In Response to Petland

Well it appears that my letter to Mayor Nenshi and Calgary’s City Council has garnered a little bit of attention – much to my own delight!

At the time of writing, six Petland employees have addressed my concerns in the comments section.  Six!  This is great!  Because while I didn’t actually mean for my letter to be any form of attack on Petland specifically, as the sellers of companion animals they are obviously on the other side of the issue.  And I’m honestly thrilled to have both sides represented.  I mean, mostly I want people to seriously consider these issues, and then if they agree with me, all the better!

Field Trip

In order to formulate my response, I thought perhaps a field trip was in order.  A little sleuthing, If you will (once a Nancy Drew fan, always a Nancy Drew fan, I guess).  So I went to my neighbourhood Petland.  I mean, I hadn’t been to a Petland in quite some time, so I thought I should make an updated assessment of the place.

And you know what?  In one respect at least, I was pleasantly surprised.  I’m talking about their nutrition aisles.  Recalling my last visit to Petland (over a year ago, for sure), I remember shelves mostly stocked with several big-name brand dog and cat foods, which I think we all know aren’t great, and a very small selection of quality, grain-free options such as Origin.  And, of course, while you can still find poor quality foods in Petland, the quantity and selection of quality foods has increased quite a bit, which I was happy to see.  I didn’t see any raw food options, but I suppose they could’ve been there and I just didn’t find the freezer.

I was also impressed with the openness and patience of the staff.  I asked a lot of questions, and even obtained a tour of the area behind the kennels (I didn’t even have to ask, but apparently anyone who asks can get one).

On the other hand, there was certainly still room for improvement in several areas:

1.  Obviously, I’d prefer a complete elimination of poor quality kibbles and other foods for cats and dogs, as well as detrimental treats such as rawhide.  Several other pet store chains focus specifically on high-quality pet foods, so I don’t think this is an unreasonable request.  I mean, if Petland is all about the best for pets, this is a pretty key component of that.

2.  The “child soup”, or in other words, the public playpen, where puppies are put into an x-pen in the middle of the store to socialize with people and play.  My main complaint is that these pens are unsupervised (by staff; inattentive parents who are just glad their children are occupied don’t count) and there didn’t seem to be any sort of time or population limit.  For two puppies, I counted 9 children tugging and playing and screeching in the small space.  Socialization is good, but that strikes me as uncontrolled and overwhelming.  Not to mention, just anyone who requests can ask to hold/meet a puppy that’s on display in a kennel.  Perhaps that’s where the screening process should start.

3.  Which brings me to my next point: I’m pretty sure I could’ve walked out with an impulse puppy purchase in about an hour.  I didn’t even have to ask to see the puppy I was looking at; he was brought out to me because I seemed interested.  And impulse pet purchases, as we know, are a main concern of mine.  I was walking around with a cat water dish and had a cute yellow lab puppy in my hands in no time.  And while I didn’t go as far to actually fill out any paper work, obtained and reviwed it all, and I’m certain that if I was so inclined they would have sold him to me.  I got no indicators from the staff that maybe I should think about it more, research it more, etc.  And during my tour in the back, I noticed an announcement for a staff competition, where each person is encouraged to earn points.  Pet adoptions, of course, earn you the most points.  Petland talks a lot about matching pets and “guests”, but they’re still a company trying to make sales.  Fun fact: I learned the average puppy is sold in about 10 days, but being sold upon day of arrival is not unheard of.

4.  During my inquiries, I asked about how old puppies are when they arrive at Petland.  The response I received was that they don’t arrive at the store before 8 weeks old.  Well, most of the time.  Because they receive pets at the end of the week, sometimes the puppies arrive a couple of days short of 8 weeks.  I’m sorry, but I don’t care for the grey area.  Especially if it’s a day or two of travel from a breeder in Saskatchewan.  8 weeks of age removal from the mother and littermates should be an absolute minimum, and I’d prefer Petland be absolutely stringent on this policy.  What could the harm be in waiting until the next week, when instead of just under 8 weeks old, they’re just over?

5.  I’m sure it’s an issue with FIOPP, but if so, maybe the breeders should just agree to have their organizations disclosed, because if you buy a puppy from Petland you’re not actually provided with any breeder information.  You get some parent information, yes.  I mention this because I would personally not be comfortable buying a dog from a completely unknown source, no matter how rigorous Petland’s checks may be.

6.  Petland has an extensive flexi leash selection.  I note this, of course, because it is a personal pet peeve of mine; I don’t think they’re quality or useful pet tools.  Not to mention they contravene Calgary’s by-laws.

7.  The sale of particular training tools to just anyone.  I’m uncomfortable with the thought that just anyone can go and purchase a prong or choke collar (or even have one recommended) without having to seek proper training to use such a serious tool.  In the wrong hands, or used on the wrong dog, these training accessories can actually severely aggravate the problem.

8.  While I was there, my attention was drawn to a cute bulldog puppy.  He was 9 weeks old, had been purchased already and was returned.  And he was neutered already.  Now, don’t get me wrong, I am all for the promotion of responsible spaying and neutering of pets, which is a huge factor in unwanted and rescue pets.  However, already neutered at 9 weeks didn’t sit well with me.  Too early.  I am of the particular school of thought that males should not be fixed before at least 10 months old and females should be spayed after their first heat (barring some sort of specific issue that dictates otherwise).  The delay is to benefit proper psychological and physical growth, and these standards are supported by PAACT, the Professional Association of Applied Canine Trainers, among many other independent dog associations.  And while I’m certain the bulldog puppy was neutered too early, I also have concerns about Petland’s general spay and neuter policy/incentive: if you buy a pet from them, and get that pet fixed within 5 months, you are refunded a $50 deposit upon showing the receipt.  This will mean that most Petland puppies are fixed before 7 months of age.

