According to American Independent Business Alliance, one of the benefits of “shopping small” is that you are Maintaining Community Character. You are holding a local business accountable for the products they are buying and selling. We praise local businesses that use fair trade items and sell products that sustain third world countries, while condemning the big box stores that promote sweatshops and child labor. So when can we hold the local pet store accountable for the puppy mills it is supporting? Because, in case you didn’t know, that is exactly what is happening.
As you may know, Bailing Out Benji is a nonprofit organization based out of Ames, Iowa and our educational outreach is praised and mirrored all over the world. The 2010 census shows that Ames had a population of almost 60,000 residents, more when you factor in all of the college students at our local Iowa State University. The motto of Ames is “Shop Ames, Grow Ames”, and with the fantastic outreach of our Main Street Cultural District, most Ames residents pride themselves on shopping small and locally. Naturally, Small Business Saturday isn’t something you mess around with in Ames.
Here’s the dilemma we face each week… Dyvig’s Pet Shoppe, which is located just off of Main Street in Ames, is the “small, local business” that we protest several times a week. While our community, business owners and city leaders silently shake their heads at the store that admittedly sells puppy mill dogs, several citizens (mainly friends of the store) are horrified at the fact that someone is protesting a small, “local” business owner who is an honest, god fearing man. Sadly, the two puppy mills Dale Dyvig buys his puppies from are NOT local. Traveling over an hour to get to each facility, you will find that each breeder currently has 150 adult dogs and their recent history includes many violations for having over 500 adult dogs each. And, since the protests have begun, the store owner has backtracked and reworded his puppy source several times. First, he told customers the names of his suppliers, then they became “small family breeders”, then he called them “USDA licensed kennels” , then just “great kennels” and back to “small, local family breeders.” With all of the name changes, the store continues to use the same two puppy mills.
So, the question is… Are we ignoring this simply because the store is local? Do we allow the store owner to profit off of the suffering of animals because he isn’t a big chain like Petland?
Sadly, this is the third installment of “Dyvig’s Pet Shoppe” that the owner has opened and operated in Iowa. When business slows down, he sells the store to an employee and moves on to greener pastures. When Dale moved to Ames, he hit the jackpot! A huge, wealthy community that cares about shopping local AND college students who are missing their own animals from home. Puppies were flying out of the store faster than he could acquire them, until our organization came along and exposed the truth behind the business model of the store. Those puppies were coming from puppy mills, and the parents were left behind to suffer. For months (which turned to years), we begged Dale to go humane and offer adoptable animals in his store instead of mill dogs. All of our volunteers vowed all of our business to his store once he cut ties with the puppy mills to no avail. We are on two sides of the line, but we are standing on the right side of history.
According to SustainableConnections.Org, shopping locally Reduces Environmental Impact. Again, in the case of Dyvig’s Pet Shoppe, the argument can be made that the store’s business model can be negatively impacting our environment by forcing our companion animals to live in hog-confinement style cages where the fecal matter and other debris is power-washed away from the kennels, which seeps into the soil and local bodies of water. But let’s not overlook the cruelty of forcing man’s best friend to live his/her entire life in a wire kennel, exposed to the elements, with inadequate vet care and poor food. And on the other side of the coin, there are thousands of homeless animals within 100 miles of Ames that are begging for homes. Dogs, puppies, cats, kittens, rabbits, chinchillas, birds, even horses. But their lives aren’t as worthy? They don’t deserve the spotlight to find the best homes?
So, we go back to the question…. Do we continue to support a local business just because it is local? Do we turn a blind eye to the cruelty because it is easier?
That answer is on each of us, because we vote with each purchase that we make.
I will continue to shop small and support the fantastic, humane pet store in town. I spend hundreds of dollars a month there on pet food, toys, treats and everything else for my rescued pets. Both I and our volunteers spend there and shop locally because, not only do the owners take a stand against puppy mills, but they host adoption events several weekends a month and donate to local rescues and shelters.
Pet stores that sell puppies will never see a dime of my money, but they will continue to see me and animal lovers across the United States.
Every single weekend.
In front of their stores.
Until they choose to go humane or close.
This is bigger than one small store in one small town. This is taking a stand against a million dollar industry that is based on lies and cruelty. The case of Dyvig’s Pet Shoppe is not special, and it is not uncommon. Local pet stores all over the country are selling puppies from pet stores and fooling the citizens in their towns into thinking that the dogs come from local breeders. DON’T BUY THE LIES. Pet store puppies ARE puppy mill puppies.
Founder of Bailing Out Benji