We all know that puppy mills are shady; really shady. Besides making a living off of the suffering of living, breathing dogs; their #1 job is to deceive the public. Thanks to organizations like ours, we have made their lives a little harder in both aspects. Especially when it comes to exposing their shady business practices to the public.
In recent years, it has become a trend for cities (and now states) to pass legislation banning the retail sale of dogs and cats in pet stores from commercial breeders (ahem… puppy mills). Instead, these stores must get their puppies from rescues and shelters to help the homeless animals in their communities instead of aiding in the pet overpopulation problem. That sounds WONDERFUL, right? Bailing Out Benji has helped pass bans across the country on both the city and statewide level and have helped thousands of homeless animals find their forever homes… Unfortunately- where there is a will, there is a way. And puppy mill owners sure have the will to want to make as much money as possible, while doing as little work as possible. Now these puppy mill brokering organizations are turning into “nonprofit” “rescues” in order to still sell puppies in towns with retail bans.
Case and Point…
“Pet Rescue Connect”… “Pet Connect Rescue” or is it “Ark Rescue” … Or is it “Goldee Rescue” … Or their real business “Rothman Enterprises”. All of the addresses listed above, except for one, are PO Boxes in various cities, but all are owned by Alysia Rothman and her partner Ray Rothman.
Don’t forget about the pet store they own in Connecticut.
**BEFORE WE GO ANY FURTHER… Our findings about this sham operation out of Missouri are NOT the same PetConnect Rescue out of Maryland or The Pet Connect in Kansas. The organizations have zero affiliation with each other, although their names appear to be similar. **
Through our research we have found that “Pet Connect Rescue” out of Missouri is selling hundreds of puppies to pet stores in California since January 1, 2019. That is when the California statewide retail ban took effect and the stores were legally only able to source puppies from legitimate rescues and shelters. Between the government documents that we obtained and the volunteers we have going into the stores to check cage tags, we have record of Pet Rescue Connect selling to:
Puppy Kisses: 128 Federal Rd, Danbury, CT 06811
Mutts at Mainplace: 2800 North Main St #1032, Santa Ana California
Villagio Family Pets: 41493 Margarita Rd G-103, Temecula, CA 92591
The Fancy Puppy: 530 Hidden Valley Pkwy #102, Corona, CA 92879
Hello Puppies: 41125 Winchester Rd B6, Temecula, CA 92591
Broadway Puppies: 840 N Broadway, Escondido, CA 92025
National City Puppy: 1430 E Plaza Blvd E, National City, CA 91950
Town Puppies: 28274 Old Town Front St, Temecula, CA 92590
Palm Desert Puppies: 44825 San Pablo Ave, Palm Desert, CA 92260
The Puppy Patch: 3030 Plaza Bonita Rd Ste 2465, National City, CA 91950
Bark Avenue (Formerly Escondido Pets): 200 E Via Rancho Parkway, Escondido CA
This “rescue” also obtained their nonprofit status through the IRS. And is officially a 501c3, as of January 2018.
But where is Pet Connect Rescue getting hundreds of puppies in order to supply so many pet stores? Legitimate rescue organizations wouldn’t have that many 8 week old purebred and “designer” puppies available for sale. Nor would they have to transport them over 25 hours to a pet store in order to find them homes.
Among the many business connections we have found on Alysia and Ray Rothman, we have connected them to another USDA dog broker, David Steffensmeier from West Point, Iowa. Because of the 2017 USDA Blackout we are unable to access his current dog count and records, however he is related to Mark and Gina Steffensmeier of Salem, Iowa. Mark Steffensmeier has a history of violations including: dogs living in dark, concrete buildings with a history of violations including: spider webs all over, chewed walls and doors of dog houses, tarter buildup on teeth, red gums, dogs with cloudy eyes. They were also named one of the top 100 worst puppy mills in the country. To view inspection photos, click here.
We also have records that show the Rothman’s business “Pet Connect Rescue” is sourcing their puppies from another sham rescue operation called Rescue Pets Iowa , who is involved in not just one but two lawsuits in what is now being referred to as a “National Puppy Laundering Scheme”. And, as you can see below, the veterinarian signing off on the health certificates coming from “Rescue Pets Iowa” is one of the horrible hundred puppy mills.
And lastly, we have records of where the Rothman-owned Connecticut pet store, Puppy Kisses, is sourcing their puppies from. You won’t be surprised to hear that many of those breeders have been named the worst puppy mills in the country and have a long list of violations.
So what can be done? Now that the public has been told through legislation in these towns that puppies in pet stores CAN’T come from puppy mills, the general consensus is that it is safe to walk in and “adopt” a puppy- and that is what the pet store is banking on. As animal advocates, it is not only our job to continue exposing the shady practices of pet stores and puppy mills, but to continue with educating the public about how to humanely and ethically acquire a pet.
Here are few tips to avoid supporting puppy mills through pet stores.
- Is there signage in the store connecting the pet store to a rescue or shelter? Pet stores are proud of their rescue partners and would have flyers, business cards and signage pointing out the relationship.
- Is the rescue or shelter hosting adoption events at the store? Shelters and rescues jump on the opportunity to host adoption events where the public can meet their adoptable animals face-to-face. Legitimate rescues and shelters would be actively hosting adoption events to ensure their pets are seen and find their forever homes.
- Does the rescue or shelter have a Facebook page, website and use pet adoption websites? Legitimate rescues have all of these things. All of them! Fact checking their existence is as easy as picking up your phone and searching for them. But it is up to you to do just that.
- Is the rescue in your area? Rescues don’t ship their puppies to other states to get adopted site unseen. And if they do, they aren’t legitimate. If you are in a pet store and the puppies are being sourced from out of state- RUN, don’t walk away.
- Are there adoption contracts for the animal and are they fully vetted? Again, legitimate rescues and shelters do not send out unaltered puppies/kittens to be sold to anyone who walks in with money. They also require adoption contracts to ensure the pet is going to a forever family, with a return clause in case it doesn’t work out.