9.  While in Petland’s care, I’d like to see the puppies fed better quality food.  I will try to leave the kennel condition criticisms to others, but I would prefer to see the puppies (if you’re selling them) fed something grain-free and better than Nutrience.  They deserve the best right?

10.  Actually, what I would really like – and what I think is a great idea – is for pet stores to showcase rescue animals.   Since a couple of the employees below hint to a working relationship with local humane societies, it would be much better if rescue animals were featured.  Potential owners would of course still have to go through the rescue agency for adoption, but it would ease the burden on the rescue organization and provide more exposure.

And while those are my standing concerns, I’m also going to take a moment to address the comments individually – and thanks again to each for taking the time to reply.  It’s clear that each is proud of their company and their careers.

Sherry Wasdal, Training Coordinator

Your post has actually provided me with a lot of follow-up questions.  I’ll fire away.

How often does a breeder get investigated?  What is the process for investigating the suppliers of local “accidental” litters?  What exactly happens when you come across a sub-standard facility?  Have you seen any shut down?  What exactly serves as “corrective action”?  Are you in collaboration with local humane societies or SPCAs to shut down and bring attention to these vendors?  Can we see an example of your checklist?  Do you have any statistics on Petland’s charge against puppy mills – exactly and specifically how it has helped?

Speaking of statistics, do you have any on having to re-home your animals?  How often is your “Pets for a Lifetime” policy acted upon?  What happens if you receive an adult animal and cannot re-sell it?  Or does that even happen?  Are the adults treated and housed in the same fashion as puppies?  Do they get walked daily, or just play-pen time?  How do you deal with returned animals who have behavioural issues?  How do you determine a price point for a returned adult animal?  Do you actually canvass rescues for Petland surrenders?  How often?

I honestly do not think that Petland is the only organization checking into high volume breeders, but I welcome evidence that suggests otherwise.

And, of course, the obvious question is that if pets are such a burden to the bottom line, then wouldn’t no longer selling them actually create more profit?  Stores that do not sell pets do not have to invest in the same types of costs, so of course you pay more.  Another fun fact:  I asked when I was at the store today: the bulldog puppy was going for over $3,300, and Petland paid the breeder $1,800 for him.

Trish

My solution helps.  Since implementing this type of ban in Albuquerque, NM, animal adoptions have increased 23 percent and euthanasia at city shelters has decreased by 35 percent.  These are significant numbers.

Stronger regulation of breeders is a much more contentious issue than you think.  Consider Prop B in Missouri, which is being touted as a victory against puppy mills; it’s not quite that black and white.  In fact, Prop B reiterates many of the regulations already in place in the state, and if they weren’t enforced before, why should people think they will be now?  But perhaps the biggest problem with solutions like Prop B is the serious ramifications it can have for livestock farmers, and the suggestion that it can be used as an “in” for the HSUS to more strictly regulate that industry is legitimate.  Companion animals (unfortunately or not) are governed differently, and the solution I have devised here does not impact the livelihood of farmers and our food producers.  Prop B is a potentially slippery slope and I’m not willing to see where it leads.

As far as breeders, I have not – and do not – suggest that some sort of purchased “certification” is good enough.  Instead, each person considering a new pet should do some research, make a visit, and ask as many questions as possible.  Reputable breeders will then have an extensive application process themselves, ensuring their puppies are going to good homes.  And many good breeders – like where I got my dog, for example – do provide warranties and return policies.  Not to mention information on the parents, an open door for advice, and even pet sitting if necessary.  I am also calling for every prospective pet owner to spend some time investigating and researching as much of the history and habitat of any potential pet as possible.

Yes, internet sales are already a problem.  And perhaps like Craigslist has shut down the “personals” section, maybe it and Kijiji should no longer have a pets section.  I’d be all for that.  In the meantime, public education is key, and I stress that no one should ever buy a pet online.

Martina Frensemeier, Companion Animal Warranties, Manager, Behaviour Consultant

While the warranty seems well-intentioned, I’m curious on how often it’s called upon – do you have any statistics?  I also cannot resist the temptation to point out that $1,000 is not that much, and I hope Petland still promotes pet insurance.  Actually, is Petland affiliated with any pet insurance companies? Maybe they should be.  That could be a worthwhile collaboration.

Also, if you are selling top-health animals, would it be too tongue-in-cheek to suggest they shouldn’t need a warranty?  Or that a year is often too short for many potential hereditary or congenial problems to appear before it has expired? 

I had the opportunity to read Petland’s warranty today and it was exactly as you said, and though it sounds good and you’re all clearly proud of it, I can’t decide if it’s unnecessary or insufficient.

Jennifer Brown, Director of Animal Care and Kennel Operations

Thank you for your comments.  I would like more specific details regarding your breeder and puppy selections and investigations, because my concern is that it is all easier said than done.  And while I am aware American Petlands are not associated with Canadian ones, the name association is unfortunate.  The American Petlands made the same promises, but it turned out not to be exactly the case.  I’m looking for more/better reassurance that Petland is as diligent as you all say.

As for impulse purchases, they still happen.  I nearly made one today.  And people with glazed-over puppy eyes can easily say what it takes to get adoption approval in a quick interview.  And in addition, the print and television advertising of Petland certainly promotes impulse pet purchases.

Of course, and as I’ve said, I do not, in any circumstance, promote getting a pet online.

As to your warranty, many reputable breeders now cover pet insurance to a certain age (i.e., 3 months, 6 months, 1 year), so you’ve got some stiff competition in the warranty area.  All good breeders will take a pet back.  In the case of a hereditary or congenial disease, some will even replace your pet from the next litter at no cost in the event it dies from the ailment.  That’s pretty extensive!

Janine Saurette, Kennel Operations Supervisor

Your post provides me with more questions.

