract with Raising Rover and Baby, which indicated that “under NO circumstances will the purchaser ever receive a refund” even though this is expressly not prohibited by the N.Y.S. General Business Law, Article 35-D which covers the sale of cats and dogs Once I informed the owner that I was aware of my rights under Article 35-D, I was given a refund of $2200 for the purchase price of the dog. Taxes on the $2200 were NOT included on the $2200, nor were the costs of medical care, which slightly exceeded the cost of the dog.
Subsequent to these events and after Zoey began to recover, I contacted a non-profit for help and subsequently visited the large-scale breeding facility in Wheatland, MO, where my dog was bred in January. I also attended an open kennel auction conducted by the facility’s owner, Brinlee, in August. At said auction, more than 300 dogs (not including puppies) were sold, including both my dog’s sire and dam. I also met Brinlee and spoke with her for a substantial period of time.
Unaware that I was the pet’s owner, Evelyn Brinlee later commented to another person the puppy I had purchased was not a purebred Coton de Tulear but was in fact a Coton mixed with a black and white poodle.
Over the course of my research, I also discovered that Raising Rover and Baby had puppies listed for sale on approximately 15 different websites. Approximately 2 months after purchase, I also noticed that the pet store was using images of my dog to solicit offers on other Coton de Tulear dogs. Raising Rover and Baby was also using my dog’s likeness to advertise that, “we sell MICRO TEACUP, TOY and MINIATURE PUPPIES, which are bred by myself and local friends.” This advertisement also indicated that the dog for sale was “AKC registerable,” even though it is believed by me based on knowledge and information that AKC currently does not allow Coton de Tulears to be registered under its auspices. The advertisement also cited a “health certificate, health guarantee and pedigree.”
I found pictures of my dog on 5 different websites advertising my dog for $600-$1000 less than what the store owner charged us (puppyfind.com, hoobly.com, kijiji.com, k9stud.com, etc.) (Images available upon request). In addition, some of the advertisements listed my dog’s birth date as different than was actually the case. I immediately contacted the Internet company hosting the website and had the photos removed from the site. As late as November 2009, Raising Rover and Baby continued to use my dog’s photo to promote the sale of other Coton de Tulear dogs in their store.
Raising Rover and Baby currently has more than 146 dogs for sale on one website alone, even though the owner promises that his puppies are, “always healthy and “I am a real person with real puppies and not an Internet farmer or scammer.”
I seek for the New York Department of Agriculture and Markets (perhaps in conjunction with the AG’s office or city officials) to investigate these claims, and if information comes to light to show these violations that the appropriate action will be taken in accordance with the applicable laws.