Scituate activists would ban commercial puppy sales

Scituate activists would ban commercial puppy sales

Protesters gathered on the Town Common in Scituate for an anti-puppy mill rally on Sunday night. Several speakers addressed the negative effects of breeding dogs in a puppy mill environment, including Lauren Rotondo, above. (Valley Breeze & Observer photos by David Wuerth)
Perfect Puppy owner contends most come from local breeders, none from 'puppy mills'

SCITUATE - Lilly Putt-Putt is a lovely little dog, a 4-year-old mix of Maltese and Chinese Crested, not much larger than your average house cat, with soft-to-the-touch golden-white fur, inquisitive ears forever perked up, and a curly-cue tail that seldom stops wagging.

She seems the perfect pup, but when nervous or agitated she gives away her questionable antecedents: she runs around in circles, round and round. It's a habit left over from the first eight months of her life, said her owner, Pati de Wardener of Exeter, when the pup was confined to a cage in a Midwest puppy mill, one of the "most horrific" in the country.

"Although Lily still has some behaviors left over from the mill," de Wardener told The Breeze & Observer, "with patience she has become a sweet and comical addition to our canine and human family."

De Wardener was one of about 45 people at a rally last Sunday night, at the gazebo in North Scituate, gathered together to protest what they say are deplorable conditions at puppy mills.

The group wants to see a state-wide ban on the commercial sale of dogs, cats and rabbits. They say many sold at pet stores come from places like puppy mills, where young and newborn animals are confined in cramped cages several together, are often sickly, and exhibit an assortment of behavioral problems. Pets that are not sold end up at animal rescue shelters, which is where Lily Putt-Putt came from, de Wardener said.

Perhaps even worse, activists say, is the fate of mother dogs that are constantly bred, litter after litter, until they can give birth no more and are then disposed of. When a pet store says "show me the money," declare activists, a customer's response should be: "Show me the mommy."

Lily was rescued when 8 months old and de Wardener obtained her through the Internet from an animal shelter because "I know about puppy mills and pet stores," she told the Breeze.

"They are living off the backs of these poor animals stuck in cages. It's horrible, and it makes me cry."

The group that gathered at the gazebo has no formal name, other than Scituate Residents Against the Commercial Sale of Puppies and Kittens, according to Mallory Leipf of Scituate, who organized the rally.

Petitions were circulated at the rally in favor of a commercial ban, in preparation for presentation to the Scituate Town Council at an unspecified date.

The ban would be similar to the one the East Providence City Council adopted June 3, now facing a federal court challenge mounted by Scott Bergantino, owner and operator of The Perfect Puppy with stores in Scituate and East Providence.

The East Providence measure makes it illegal to sell dogs and cats from any commercial business in that city with fines as much as $2,000 per violation.

Bergantino obtained an injunction barring enforcement until his appeal is heard.

Carlos Munoz, Bergantino's son who helps operate the family-owned and family-operated pet stores in both communities, denied the idea that their stores obtain puppies from puppy mills.

Speaking to The Breeze the day after the rally, Munoz said, "I'm against puppy mills."

The Perfect Puppy, Munoz said, obtains its dogs from local breeders - "90 percent of our puppies we go pick up ourselves," he said - and from breeders approved by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, including Hunte Kennel Systems based in Goodwin, Mo.

Activists see Hunte as a major operator of puppy mills nationwide, but Munoz maintained that if that were true, the USDA would close Hunte down.

Munoz said "probably close to 5 percent" of the store's puppies come from Hunte. A total of about 2,000 puppies have been sold at both stores since the Scituate store opened in September, Munoz said, and "maybe 150" of those were from Hunte.

"It's not like we're selling drugs," he added. "Puppies are not illegal."

He estimated that at any one time there are about 100 puppies at both stores waiting to be sold and, if a puppy they sell turns out to be sick, the store will make good on it by taking the pup to a veterinarian and/or taking it back.

"I don't want to bring that into my store," Munoz said of sick puppy mill dogs.

He maintained that activists against puppy mills harass his customers, including a 15-year-old whose mother wanted to sue them, and, any time the store wins a five-star review on the Internet, opponents will post a negative one-star review right after it.

At the rally, the people gathered were adamant in their opposition to pet stores and puppy mills.

According to Leipf, Bergantino has acquired a second location in Scituate, at 1265 Chopmist Hill Road, with a six-month temporary kennel permit to board 25 dogs, but police in a July 1 investigation found 66 dogs in the building. "The police had them removed," Leipf said. "We don't know where they went."

Some at the rally denied the idea that they want to put The Perfect Puppy stores out of business, suggesting there are many products related to dogs and pets such stores still could sell without trafficking in kittens and puppies. They also could sell pets obtained from animal rescue shelters or reputable local breeders, as has happened in other states, activists note.

Donna Rosciti told the crowd that when she was 17 years old she had what she thought was "the best job in the world" working at the former pet store at Lincoln Mall. But she ended up leaving after two years because she could not tolerate the deplorable condition of the dogs trucked in from puppy mills.