You say you do not accept puppies that fail inspection upon arrival.  How often does this happen?  Do they get returned to the breeder?  In all cases?  Do you have statistics?  I assume a returned puppy means you will cease using that breeder and explain why to the necessary people?

I was told today that sometimes puppies are sold the day they arrive – I suppose this means they miss their day 2 vet check-up or are sometimes sold without a complete health assessment?

I’ve heard complaints about the grates in the kennels, that they’re hard on the feet.  The response I received today was that the grate was only half of the floor, but in all cases I saw today, the other half of the kennel was mostly covered up by a dog bed, and not often walked on by the puppies.  What about the concern about too much lighting?  Or that the minimum kennel standards are just that – minimums?  If Petland is going for the best, I expect a great exceeding of minimum standards.

And of course, I would like specific examples and information on how Petland helps prevent sub-standard breeding and care facilities.

Margaret Schmidtke

I would like to be clear: my personal agenda is to bring attention to the issue, prevent “puppy mill” sales and impulse pet purchases.  I am not a PETA member, and am very wary of any association thereto.  As a dog and cat owner, I certainly do want people to be able to have pets, but I also want those pets to always be treated ethically, from the sale throughout the duration of their lives. 

Your proposed provincial solution – higher regulation of breeders – is similar to Prop B in Missouri that I mention in my reply to Trish above.  I also mention my concerns with such a solution, which would actually be the more favoured solutions for institutions to the HSUS, as they open the door to all other sorts of regulations.  So I actually find a contradiction here, in your strongly anti-HSUS post, as they were proponents of Prop B.

And while I see you’re passionate in your stance against the HSUS, I am concerned about stores here, upon which they have no jurisdiction.  But since you brought it up, in my discussion in person with Petland staff today, they completely acknowledged the tarnished past of American Petlands, regardless of the HSUS’s ultimate agenda.  American Petlands were found to be selling many puppy mill puppies, and as much as you are critiquing the HSUS, you are not saying much about that study or its findings.

And on a side note, when you mention Manitoba, my first thought is actually to Winnipeg’s breed ban on pit bulls, which is legislation I am not at all in favour of.

I’ve been to Petland, and while you accuse the HSUS of “manipulating people’s emotions”, I would argue that your advertising does the same, with the result being impulse purchasing.  Putting a cute puppy in my hands today – well, the little guy practically sells himself!

The End

I am truly enjoying this thorough discussion of the issue and I thank all of the above for their responses, and I am looking forward to even more follow-up.  Clearly, I’m not convinced yet, and I hope my (several) questions get answered and I am met with more specifics, details, and numbers.

It’s clear that these Petland employees believe in their company, and also that this isn’t their first rodeo, so-to-speak.

And though Petland has many assurances, the Humane Society of Canada still advises that if you’re going to obtain a new pet “don’t buy a pet from a pet store”.  The Alberta SPCA and Calgary Humane Society of course also promote rescue adoptions as favourable alternatives.

And, of course, my proposed by-law amendment will not solely affect Petland, but all sellers and advertisers of companion animals on public, commercial, and residential properties.

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About ThatJenK
Writing from Calgary, Alberta, Canada. 90% pictures of my dogs; 10% miscellaneous opinions nobody asked for.

25 Responses to In Response to Petland

  1. Dear Jen K,

    Thank you for taking the time to respond to all of us. I am speaking for the group here when I say that you are obviously very passionate about your cause.

    It seems as though you have done just enough research to meet your objective of stirring up controversy. There appears to be information that is lacking in your research (as an example- you suggest that we should work with a rescue organization when in fact we do- and have rescued thousands of animals to date. http://www.petsforlife.ca) which any of us would be happy to discuss with you.

    Although you may disagree with the fact that we provide the public with a responsible, reliable source for a companion pet, we are all striving for the same thing- responsible pet ownership.

    At the end of the day we need to agree to disagree because the importance of the goal here is the same. It’s imperative that we get people talking about this subject and educating themselves.

    Sincerely,

    Jennifer Brown
    Director of Animal Care and Kennel Operations
    Petland Company Stores
    jbrown@petlandsuperstores.com

    • thatjenk says:

      Ms. Brown,

      Thank you for your reply. I can’t say that I’m not disappointed that this is the end of the discussion.

      In fact, this is one issue in particular where I would be more than happy to eat my words in the end, because it would mean that everything you’ve each said about Petland and its policies and practices are completely accurate; the animals in question are getting the best treatment and steps are actively and regularly being taken against puppy mills/substandard breeding facilities.

      You each originally replied with some very reassuring words, but I’m looking for proof and transparency. Yes, I asked a tonne of questions above, but I don’t think wanting answers is unreasonable. As I said, my concern is that all is easier said than done.

      I am, in fact, aware of Petland’s Pets for Life, but am suggesting collaboration with an independently governed rescue organization. Take, for example, the Petland in East Liberty, PA (http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/10299/1098052-53.stm) which has now opted to cease selling commercial pets and will now only feature animals from the Western Pennsylvania Humane Society and the Animal Rescue League of Western Pennsylvania. This is exactly the type of thing I’m looking for if Petland is to house animals at all. And while re-homing 753 animals in 2009 is certainly commendable, I note that Pets for Life only applies to rescues in rural southern Alberta and select stores in Calgary and Red Deer. I would also like to know how the number of 753 rescue pets stacks up against your commercial pet sales in the same area in 2009. Petland both in Canada and around the world is a much bigger franchise than that, and more can and should be expected.

      I agree that responsible pet ownership (and might I add, sales) is the ultimate goal, and of course that public education and discussion are indeed imperative and a large part of my aim here. Public education and action are the only ways to effect some positive change.

      I thank you for taking the time to address this issue as you have, but at this point I am not satisfied and I still completely stand by my original campaign in my letter to Mayor Nenshi and Calgary’s City Council.

      Regards,
      Jen K.

