One Good Apple

Guess where I went today.

Probably not that surprising.

This is one of Calgary’s many Petland locations.  And I went to confirm some rumours I’d been hearing.

And I probably don’t need to tell you that I haven’t been inside of Petland, well, since that last time.

I first sensed the light breeze of the Winds of Change when I came across this ad in advance of the weekend:

Since Petland actually does sometimes use the word “adopt” to refer to retail pet sales, I was pretty cynical when I saw it.  And I was even more cynical on Saturday when I was told Action Speak Louder (Calgary)’s favourite two-time television debate opponent, Robert Church, was on the radio, live on location, promoting the adopt-a-thon.

But then a complete stranger shared an interesting observation on Twitter yesterday, and I decided I had to go for another field trip.

I mean, I have been waiting with bated breath for a response to my letter to Petland.  I really wanted at least one reply and based on their history of having several staff members stop by the Soapbox and write openly, I was a little surprised and dejected when I didn’t get one.

And I refuse to accept that this note posted on Petland Canada’s Facebook page – posted for all 323 Facebook fans of theirs to read – is my response.  Though it did come out one day following my letter so… who’s to say?  But it’s more of the same blanket reassurances as usual, without any actual proof, transparency, or specifics.  If it’s a reply, it’s not a very good one.

So based on that, and on Mr. Church’s vehement defences of Petland’s practices in the recent televised debates, I was skeptical; a Petland going adoption only?  In Calgary?  Can it be true?

I should note, it wouldn’t be the first time for Petland.  There is a Petland in Winnipeg that has served as a satellite adoption centre for the Winnipeg Humane Society for quite some time now.  And there are a couple of Petland locations in the U.S. that have also gone the way of PJ’s Pets, and opted for adoption only for dogs, cats, or both.

So this evening I stroll into the Coventry Hills Petland location unencumbered, a little surprised my face isn’t posted on a wall in the front, America’s-Most-Wanted-style.

And the first thing I notice?

There are no puppies.  None.

Several cats, but the windows that would house available puppies are dark and empty.

And near the kittens, it says this:

So I flagged down a Pet Counsellor and start asking questions.

And it turns out the rumours are true!  Which is great!

This Petland location will no longer be selling dogs and cats.  Instead, they will be partnering with local rescue organizations to house adoptable cats and bring in adoptable dogs on weekends during adopt-a-thons.

To clarify, currently, the cats are a mix of Petland cats and adoptable ones.  Evidently no other locations were able to take on the retail kittens, so they will be selling the ones they have left and going adoption only for cats after that.

The ad for last Saturday’s adopt-a-thon was for the first one they’d hosted and the partnering rescue for that weekend was the affiliated Pets for Life Foundation.  The Pet Counsellor informed me that they have canvassed “all of the local rescues”, naming both specifically the Calgary Humane Society and ARF (Alberta Rescue Foundation), and that it will be one of a number of local rescues bringing in adoptable animals any given weekend (have yet to get confirmation of this partnership from the rescues, however).

[Update, August 31, 2011:  ARF (Alberta Rescue Foundation) confirms they have, in fact, not been approached by Petland to participate in this program, and that they would not be interested in doing so in any event until all Petland Canada locations cease selling all dogs and cats.]

The Pet Counsellor was unable to confirm whether or not adoptions would be handled through Petland or through the rescue, being a little unfamiliar with the new process.  But she did tell me that this location is serving as a pilot for the other Calgary locations, to see how the process works, if it’s successful, and to work out the kinks before other locations also make the switch (if they do).

Personally, I’m stoked.  This is probably the best response to my letter I could get – them doing exactly what I have asked and only 11 days after the request!

(Not that I truly think my sad little letter spurred this change, but a gal can dream, right?)

I am admittedly confused, though.

I’m not complaining, but I am perplexed.  I mean, why go to such great lengths to defend Petland policies and practices, strongly asserting the belief that the retail sale of pets is doing the right thing for the right reasons, only to turn around and change policies for the better as requested?  It’s like the weird defence of financing pet purchases all over again.  Or why, even amongst all the advertising of the adopt-a-thon, is there no mention that the Coventry Hills location is now adoption only?  That’s huge news! … Isn’t it?

Oh well. I doubt I’ll ever get insight behind that, but it truly doesn’t matter.

What matters is that there is a Petland location here in Calgary that has made the ethical choice to go adoption only.

So what next?

Support them!

Check out the weekend adopt-a-thons.  Tell them how much you appreciate and respect this move!  If you’re a Petland shopper, instead of going to the Petland in your neighbourhood, drive a little further to the Coventry Hills one and give them your business!

