BtC4A: Not So Fast

On Friday, September 9, 2011, Petland Canada released to the media the announcement that they would begin phasing out the sales of dogs and cats in their stores.

This is a hot topic for this round of Blog the Change, where Mary wrote this great post about rallying bloggers around this cause this quarter, asking Petland USA to follow suit.

This cause is so very, very near and dear to my heart, and I am thrilled to see this great blogging community get behind the cause and put some pressure on Petland USA.

However, before we sing the praises of Petland Canada, I ask for a moment of pause.

Here, when the other national pet store chain, PJ’s Pets (together with Pets Unlimited), made their announcement that they would cease the sale of dogs in their stores, the situation was much different.

When PJ’s made their announcement in August, they did it in conjunction with the Every Pet Deserves a Home campaign, acknowledging that their new policy aims to help find homes for rescue dogs and that they “can provide a significantly positive effect on local pet communities by working with adoption agencies to help them find homes for their pets”.  It was an extremely positive release, touting the benefits of the switch, and set a firm deadline for the end of sales at September 1.

Quite starkly different was Petland Canada’s announcement.

When I heard that Petland made the announcement to stop the sale of dogs and cats, my response was something like “ohmygodthat’sawesomeareyouserioushooray!”

Then I read the details.

The decision was based on “business fundamentals” because of a “decrease in puppy sales”.  Not because they want to help home rescue pets or acknowledge a problem with retail pet sales or that they could have a more positive impact on the pet community.  Nope.  It was because retail pet sales are no longer as profitable.  In fact, one Petland spokesperson made sure to point out to the media that pressure from advocates to cease sales had “very little” to do with their decision – it’s all dollar signs for them.  And no timeline to said phase-out was given – just a statement that it would happen.

In fact, on the point of retail pet sales, the Petland Canada website still shows this (accessed this week):

Petland’s was a very different message than PJ’s, even though both chains made a similar move; and Petland is still defending old practices.

But you know what – at first I didn’t care.  Who cares why they’re doing it as long as they are doing it.  As we’ve been saying, actions speak louder.

Then reports started to roll in.  Reports that people were going into Petland locations around Alberta, still seeing dogs and cats for sale, and being told by staff that there were no immediate plans to begin their phase out.

I knew from a previous field trip that one Petland here in Calgary had transferred to the adoption-only model even before the press release came out.  But what about the others?  According to their website, there are 54 locations across Canada.  How are the rest of them measuring up to this promise?  I mean, to the press, the CEO said “all Petland stores will be required” to participate in the phase-out.

Even after Petland Canada's announcement, other stores such as Pisces Pet Emporium in Calgary, will continue to sell dogs/cats (photo from July 2011).

So I decided to check up on Petland Canada’s promise.  Was it being kept?

I started locally.  There are 8 Calgary Petland locations listed on their website.  I knew the Coventry Hills one had already made good on this policy, so I picked 3 others in the city.

I started with the Market Mall location, and simply asked the lady who answered if they still sold dogs/cats.  When she answered in the affirmative, I asked “but I thought Petland announced they would be phasing out the sales?”  I suspect they get these questions often and, at the risk of editorializing, I seemed to put her on edge.

She explained to me that they had commitments to breeders into next year and would not start the phase out any time soon.  After all, they wouldn’t want breeders to be stuck with puppies Petland was supposed to take  [now, knowing the average dog's gestation period is 63 days, your breeders would be fine given 3 months notice, but hey, that's just me].  She also informed me that, contrary to the CEO’s announcement, the phase-out really only applies to corporate-owned stores; franchises do not have to participate.

Next I called the Westhills location.  They informed me that they do still have dogs and cats for sale currently, but are to begin their phase out next week.  I was told they are a corporate-owned location, and that corporate Petland is phasing out one store at a time, so it will take a while before they all have done it.

Then I called the South Trail location that has no more dogs for sale, but does have a few cats remaining.  The gentleman on the phone said they were looking forward to organizing weekend adopt-a-thons with local rescues in the future, but have not been able to set those up yet.

With the exception of my first call, my otherwise positive results prompted me to make some calls to locations outside of Calgary.

Lethbridge, Alberta was first, during which call I was sternly advised that they are an independently-owned franchise location that will not be following what corporate Petland is doing and has no plans to phase out dog/cat sales.

Damn.

[Update 10/15: Calls to the Kamloops, BC Petland location also confirm that they are a franchise location and will not be participating in the phase-out to adoption only.]

But my other calls to Grand Prairie, AB, Red Deer, AB, St. Catharines, ONT, and Vernon, BC all yielded positive results, with each location either well into the process or having already completely phased out sales and moved to the adoption model.

My favourite conversation was with the Red Deer location, who was extremely positive and enthusiastic about their adoption-only model and their relationship with Riverside Kennels.

Before I made my telephone calls, and based on what I’d been hearing about Petland’s following through – or not – on their recent promise, I had planned to title this BtC4Animals entry “Put Up or Shut Up”.  However, it looks like, for the most part, they are putting up.

But not entirely.

Hence: Not So Fast.

Before we go on to praise Petland Canada’s landmark decision (made reluctantly for “business” reasons only), I say we wait until they have fulfilled the claims made in September and continue to pressure the franchise locations that refuse to make the change (as well as Petland US and any American franchises).

For example, if you (like me), don’t like the Market Mall location’s feet dragging on this issue, take a page from this recent announcement of Macerich Shopping Malls, who have recently decided to ban the sale of live animals in their 70+ shopping centres throughout the United States (said ban to take effect in 30 days).  Write to Market Mall management company, Cadillac Fairview, and ask them to follow in Macerich’s path and also ban the sale of live animals in their facilities.

At the end of the day, it’s not what they say about ending – or continuing – pet sales; it’s what they do about it.

The campaign isn't called "actions speak louder" for nothing.

To read what the other fantastic bloggers participating in Blog the Change are writing about, check out the list here.

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