  2. Robert F. Brissette says:

    Hello, my name is Robert Brissette and my wife, Barbara and I own Petland Canada. We opened our first store in 1975; it has been a great journey. Where do I begin?

    I just returned from a conference where I was asked to be a guest speaker. This conference is a very strong, well coordinated movement by the animal industry. Executives thought leaders gather together to advance the state of the art in urban animal strategies, their mission is to promote strategies that build healthy communities for pets and people and to recognize those who achieve success. Organizations who always attend are the Canadian Federation of Humane Societies, the Canadians Kennel Club, The Canadian Veterinary Medical Association, the Canadian Cat Fancier Association, SPCA organizations and many animal services division at both municipal and provincial levels. The theme this year was on homing practices. I began by presenting our respective efforts by investing in employee education programs, securing reliable and humane sources for our pets, and our work with different humane societies and rescue groups to re-home pets. It was a rare opportunity for me to talk about what we do, how we do it and why we do it. All of the attendees were very open minded and for the next two days after the presentation, I had people coming up to me to acknowledge that they had no idea how dedicated we were to finding reputable breeders and how we hard we work to ensure the pets we adopt do not come to burden the animal welfare system. It was great to be in a room for three days with representatives from different animal sectors; CKC, SPCA, Humane Societies, Veterinarians, city pounds, by law enforcement, recue groups, trainers and pet nutrition companies and their only agenda was working together to make our whole industry achieve common goals. The Richmond by-law that just passed was discussed by all and it was agreed this simply was the wrong approach. Like passing laws that prohibit certain breed ownership versus educating and identifying that the dog is not the problem the owners are. Just like there are good breeders and bad breeders there are good pet retailers and bad pet retailers. Let’s legislate where the problems lie, approving and regulating all breeders of a certain code of practice and also regulate pet retailers on sources issues with the same code of practice.

    One of our biggest challenges is to battle the perception that in every industry there are always a few that ruin it for the rest who work hard and care deeply about what they do. It s unfair, inaccurate and closed minded to paint all with the same brush. Pet retail stores have had to deal with a lot of negative press. It is hard to forget graphic images from a situation gone wrong. In fact they should not be forgotten, but instead held up as an example of what is absolutely not acceptable. To fairly balance that, what also needs to happen is the recognition and acceptance of retail business who are shining examples of how to do it right.

    • thatjenk says:

      Dear Mr. Brissette,

      Firstly, (belated) congratulations on your 2009 Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year nomination.

      I thank you very much for your reply! To think that my obscure little blog has garnered such attention – and so many corporate responses – is more than a little surprising.

      Well, maybe. I’m sure the ban I’m proposing will affect Petland’s sales to a certain degree, and probably impact your goal of doubling the company within the next 5 years.

      And while your reply – and those of your dedicated employees – are always welcome and appreciated, my concern is that none of my questions or concerns noted above are actually being addressed.

      To clarify, it seems to me that none of you have really said much that I couldn’t already learn from your website or a quick Q&A with an employee during a visit to my neighbourhood Petland. As I mentioned to Ms. Brown above, without more specific answers, and some detailed information, I am not willing to abandon this campaign.

      And while I acknowledge you think my proposal is the wrong approach, I will end with last week’s BC SPCA online announcement concerning Richmond’s ban, which I find to be slightly contradictory to what you’ve said here.

      I look forward to discussing this matter with you further, though. As I said, I’d be happy to be, without a doubt, proven wrong on this issue; it’s about pet welfare, nothing more.

      All the best,

      Jen K.

      ———————————-

      Richmond gives final approval to pet-store puppy ban
      November 9, 2010

      It’s official – the City of Richmond has become the first jurisdiction in Canada to ban the sale of puppies in pet stores.

      The ban goes into effect in April 2011, and the city’s three local pet stores will have until that time to sell or remove puppies from their stores.

      Richmond councillors approved the ban after hearing from dozens of residents and animal welfare advocates, including the BC SPCA, about the connection between pet stores and puppy mills.

      Reputable breeders do not sell to pet stores; puppy mills do.

      In fact, the Canadian Kennel Club’s own Code of Practice prohibits members from selling puppies to pet stores, and last week, the Canadian Federation of Humane Societies reiterated its opposition to selling dogs and also cats in pet stores.

      Other municipalities are already looking to Richmond as an example of what can be done in their own community. Last month, Langley Township Coun. Jordan Bateman’s motion to have Township staff draft similar regulatory bylaws was unanimously supported by council. Bateman, who tells The Province newspaper Richmond has made it “100 times easier” for his community, anticipates that a bylaw will be brought forward for consideration within the next few weeks.

      You can help fight puppy mills by making the BC SPCA, your local animal shelter or independent rescue groups your first adoption option. Adoption helps reduce the demand for animals from puppy mills and back yard breeders.

      Meanwhile, the BC SPCA’s cruelty investigations department is working hard to stop puppy mills from operating and to rescue these innocent animals. Support the BC SPCA Heroes Fund for Animal Protection and you can, too. Your gift will save a life. Please donate today.

      Photo caption: Norman (above) was surrendered to the BC SPCA just days after being purchased from a pet store.

      http://www.spca.bc.ca/news-and-events/news/richmond-gives-final-approval.html

  3. Paula Wiebe says:

    Hello. My name is Paula Wiebe, and I have been working with Petland Canada for 30 years. I started at the age of 11 catching flies with a fish net for the anoles. Today, I participate in the development and training of the 1000 plus employees who have dedicated their time and their careers to learning about the pets in our care, and sharing that information to our guests, who have come to see us as a reliable resource for pet care in the communities we serve all across Canada.