Show them with the only thing that matters to a company – your dollars – that you are supportive and enthusiastic about this improvement.  Encourage them not to change back; it’s a pilot program, remember, and a Petland in Wheaton, Illinois attempted this model in 2010, only to change back 3 months later.

Support this Petland so that other locations will start do to the same.  Yes, one location is a big deal and a good step, and shows they’re willing to consider change, but there are seven more in this city (35 more across the country) I expect to follow suit.

One franchise, one city, one store location at a time – the pet industry is changing.  For the better.

(Though, the Grammar Nerd in me would like to point out that we’re in Canada and it should be Adoption “Centre”, but one battle at a time, right?)

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

29 Responses to One Good Apple

  1. Jen says:

    Well this is certainly wonderful and shocking news, but I do have to admit that I am a bit confused by all of this too. Why would they go through so much in the past to stand behind selling puppies and kittens and then just up and change it? What about what THEY stated to be right? Are they admitting that what they did in the past was wrong? and what happened to all the puppies that they had in the store? where did they go?

    Don’t get me wrong, I think this is wonderful and I can only hope that this will happen at all the Petlands nationwide, it is a step in the right direction and each location that takes the step gets my vote.

    Ohh…and don’t underestimate yourself…I would have to think they thought of you a bit when they made this move:)

    • thatjenk says:

      What is even more perplexing is that the Petland spokesperson was on-location promoting the adopt-a-thon live on the radio on Saturday, and then went to a local television station and did this Alberta Primetime debate, presenting the same arguments as usual in favour of retail pet sales.

      Video here:

      But – regardless of the fishy smell – I don’t want to give them any reason to go back on this change, and instead give reasons for more Petland stores to convert to the adoption model.

      Because the bottom line really is that, even though it’s just one location (for now), it’s a great step in the right direction and has earned support and recognition.

  2. 2browndawgs says:

    Great news! Perhaps local pressure got to them and they see the need to make a change? I have always thought that the best way to convince pet stores not to sell puppies is just not to buy their other products. Let’s face it, that is what pays the rent. Maybe it was starting to weigh on their bottom line. Then you throw in a well timed letter and… I think you can take some credit. 🙂

  3. Absolutely take some credit! Isn’t it wonderful when something good finally happens???

    Now you have time to read all those books you bought at the book sale! (And yes– CENTRE, CENTRE… grrrr. No matter how many times I try to change my default settings in Microsoft Everything, I still get red underlining for all my “our” words [colour, neighbour, etc.]).

  4. Trish says:

    Does it really matter why they did it? The fact they did it is what matters and hopefully it will spur on the change in the rest of the stores. I am a pet store junky and spend lot of money and not one cent of it has been in a Petland Store and maybe the pencil pushers have finally done the math!

    • thatjenk says:

      I agree. The bottom line is that the improvement was made and they are testing the change. It’s important we don’t give them any reason to go back on the decision, but instead enthusiastically support it so that the other Petlands follow.

  5. Not so fast says:

    As much as I would like to applaud this, I just can’t. Petland has for years adamantly defended their practices of selling animals in their stores. Now that there is a real backlash starting to grow across North America, they change that stance. Is it a change of heart? Doubtful. It’s more likely a look at the dwindling bottom line. In other words, a business decision plain and simple.

    For years they have supported a despicable industry and kept animals in inappropriate conditions. The last thing we should be doing is congratulating them now and flocking to give them back our business. Sorry, Petland, but it’s too little, too late. I would hope any self respecting rescue organization in Calgary takes a wide berth around this “opportunity”.

    Coventry Hills Petland is not a franchise location, but one of the corporate stores to my knowledge (as are all in Calgary except Market Mall). This sounds more like an experiment on Petland’s part to see if they can salvage their Calgary stores just in case ASLC is successful in their bylaw bid.

    • thatjenk says:

      Robert Church, Petland’s spokes person, told Metro News this:

      “We’re just trying it out at this point,” he said. “We’re certainly not apologizing for having animals in our stores. We think we provide a valuable service to the public by offering them choice and that’s really important.”

      Full article here:–no-more-dogs-cats-allowed-at-petland

      While I understand your sentiments, I don’t think the “too little too late” reaction is helpful or what is best for the dogs in question, regardless of Petland’s history.

      I truly think that if we want them to change (and we do), we need to applaud this small step that is in the right direction. And don’t give them any excuse to go back on it.

  6. Julie says:

    I’d still be a little suspicious… call me cynical. From what I know, ARF has not been asked.

