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

31 Responses to BtC4A: Not So Fast

  1. Pingback: Petland and Puppy Mills: Stop the Madness #btc4a

  2. Thank you for the first-hand Canadian perspective! I just updated my own post to reflect your insight and linked here for more information. Looks like we need to keep the pressure on everywhere, not that I’m surprised.

    Thanks for Blogging the Change!

    Kim Clune
    BTC4animals.com
    ThisOneWildLife.com

  3. Pingback: PetLand USA: Stop Supporting Puppy Mills, Stop Selling Live Pets

  4. Pingback: Puppy Mills and Petland: Bloggers Say Stop Selling Pets | Dancing Dog Blog

  5. Really good post! I live in the states and although most of the local petlands have been put out of business there are a few remaining. Last year one of them said they would switch over to using puppies from three different local animal shelters. I think this lasted 4 months before they stopped the program. I don’t know if they went back to the puppy mill dogs because there has been a big decline in people buying petstore puppies (yay!). I should go check up on them and see what’s been going on LOL!

    Found you through BTC4A!

    • thatjenk says:

      Good point! That’s another major concern – I’ve heard of at least one Petland in the US that switched to adoption-only, only to switch back to sales a couple of months later because it wasn’t as profitable. Gotta ensure they stick to the adoption model once they get there!

      Thanks for stopping by!

  6. Mel says:

    Wow. Great post. Good detective work too!

    I am really disheartened to think that Petland made this big announcement only to really mean “just” their corporate owned stores. I get that a franchisee can’t be made to stop, but you would think that if Petland Canada was doing so this would be a great opportunity to do so as well. Think again huh?

    It’s funny, but it wasn’t the whole “we made this decision for monetary reasons” excuse that bothered me most. It was their allegation that if you are against Petland and the purchasing of puppies in pet stores, you are also against people having companion pets. Really? I hate double-talk like that. Drives me crazy. It’s called framing the conversation and clearly Petland Canada does a lot more framing of conversation than actual “doing” what they say. Thanks for bringing this to my attention.

    Mel Freer
    BTC4animals.com
    NoDogAboutIt.Wordpress.com

    • thatjenk says:

      Oh, you have no idea how tired I am of hearing that me personally – or Actions Speak Louder (Calgary), or anyone against retail pet sales for that matter – is against pet ownership entirely. That could not be further from the truth – we’re pet guardians ourselves! We just want the best for them, and to find loving homes for the thousands without them in shelters and elsewhere.

      Thanks for commenting, Mel!

  7. Ashley says:

    Oh my. That’s really disappointing to hear. I’m glad that we have, as Kim put it, a Canadian perspective on this problem.

    • thatjenk says:

      Well, I mean, overall there’s good news and bad news. I just wanted to put a footnote of context to all the praise Petland Canada has been getting.

  8. Thanks for the follow-up on PetLand Canada. Very good post! Found you through BTC4A too – we’re also participating, with a post today that details some of the reasons WHY puppy mills are so awful and need to be stopped!

  9. Wow. And we were all so excited. Well, we’ll keep on them, as well as Petland USA. Thank you for letting us know about this!

  10. Pingback: Blog the Change: Stop Petland USA « Of Cows' Tails and Chew Toys

  11. MyBrownNewfies says:

    Wonderful post Jenn. Thanks for the information and for all the reasearch that you have done on this. I have been learning so much from your posts!

  12. Kristine says:

    Thanks for this update. I was so hopeful, so happy, I didn’t think to check the fine print. Pets Unlimited in the Maritimes has almost done a complete turnaround. They still sell birds, rodents, fish, and lizards, but they do not have a single dog or cat in any of their stores. I’ve checked. Their partnership with the local SPCA will soon see adoption centres set up in three locations in the HRM. It’s pretty huge.

    I just assumed, naively, Petland’s initiatives would be similar. It’s depressing that it isn’t quite so. Clearly we still have a lot of work to do. Being a former resident of Lethbridge (my family still lives there) I am not at all surprised by their attitude. I know that store very well. I even shopped there once upon a time. I bought my pet gerbil there. The service was unfriendly and unknowledgeable at best. Knowing the good ol’ So. Al. attitude and reluctance for change, it saddens me greatly.

    There are several non-chain/franchise stores here as well that still persist in selling dogs and cats. But they are small scale and I have hope they will eventually be run out of business. In the meantime, though, it’s a tragic sight. While we have made some important gains, you are totally right. The war has only begun.

    • thatjenk says:

      That’s great news about Pets Unlimited! And some of the Petland Canada locations are there already with active relationships with rescues, such as the Red Deer and Grande Prairie. But it’s those bad apples, like Lethbridge, that really are spoiling it, making praise of Petland Canada generally a little misrepresentative. I’d hate to see unsuspecting customers get a dog or cat from one of those remaining locations, under the impression they were rescuing a pet.

  13. Pingback: Blog the Change: Time to Get Serious | Rescued Insanity

  14. Good for you for “calling” them on their promise (pun intended, shoot me). What their answers tell me is that money is king. If people like you can get people in general to stop buying pet store dogs, the problem will put itself out of business. Kind of like preventing drug abuse by eliminating users rather than dealers… what an awful analogy….

    • thatjenk says:

      You’re right – educating the “average” consumer is definitely the biggest hurdle, and that will always be an uphill battle. Especially when cute pet store puppies and kittens can seemingly literally make logic go out the window once someone’s inside a store. Guess we need to prevent them from crossing that threshold altogether, eh?

  15. Pup Fan says:

    Wow… great post. Thank you so much for doing the detective work – I’ve updated my own BtC post to reflect what you found. It saddens me to hear that the announcement hasn’t led to a great deal of change just yet.

  16. Thank you for your very thorough report on the situation with Petland Canada. I never thought for a moment that Petland saw the error of their ways, but regardless of why they’ve chosen to phase out animal sales, the end result is a good thing. I agree that animal advocates will have to watch closely to see if Petland follows through on their promise and apply pressure to franchises to also phase out animal sales.

  17. 2browndawgs says:

    I guess I am in the camp, who cares why they do it, just that they do. I guess I am a glass half-full person because the way I see it, puppy sales are likely down because people are beginning to understand that it is not good to buy a puppy from a pet store. I have always said that education, rather than regulation, is the key. To me it appears that education efforts are starting to pay off. It also seems that more education is needed. If people stop buying pets from the franchise stores, then no doubt they will also change how they do business.

    That being said, I know several people who bought dogs from what I suspect are puppy mill breeders (but not through stores). I even pointed out why I believed they were puppy mills. Such as always having a dog available and very limited or no health clearances. They did not want to hear. So see there is always more to be done. 🙂

  18. Denise says:

    Our Humane Society just partnered with our local Petland and I am appalled. They are now going to be an adoption satellite center for the Regina Humane Society.

    • thatjenk says:

      I understand your reaction, but I disagree. I think if pet stores want to reform and rescue agencies are willing to partner to get more visibility for their adoptable pets, as long as the adoption is still faciliatated through the rescue, this type of partnership should absolutely be encouraged and applauded.

      If we stonewall the pet stores that want to change or are willing to give it a try, or if rescues refuse to work with them, then the door opens for them to return to the commercial sale of dogs and cats – and we’re giving them a really good excuse, too.

      More visibility for pets in need is a good thing.

  19. Pingback: Petland and Puppy Mills: Stop the Madness #btc4a

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