    Ten years ago Petland Canada developed Petland University. An enormous undertaking geared towards educating our pet counsellors on pet care helping to ensure the highest quality, long, happy, healthy life for our guests’ pets, and ours. Petland University consists of 10 courses which are a minimum of 8 to 24 hours in length. At the end of each course there is a final exam of which they must receive a minimum of 90% to successfully pass and receive a pin and certificate, acknowledging their training and hard work. I am responsible for marking all of the exams that have been written, and the total to date is over 5000 – that is over 50,000 hours of comprehensive instruction shared openly and received willingly by our employees. I thoroughly enjoy marking the exams, as it gives me a tremendous sense of happiness knowing that the 4 basic needs of the pets being adopted, and those that our guests already have at home, are being met and often exceeded.

    Our extensive training programs became evident to the Government of Manitoba and specifically Dr. Tim Pasma. Dr. Pasma is leading the Manitoba government’s team in developing Animal Care Regulations in our Province. He approached us to lead an educational seminar on small animals. I, along with two other colleagues, provided a team of approximately 75 Animal Control Officers, and veterinarians in the Province of Manitoba with basic knowledge on handling, minimum care requirements, and common problems of non-domestic species. It was an honor to be recognized as leaders in the pet industry, so much so that we were the educators to our peers.

    Petland is not just a job, it is not just a store. Our team works closely with families, helping to introduce them to their potential new family members, and what an honor that is! We also work closely with animal shelters, humane societies, city-run pounds, veterinarians and private citizens who are in need of help. We genuinely believe that pets and people belong together – it is a natural and healthy bond. My five children love our pets at home, love coming to work with their Mom, and are so proud of all that Petland does to care for pets in our lives, and so am I.
    Sincerely,
    Paula Wiebe
    Petland Canada Inc.

    • thatjenk says:

      Ms. Wiebe,

      Thank you very much for your reply.

      It is clear you enjoy your position with Petland and have the utmost confidence in the corporation.

      I am simply looking for the same assurance and confidence you already have. However, in order to get that, I’m asking some more specific questions and looking for definitive answers. For instance, you say “we also work closely with animal shelters, humane societies…”. I would like more details.

      “Transparency” is a popular theme in Calgary these days. It’s largely discussed with respect to City Council, but here I am applying it to the commercial pet industry (not Petland specifically, but you are the only company who has either taken notice or the initiative to respond). I am not looking to expose trade secrets of a notably successful franchise, but I would like clearer responses to my concerns.

      Because if I cannot be certain that pet store companion animals are bred, obtained and treated properly and ethically, I will continue to request a by-law banning the sale of companion animals in stores.

      Regards,

      Jen K.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Hello,

    I worked for Petland years ago for about a year or so. I can tell you for certain that the employees who sell the most puppies are rewarded with monetary bonuses after collecting so many points/eagle points. It’s sickening. Also, the breeders are anyone. A lady came in once with a box full of Chow-Chow puppies which Petland purchase for something like $80 a head and then they turn around and charge $799 for the puppy. One time there was a parvo outbreak and at least 3 of the puppies got it. There is also a Tupperware bin in the freezer behind the cages where they put dead animals like hamsters, budgies, etc. Then, once a week, someone from head office comes to collect the animals for an inventory count.

    Petland does push animals on people. Their training motto goes something like “match the right person with the right pet”, but it’s all a lie. The employees who showed ethical behavior towards customers who were going to impulsively buy an animal were frowned upon and treated like shit by the managers. We had to meet sales quotas.

    Regular workers are called “Pet Counsellors”. Again, lies obviously. Petland also sells warranties on animals. It’s disgusting. If you aren’t happy with your dog after 2 years, you can return it after paying an additional $50 or $100 warranty fee.

    One time, a woman came in with a beagle she had purchased two years earlier to return it. She left the dog there and it howled and cried from being torn apart from it’s family for DAYS. I think some of the pet techs ended up taking turns taking him/her home because they felt sorry for the poor Beagle. I think someone adopted it out of pity but I can’t be sure. Again, warranty was issued.

    Petland should stick to selling Pets for Life pets ONLY. These are animals which have been turned in. They should STOP selling baby animals once and for all.

    I can tell you more if you need to know just send me an email.

    • thatjenk says:

      A,

      Thank you very much for your reply. It adds another new perspective to the debate, which I appreciate.

      And, of course, it does re-affirm some suspicions and concerns of mine. Especially those about where pet store animals are obtained from, and impulse pet purchases.

      • Hello again,
        After reading the “Anonymous” post I felt it necessary to address some of the inflammatory misinformation that it contains.

        -Our mission statement (as I have stated previously but will repost for the sake of convenience) is:” At Petland, we are dedicated to matching the right Pet with the right Guest and meeting the needs of both. To our guests that already own pets, we are dedicated to enhancing their knowledge and enjoyment of the human-animal bond.”

        What does this mean? It means that we put hundreds of thousands of dollars every year into training to make sure that our pet counsellors are able to follow this mission statement. And yes, if a Pet Counsellor sends home puppies, that’s great. Of course there is recognition for staff that does well. A staff member that does well is fulfilling our mission statement- which means either they are ensuring that people with pets are meeting all of their pet’s needs, or that people looking for a pet are matched with the right one, and that pet’s needs are being met too.

        I am unsure of where this person worked but I can say on behalf of the Petlands that I represent that Chow Chows are a breed that we made a decision not to buy a very long time ago. We do not bring in certain breeds for a variety of reasons- potential health problems, potential temperament problems, etc. And I can certainly say that if someone “came in with a box full of puppies”, they would not be brought in on the spot. Breeders need to have a phone conversation with our puppy purchaser followed by an inspection followed by the puppies being inspected by a veterinarian before a commitment to purchase is made. And do we make 10x cost on our puppies? Simply put, no. What responsible breeder sells healthy, vaccinated, well socialized puppies for $80? It doesn’t happen.