  7. Karen says:

    About 15 years ago Petland approached ARF to “supply” them with puppies for adoption. Note my emphasis on “supply”; they wanted ARF to “sell” them puppies which they would house in the stores and promote as rescued pets for adoption. However ARF would not be involved in the adoption process, the staff at the store would determine who was an acceptable adopter. Of course ARF refused as we did not want anyone except ARF deciding who adopted an ARF puppy.

    I am also very suspicious….I personally know someone who just bought a puppy from a Petland store on an impulse, when she went to buy dog food, because he was “so cute”. If the so-called pet counsellors thought this was acceptable, then will they do the same for adopters? This is especially troubling given that some rescue dogs have issues and may need more experienced homes.

    I look forward to hearing more about this program.

    • Jason says:

      Karen, 15 years ago, today’s biggest supporter, and actively involved member, of ASLC was actually the COO of Petland in Canada…linkedIn is your friend. Kinda messed up, no? But really…where’s the problem there? I mean…you’d be finding new homes for animals that don’t have homes? Why wouldn’t ARF go for that?

      And your comment on impulse purchases? “so cute” is ok if the pet stays with the owner for the long-haul, isn’t it? My dog was “so cute”…and I’m glad I got her. Besides, I’ve seen ARF and other rescues adopting dogs at the pet expo and other community functions…how is that not an impulse “purchase”? You see the cute dog and you pay money to acquire it… Can we please induce some accountability…start focusing on the pet owner and make people responsible for their actions?

      • Julie says:

        Sorry Jason, ARF does not actually adopt out animals on site at events. Every single person who is interested in one of our animals must fill out an online application and follow all of our screening processes. No animals are ever adopted out on the spot to ensure impulse adoptions do not happen. Some other rescues might do this, but we do not.

      • Karen says:

        Jason – ARF would not have gone for that (back 15 years ago) because as a responsible rescue agency we wanted control over who adopted our puppies. If we were a supplier of puppies to Petland we would have had to relinquish that control and THEY would have decided who was a qualified home. That was not acceptable then, and I am sure would not be acceptable to ARF now.

        Keep in mind I am speaking as a former ARF director and not as someone who is presently involved. Thankfully ARF has a very strict screening protocol now, much more thorough than it did back in the early days of the foundation, and impulse adoptions are not permitted.

      • Dawghaus says:

        Jason – I personally volunteer for one of those “other rescues” and I attend many of the adoptathons in that capacity. It is NOT the policy of most rescues to adopt directly from adoptathons. If you cared to inquire rather than infer you’d find that almost every rescue has a screening process the applicant must go through (I say “almost” simply because I only have personal experience with the processes of ARF, AARCS, Pound Rescue, and Misty Creek Dog Rescue and can’t speak for the others), and any animal that goes home the day of an adoptathon is actually going to an adopter who went through the screening process in the days prior to the event.

        And since when does commenting on a facebook page with personal opinions equate to an “actively involved member”??? Supporter, maybe. Member? Where do you get your info, exactly? Other than linkedin, I mean.

        • Karen says:

          I am confused too…..when Jason says “linkedin is your friend”…..he’s no friend of mine, on Facebook or any other site.

          Would someone please enlighten me?

          I would think that all the area rescue groups operate similar to ARF, and in fact just this past Spring when we were looking to adopt a new dog we were screened by AARC’s, ARF and Pawsitive Match each in a similar fashion. I can’t see any of them allowing Petland staff to screen potential adopters and make decisions regarding placements.

    • Julie says:

      Our “official” statement on the matter – Thanks Karen!

      On behalf of ARF, I would like to note that we have never been asked by this location to showcase any of our animals. In the event that they do ask, we would not partner with them until Petland Canada has successfully withdrawn from retail sales of all dogs and cats. This just reaffirms that not all Petland employees are supplied with appropriate information regarding matters like these.

      • thatjenk says:

        Thanks for the clarification, Julie! It’s good to have the facts.

        It’s unfortunate and disappointing that the Petland staff haven’t been fully educated on the adoption program and the future plans.

        • Julie says:

          Yes, it is unfortunate and disappointing. *sigh*
          Not much we can do about it though. Thank-you for updating your blog to reflect our response.

  8. Jasmine says:

    Lets ask ARF where they took their cats they did no longer want to be responsible for. Perhaps it was the Humane Society? That is what I have heard. So let’s not let one rescue organization pretend to be all high and mighty and squeeky clean. The rescue organizations I know of do what they can, and the goal is to save animal lives. I am kind of sick of ARF behaving like they are the voice of what should be done. Have you seen their financials? The costs they spend per animal adopted out are HUGE. So people from ARF, stop going on about how wonderful you are, and focus on saving animals please.

