|By Carley Dangona
Members of the Western Massachusetts Animal Rights Advocates protest The Puppy Place in August. Another protest is scheduled to take place Oct. 13 from 1 to 3 p.m. Left to right: Laurie Priest, two spectators with their pitbull, Sheryl Becker, Diane Towers and Cecile Guilbault.
Reminder Publications submitted photo
WEST SPRINGFIELD – Protesters will again assemble in front of The Puppy Place to share their concerns about puppy mills and to advocate for shelter adoption.
Western Massachusetts Animal Rights Advocates (WMARA) will stand out in front of the store, located at 935 Riverdale St., in the Riverdale Shops, on Oct. 13 from 1 to 3 p.m. This is the second protest in the past three months the group has staged, but the WMARA has boycotted the store since its inception in 2011.
“We need to educate people,” Sheryl Becker, founder of WMARA, said. “We don’t want people to be heartbroken or to go bankrupt.”
She continued, “We’re urging people to adopt and not shop. People think it’s safer to buy from a store. It’s all a scam. We need more people to see things as they really are. If we can shut down one store, we can make a dent.”
She alleged that The Puppy Place utilizes puppy mills and that many of the puppies for sale have costly health problems such as pneumonia and kennel cough. Becker said that a past rally she encountered a mother and her son that were returning a dog because it was ill and the family couldn’t afford the veterinary bills.
Kristin Dicioccio, area resident and friend of Becker’s, visited the store this August in search of a new companion. A store clerk told her about a puppy in the “quarantine room,” that she might be interested in once the dog was well. While she was not allowed to enter the room, she noticed that the “quarantine back room had big fan blocking door and was told it’s not air conditioned like the storefront area – it was at least 90 degrees that day.”
Dicioccio made other observations. She said, “All the puppies cages had wire bottoms and we saw a pup with his leg caught in wire bottom just lying there. Another pup that was the size of a hand was frantically pawing the glass cage side trying to lift himself up to a watering device attached to cage side and was too short and just kept falling down. In front, in a large glassed-in pup play area there was only shredded paper, a lot of it, and three pups. One was chasing and biting another pup as he tried to get away.”
The Animal Welfare Act outlines the basic standards of care for animals to prevent inhumane treatment of them.
According to Becker, The Puppy Place was shut down for violation of the act in 2007.
She explained that while the federal website only displays violations for four years. The same people that run The Puppy Place used to own The Dog House in Manchester, Conn., a store that was shut down due to numerous complaints. The original WFSB news story can be viewed online at http://petoftheday.com/talk/archive/index.php/t-142606.html
Becker said that the WMARA conducted its own investigation where one of its members inquired about buying a puppy and was given the name Wanda Kretzman as a breeder for the store.
Kretzman’s name appears in “The Horrible Hundred,” a report compiled by the Humane Society of the United States that was published in May. To view the article, visit www.humanesociety.org/assets/pdfs/pets/puppy_mills/100-puppy-mills-report.pdf.
An excerpt from the article states, “In February 2013, an inspector noted that the ammonia (urine) fumes in one of Kretzman’s buildings were so strong that the ‘inspector could feel the ammonia burn the eyes,’ and noted the fumes ‘could cause respiratory issues’ in dogs who were forced to live in those conditions. The inspector noted there were 188 dogs in the building that were exposed to the hazardous fumes.”
“We are a local, grassroots animal advocacy group that wants to expose the truth. We want to help the puppies and the people. There’s been a lot of pain and suffering and it has to end,” Becker said.
Rob Halpin, Public Relations director for the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals – Angell Animal Medical Center (MSPCA) told Reminder Publications that the organization does not “oversee or govern” pet stores.
“That being said, the MSPCA is wholly opposed to purchasing puppies from pet stores. The vast majority of [pet retailers] put the dog’s comfort, safety and well-being in the backseat to its monetary value,” Halpin said.
He added, “There of millions of [shelter] animals in need of homes. By buying and not adopting, people are missing the opportunity to save two lives – the one of the animal they take home and the one of the animal on the street in need of that spot at the shelter.”
Krista Selmi, spokesperson for the Massachusetts Department of Energy and Environmental Affairs, informed Reminder Publications that while there have been issues with The Puppy Place in the past, there are none currently.
Selmi stated the store passed its license renewal inspection in November 2012. She confirmed the corporation that runs The Puppy Place is the same that owned The Dog House in North Attleboro, which recently closed down.
She said that the past cases were related to animal illness, but upon follow up inspection, the issues had been resolved because the dogs were no longer ill.
The manager of The Puppy Place declined to comment until she received approval from the business owners.
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