        Do we sometimes get parvo virus? Yes. Parvo is an extremely hardy virus and occasionally we do have litter of puppies that get sick. And then what do we do? We treat the virus- despite the fact that it costs thousands of dollars to do so. We could opt to “save money” and euthanize affected pups, but we are committed to providing the best care for our puppies possible, and euthanization in a situation where a positive outcome is very likely is not an option. Many measures are in place to prevent cross contamination- hand washing, kennel cleaning protocol, disinfection procedures, vaccination protocols, etc.

        And yes, if we have a small animal pass away while it is in our care, we do put it in the freezer. First of all, I’m sure that all pet owners have experienced the unexpected death of a pet, and we are no different, despite our efforts to the contrary. At this point I need to point out that if we have an animal in need of medical attention (and this would include hamsters, mice, and budgies), we TAKE IT TO THE VETERINARIAN. If we have an animal that has become ill and its illness has progressed rapidly and we feel that euthanasia may be the only option, WE TAKE IT TO THE VETERINARIAN. We have a very strict written company policy on this. How many pet owners have let their hamster or mouse just die a “natural” death when in fact the animal is suffering, because they don’t want to pay the vet bills? This is not an option for us because we believe in always doing what is right for our pets.

        Why do we freeze deceased pets? So that we can bring them to our vet to arrange for them to be cremated in a respectful manner. We view this as a much more caring and publically responsible option than disposing of them in the trash. This was a life and needs to be treated as such! I’m assuming the “person from head office” that comes around weekly to collect and do an inventory count would be me, and this is entirely false. Each store arranges to bring deceased pets to their veterinarian, and demand for this is nowhere near on a weekly basis.

        The warranty comments…well, I don’t even know where to start, as it is misleading and inaccurate. Our puppies, kittens, parrots and ferrets have a one year warranty included in their purchase price. Purchasers can elect to get a second year warranty (and double the monetary coverage) if they choose to do so. Our Pets For a Lifetime agreement states that you can bring your pet back at any time should you no longer be able to care for it. We do not want to burden animal shelters! We will make sure all vet work is up to date on the animal (including spay/neuter, dental if necessary, and vaccinations), and find it another home.

        The beagle comment? I’m sorry, are you angry because our employees cared that a dog was upset and brought it home with them? Or that we found it another home? Of course the dog was upset to be thrust into a new situation. This happens all the time in dogs that are faced with a new home or life changing event. The end result is that the dog found another loving home, and that it had trained people to care for it during its stay with us.

        Jen K- We would be happy to meet with you to address your concerns and queries. First, please ask yourself an honest question- if we share more details about our operation with you, will you use this information as a basis for possibly changing your mind and retracting your letter to the mayor? Or have you already made up your mind and no amount of blogging and conversation will change that? These allegations and twisted facts have put us on the defensive and we are unwilling to reach out the hand of further communication and information if this gesture is guaranteed to fail. If you are willing to meet with an open mind I urge to you contact me and we will set something up.

        Before I end this letter, I leave you with this. There are disgruntled former employees from just about everywhere, and just about any situation can be turned for or against you, depending on your viewpoint. Are we a pet store? Yes. Do we sell animals? Yes. Don’t punish us because we do something responsibly, well, and compassionately. The thought of raising my children in a city where we can’t go to a pet store and experience the wonder, excitement, and joy of owning a pet is a sad thought indeed- and that is what Jen K is asking the City of Calgary to do.

        Respectfully yours,
        Jennifer Brown
        Director of Animal Care and Kennel Operations
        Petland Company Stores
        jbrown@petlandsuperstores.com

        • Anonymous says:

          Obviously, your job is on the line so why would you agree with me? “Pet Counselors” are salespersons who are hired to sell products in Petland stores; these products include an inventory of animals. If you know anything about retail and sales, which you should, you will know that salespersons tend to get competitive with each other on the sales floor.

          I saw, with my own eyes, salespersons who were walking around holding “cute puppies” and as a result, some impulse shoppers adopted these puppies. They were assured that they could return the puppy because of Petland’s warranty. Yes, there were (and are) some irresponsible staff members at Petland who do this; and yes, there were (are) some irresponsible members of society (customers) who will purchase an animal on impulse. These are the facts of retail sales, period. As a result, animals should not be available for purchase in stores.

          The only way one should be able to adopt an animal is after being educated and then two ways: from a government certified breeder, or from a shelter. Petland has the option of not selling baby animals anymore and just selling shelter pets: I AGREE WITH THIS.

          That baby critter sure is cute when it’s… well, a baby… but what a lot of people do not understand is that baby animals GROW UP And you have to take care of them for many, many years.

          Petland employees are not qualified to teach these principles to customers – some of which are impulse shoppers (because that is the nature of retail). These are minimum-wage workers who are not instructors. Consumers do not usually have the mind to be educated when walking into a retail big-box multi-million dollar corporation store like Petland. They have one intention: To consume. To shop. To spend their money (hopefully). Shelters educated people. Schools educate people. Obviously, some Petland employees attempt to be good samaritans and teach people about animals, overpopulation, etc. But guess what? I would tell the customer to either adopt a Pets for Life animal, or go to the local humane shelter. And they did. I didn’t care about sales quotas. I told them to go elsewhere. Petland doesn’t like employees who tell customers to shop elsewhere; in fact, no retail multi-million dollar corporation does. And how does one become a multi-million dollar corporation? By adopting crooked, sneaky practices. It’s all about profit; like buying Chow Chows from a lady who walked in with a cardboard box full of them for $80 each and then marking them up to $799 each.

          Now, did I really have to give you this lesson in retail management?

          • Anonymous says:

            Seems as though you’re the one who needs a lesson in retail. Revenue – Cost != Profit.

            Simply put, marking up product 10x beyond cost does not mean you’re actually making that much money. Have you considered the costs of wages? Of having clean, open, conveniently placed stores? The utilities to keep the lights on and phones ringing? Of the training of staff so that they can help guests effectively? Of advertising? Of veterinary bills and food costs and opportunity costs of housing animals responsibly?