    • Julie says:

      Hi Jasmine, Since all this information is posted on our website and FB pages, and we’ve been totally transparent about this matter, it is general knowledge that ARF did in fact receive help from the Calgary Humane Society to place some cats into permanent homes. Every cat that they assisted us with have in fact been adopted. Part of our mission is to find animals permanent homes, this is what we’ve done. These are by no means animals that we did not want to be responsible for, they were animals that needed homes. The CHS offered an opportunity to help us and we took it. The cats we placed with them were at no risk of euthanization and they were being monitored by us. It is also common knowledge that our cat program has been struggling for well over a year now and we are working to rectify the program to run as smoothly and as efficiently as our dog program. Since I’m not really sure what you’re issue is and why you’ve passively aggressively posted here instead of contacting someone directly at ARF, I urge you to speak directly with the Board of Directors if you really do have concerns. You can email them at and they’ll be happy to speak with you.

    • Karen says:

      Jasmine, as Julie pointed out, ARF has been completely transparent about their decision to partner with CHS regarding this matter.

      CHS would never have offered their help if they thought any animals in their care or ARF’s would have been at risk.

      I agree with Julie that instead of blasting ARF here you should have contacted them directly with your concerns and I am sure they would have been happy to speak with you about it. I myself, as a supporter of ARF, questioned it on Facebook and received a satisfactory answer immediately.

      I doubt very much that anyone at ARF proclaims they are “squeaky clean”, as no one foundation is or ever will be in the eyes of every single member of the public. Since you seem to think you have all the answers, how about letting everyone know your solutions to the problems?

  9. Kristine says:

    Very confusing, I agree, but I honestly don’t care why. I am just glad that at least one store in Calgary has made the decision to change its operations for the better. It doesn’t mean the battle is over but it’s an amazing start. If this store does well financially as a result, it won’t be too long before the others change as well. So I agree with your final message. This store needs to be supported! Petland needs to see that their bottom line will actually improve when they make the right decision to stop selling dogs and cats.

    • thatjenk says:

      Exactly. Despite the conflicting media statements, we have to focus on the change implemented (and agonizing over the details just makes it worse – trust me).

      Our ASLC name says it all, really: Actions Speak Louder. And they acted by removing dogs and cats from one store.

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  11. Today is May 5th 2012 , and for the first time in at least a year, I went into the Market Mall location of PETLAND, in Calgary, Alberta. I was quite excited to see if PETLAND was holding up their PROMISE to STOP selling dogs. As I approached the back of the store, the amount of people with children and sales associates began to grow. People holding puppies, children grabbing puppies and Sales Associates doing everything they possibly could to SELL THESE PUPPIES!!!!! My heart truly sank to my feet, and as I slowly walked around the glass Aquariums that these poor little souls are locked in, my eyes came upon one little itsy bitsy black and tan mini Dachshund. My heart started to break, and my eyes filled with tears. Not but 2 seconds after i had stopped at this little fellows’ glass jail, did an associate quickly apporach me and ask me if I was I interested in purchasing this baby. As I choked back the tears, I responded immediately, With ” I understood that Petland was no longer going to be selling anymore dogs”. The associates’ extremely quick reply to me was this. “This Petland Location is privately owned, and the owners have a 10 year commitment to at least 8 different breeders. All these dogs have there health certificate, blah blah blah and that these owners are trying to get the Calgary Humane Society to go out an approve all these breeders. REALLY?????????????????????????? I then asked, “if I were to buy this little puppy right this minute, would you be able to tell me who the breeder is? Her reply was disgusting. No maam, their is a privacy act that we have to follow, because, some people have found out who the breeder is, and go to them directly to purchase a dog. These breeders have absolutely outright refused to sell to these people. My reply was very quick, quite loud and forthright, having the customers around me take a moment to think, I would hope. “Well, of course these puppymill breeders would not want anyone finding out who they were. And because they care so much about the well being of each of these little souls, they WOULD FAR RATHER have them live in glass fish bowls until someone bought them, then care for them and love them like these little babies deserve.” She simply responded with a ” That’s one way of putting it I guess”. I AM SO DISGUSTED PETLAND!!!!!!!! You make me SICK!!!!! How dare you lie to everyone with your big media announcement! What a farce!!!!!!

    • thatjenk says:

      Hi Margo,

      I know – it’s pretty unfortunate that Petland got a lot of great press in the fall and little attention was paid to the caveat about it applying to corporate-owned locations only.

      If you happen to head to the Calgary Pet Expo this weekend, stop by the Actions Speak Louder (Calgary) booth (#408) – there’s ways you can help make a difference!

      Thank you for your comments, as frustrating as it is to hear.


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