            Your argument might have been reasonable if Petland were a homeless man standing on the side of the road trying to sell these Chow Chows for $799. As it stands though, the majority of your opinions are a product of an inflamed do-gooder ego and a lack of understanding about the real world.

            I was reading this blog out of interest in the subject but could not move beyond the misinformed comments of such a self-righteous and inflammatory individual. As you said yourself: minimum waged employees are not educated enough to teach important principles to the public. You may want to take your own advice on this one.

      • thatjenk says:

        Ms. Brown,

        Thank you once again for your comments.

        My reply is going to be admittedly short, because my original concerns and queries remain outstanding, and I want to avoid travelling down a tangent and getting caught up – even though it may not be totally unrelated. (For example, you don’t sell certain breeds because of temperament concerns? Really? That only serves to reinforce some very detrimental breed stereotypes.)

        My concerns are about puppy mills and impulse pet purchases and they still remain. The details I’m looking for are with respect to these issues as they apply to the proposed by-law amendment. Based on personal experiences, I admit my concerns and suspicions about promoted pet sales and impulse purchases are strong, and at this point I will need a rock solid argument from you to the contrary. Actually, a rock solid argument on both subjects would certainly illuminate the topic. But looking back at the debate that occurred recently in Richmond prior to their approval of a similar by-law indicates to me that the main talking points seem to have been made, and are just being repeated. I’d like evidence, proof, and new information. And if you’re open to providing that, I look forward to receiving it.

        As to your final paragraph about the “wonder and joy” of owning a pet, I am clearly not attempting to deprive anyone of that privilege. And this unique “pet store experience” you allude to can also be found at a humane society, municipal pound, or animal shelter where you can also view, visit, and handle the rescue pets, and then hopefully even experience the joy, wonder, and excitement of saving an animal in need from euthanasia. There are several rescue organizations serving Calgary and southern Alberta which are favourable options (in my opinion) to pet store purchases. In fact, AARCS rescued 38 dogs and puppies in the last four days, and I know they’d love to have families apply to experience the joy and wonder of providing a permanent home to one of these dogs in need.

        And while I’m represented as some “unknown blogger” in the conversation here, my concerns are mimicked by several individuals and organizations, the most recent being the Best Friends Animal Society (NG’s DogTown), which recently congratulated Richmond on its pet store sales ban: http://network.bestfriends.org/golocal/international/16318/news.aspx

        Jen K.

      • Anonymous says:

        Hello, I replied below with some new information.

  5. Paula Wiebe says:

    Hello,
    I could literally write pages of stories of Petland’s involvement with animal care groups, humane societies, veterinarian and their clinics, and the general public, but instead I will provide you with a glimpse of what we do.

    In Winnipeg where I work, Cynthia Norris a veteran loyal employee of Petland is our liaison with the above groups. It is through her that hundreds of pets have come to Petland, until their permanent home is found through us. For months now, each week she has saved the lives of approximately a dozen cats, which the Winnipeg Humane Society has given us to adopt. In our three stores in Winnipeg right now we have 14 Winnipeg Humane Society cats for adoption. One of our bookkeepers has, at this moment, a litter of five kittens, 2 weeks old, and the Mamma in her office, where she will care for them until they are ready for adoption. Mamma will also be spayed and place up for adoption. She also has a litter of 3 kittens with their Mamma at her home, who also faced certain negative circumstances, and fortunately for all of them Petland was able to help. Cynthia has 9 kittens she is fostering at home as well, until they are old enough to be in our stores.

    A few months ago we received another call from the Humane Society informing us of a hoarder who had over 40 cats and kittens. We immediately took in 15 that they could not keep, many requiring medical attention which of course Petland attended to.

    Just last month Oakbank Veterinary Hospital contacted Petland asking for help with 18 cats. Petland took all of them, and have since found them all permanent homes. Just a bit ago, I was downstairs and an Animal Control Officer from the City of Winnipeg brought us an adult dog for us to adopt. Our Adopt-a-Pet runs, often have dogs from our city pounds which they happily bring to us knowing the very positive outcome they will have at Petland. All of the pets we receive from these organization get vet examined, have their vaccination and de-worming up to date, the adults are spayed and neutered and are cared for here for however long it takes, until they are adopted.

    Continuing to suggest that our goal of creating impulse sales is disappointing, to say the least. We have traffic counters which track the number of guests which enter our stores. On a monthly basis, on average, we have 15,000 guests enter each of our stores, and on average we adopt 17 puppies per month. That is .001% of our guests adopting a puppy. That is not impulsive. I hope you now have a better picture of what we do at Petland.

    The pets are available to be loved, caressed, socialized, experienced and yes adopted by our guests who appreciate all we do for the pets in our care.

    This is what Petland is about, and so much more.
    If you have any other questions I would invite you to telephone me at (204) 989-7600.

    Yours Truly,
    Paula Wiebe

    • thatjenk says:

      Ms. Wiebe,

      I am happy to hear from you again. And I am even more happy to hear about the steps that are being taken in Winnipeg Petland locations. These efforts are exactly the sort of thing I’d like to see – only in more frequency and in higher numbers, of course. Perhaps as a corporate policy, so staff do not have to take on personal burdens themselves?

      It is clear that your employees there have a deep personal interest in the welfare of animals (cats in particular), and Ms. Norris is an excellent example of an individual who goes out of her way to help animals in need.

      But the “we already do enough” approach is not convincing me to rescind my request for a ban of the commercial sale of companion animals. If Petlands everywhere – not just the one in PA, and a few select other locations – decided to forego commercial pet sales and focus on featuring rescue animals, imagine, with Petland’s high customer traffic, how many more animals in need would find permanent homes and receive assistance. Not to mention the resulting reduced burden on local rescue agencies and municipal shelters.

      You note that the average store sells approximately 17 puppies per month, accounting to a very low customer/puppy purchase percentage (this also works out to over 900 dogs/month nation-wide, if my math is correct, which is comparable to Pets for Life adoptions in one year). However, that is not my concern. My concern is how many of those 17 puppy purchases were impulse purchases in the first place? Even one is unacceptable. The suggestion of Petland staff sales incentives is still troubling, and my concerns about where those puppies are obtained from are still present.

      In addition, I personally cannot say that I know anyone who has taken months researching and considering a dog adoption and then purchases from a pet store; those who take a proper, serious consideration are more likely to research rescue organizations or canvass reputable breeders and obtain a dog that way.

      Thank you for your time debating the merits of this issue with me.

      Jen K.

  6. Pingback: Why Ban Pet Sales? « Back Alley Soapbox

  7. Jessica says:

    Ms. Brown’s latest response raises a question or two (well, many, but this one sticks out in my mind). In regards to the freezing of deceased pets, if in fact as she states they take sick or distressed animals to the veterinarian for assessment and possible euthanasia based on that veterinary assessment…why then would they bring that deceased animal BACK FROM THE VET to the store to be frozen and cremated at a later time?

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  10. Miles says:

    wow, where to start! you have given me so many things to say!

    1) your concern about “lower quality dog and cat foods”
    I’m not sure what you do for a living, or what you feed your animals. There are many families who are going through though economic times and may not be feeding 90$ bags of food. the foods these pet stores are carrying are giving many families options on food for their animals. I have yet to see the low quality food “ol Roy” in any pet store yet, so I am not sure why you find this a point to complain on. if these more economical food choices are also helping families keep their animals, I am sure there were many dogs and cats given up do to financial situations. I would love to know which food you are feeding.

    2. Your concern about flexi leashes.
    How professional of you to judge a company by 1 product they carry! The more I read your posts, the more I am seeing how you are so much more ‘highly educated’ then the rest of us when it comes to animal care and products. I am unsure why your opinion should weigh so much on everyone else life. I myself do not like flexi leashes, and find them very pointless to use with a dog, but you are willing to take away peoples choices of product because you don’t like it… can you imagine what the world would turn into if what we didn’t like couldn’t be sold! there would be nothing on the shelves of stores!

    3. impulse buying
    rescue groups hold adoptathons all over the country multiple times a year. this is by far way more pressure to adopt an animal then walking into any pet store. these adoptathons goals are to get as many rescue animals placed as possible. they never advocate that an animal would be put down if it didn’t get adopted, but that is a feeling most people get. so even if they are not at a point in their life where they are ready, they will adopt an animal anyway.

    4. the need for showing rescue animals.

    they do. they also raise money for rescue foundations, and collect food and supplies for the interfaith food bank.

    I feel the other letters have done a great job summing this all up, these 4 points were what really bothered me about your post. I am glad to hear you have been doing person research and self education, but if you have an idea so heavily ingrained in your head then you will never see the full truth. I hope my post has brought some things to light for you.

    🙂

    • thatjenk says:

      Hi Miles,

      Thanks for stopping by the Soapbox. I feel I need to pre-empt my reply by clarifying that my blog is largely a cathartic enterprise for me. If you learned something, excellent, but if you read it at all means it’s already gone further than anticipated. And that you left a comment means even further than that.

      I’ll answer each point by number.

      1. I feed a raw diet. We are by no means wealthy, but the cost of raw for us wasn’t much more per month than quality kibble. By quality kibble, I largely mean grain-free, and where a corn product isn’t a top ingredient – or an ingredient at all. If you’d like to know more about this decision and why, please see ‘The Beef on Raw’. If people have to temporarily feed cheap kibble due to an economic crunch, I can sympathize. But I do not like the myth that those diets are just as good as what else is out there. Kibble has only been around for a few decades. It isn’t the end-all-be-all of pet diets. And there is certainly a wide selection when it comes to quality and species-appropriate diet.

      2. The flexi-leash comment is a throw-back to an “insider” blog joke and a top pet peeve (pun intended) of mine, personally. See ‘Flexi-Leash Fury’. I will note there are pet stores that make the choice not to sell them, and also that what is my blog for if not to spout opinions into the internet abyss? Professional? Me? Why?

      3. Locally, yes, there are adopt-a-thons every couple of months. This is often because many, if not all, of the involved rescues do not have a shelter space to be visited and operate through volunteers, foster homes, and their websites. The adopt-a-thons are excellent opportunities for the public to see the animals, since an online photo and brief bio is such a small part of the story. Based on what I have witnessed, interested adopters still have to go through the usual screening and application process if they see a pet they’d like to adopt at one of these events, a process that will ensure you think twice about your adoption and the commitment you’re making. These same events are also run by no-kill shelters (in Calgary, only the Humane Society and the City pound euthanize animals), so there is no spin that the animal will be put down if not adopted. The rescues are proud to advertise as no-kill and the pets will continue to be fostered until a suitable forever home is found.

      4. Not all pet stores feature rescues. At least not here, and I am writing in the context of this city. Some do, which is great; I would like to see more of that. Actually, all of that. No retail cat/dog sales in stores, please. There are enough rescues in need of homes.

      The other comments made lots of points. I am still awaiting full replies to my many other questions and points of clarification based on them.

      Thanks again, Miles, for taking the time to read and comment.

      Best,

      Jen K.

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  13. Angela Conlin says:

    As an employee of Petland

    I would like to say a few things about somethings that the (bitter ex employee) said. I just spent my afternoon trying to nurse a hamster back to health and when we had done everything we could I drove the hamster to the vet to see if they could help. This is company policy!!!!!! Does this sound like a company that doesn’t care about animals. Please do your research before you judge. I love working for petland!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Angela Conlin

  14. Pingback: The Number Twenty « Back Alley Soapbox

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