She now breeds "show-quality" Pembroke Welsh Corgis (the kind of short-legged dog England's Queen Elizabeth II has), has a lengthy waiting list, and said she thoroughly checks out buyers so "if there is any question, they don't get a dog from me."

She takes responsibility for each dog and its good health "all its life," Rosciti said, "even 10 years later."

Lauren Rotondo, of Scituate, a veterinarian who works at the North Smithfield Animal Hospital, said dogs from puppy mills "are not well socialized" and, like Lily Putt-Putt, will exhibit unusual behavior when agitated, in particular becoming aggressive when afraid.

"I've had owners tell me they're afraid of their own dogs," Rotondo told The Breeze.

Rotondo advised anyone looking for a puppy to ask their veterinarian what type of dog to get and where to get it from, adding that she wished more of her clients would ask her such questions because she is familiar with reputable breeders locally.

Another change activists would like to see is in the state law that requires animal rescue shelters to spay/neuter pets before adoption, but pet stores are exempt.

Stephanie Vaughan, of Scituate, said she was told by a state veterinary paramedic that the exemption is because pet store animals are wanted and rescue animals are not, a point those at the rally strenuously disagreed with.

In fact, "adopt, don't shop," is their motto.

Bans on the commercial sale of dogs and/or cats, and in some cases rabbits, are becoming increasingly prevalent nationwide with, according to one 2014 list on the Internet, 52 ordinances banning the practice enacted since 2006 in communities across the country, including major cities such as Los Angeles and San Diego, Calif.

Leipf said California has enacted a statewide ban.

Part of the crowd that gathered on the Scituate Town Common Sunday night in protest of breeding dogs in puppy mills.
Julie Ventriglia of East Providnce brought her dog to a rally on the Scituate Town Common Sunday to express concern about animals bred in puppy mills.

Comments

Thank for reporting on this. I would like to say that if Mr. Munoz really knew where his puppies were coming from he would know that Hunte is NOT a puppy mill. Hunte is a distributor of pups from mills, and it is true that a reputable breeder would not allow their pups to be sold in a store. My Lily was lucky to have been rescued by an award winning rescue in Nebraska, Hearts United for Animals. I am happy to say that they did a great job of socializing her before she became a member of our family. Not once has she exhibited an ounce of aggressive behavior and in fact interacts with many children and adult on a daily basis. In closing I would like to say, if The Pefect Puppy was getting pups from a reputable breeder, repeated requests for the names of those breeders would be produced without question. A breeder would be happy to answer any question that an adopter would have concerning their pups. This would include any health testing done on their breeding pair as to health issues that may affect certain breeds. Problems that may show up later in the dogs life and cost thousands of dollars to correct in dogs that are NOT from good breeders. Sadly, these dogs end up in shelters later in life or brought to a Vet to be euthanized if owners don't have sufficient funds to correct the problem. It is a fact that fully 30% of dogs in shelters are pure bred dogs. Most of these were impulse purchases and turned in because..."I don't have time to train this puppy, the puppy is too active, the puppy nips at my children (a common pup behavior till they lose puppy teeth), I'm moving, my landlord, dog is too big and needs a big yard. The list goes on and on. Places like Hearts United for Animals have over 400 dogs at any time, 90% of these are pure bred. They will happily work with you to find a pet that is the right fit for you which will save you from the mistake of getting a pet that will not do well with your lifestyle or living arrangments. A reputable breeder may not adopt to you, but will explain why their breed is not right for your family. Many dogs are herding breeds and will herd the neighborhood children, barking away happily doing their job even tho it may scare your kids friends. A dachshund loves to dig (as do many other small dogs bred to seek out vermin). Lhasa Apsos are barkers, they were bred as warning dogs. Corgis may nip at the heels, because that's what they do to get the cows moving. I could give you many more reasons not to buy a puppy at a pet store, but the last is my number one reason. Puppy mills are torture chambers, the mama's of these pups are left to breed again and again without leaving a cage, or getting vet care or vaccinations or a touch from a loving hand. I urge you to go to a site called "A Horrible Hundred: 100 Problem Puppy mills. This will show you just how m few USDA inspectors there are and what some of these USDA licensed breeders get away with. Other sites will tell you which of these sell their pups to Hunte Corp. to distribute to places like A Perfect Puppy.

Beside the fact that we know exactly what the Hunte Corporation does, it is important to understand that puppy mills are illegal. If you do google them, I am certain you will read about animals being rescued in "Puppy Mill Raids"... A puppy mill is an illegal breeding operation that is not licensed registered or inspected. If someone is caught running one of these ILLEGAL operations, their animals will be seized and turned over to rescues and shelters... That is where puppy mill rescues are from. A licensed regulated breeder who follows the laws set forth cannot have their animals confiscated for adoption. That is comparable to me stealing your personal vehicle right out of your driveway and selling it on craigslist. If you must know why we can not and do not indiscriminately pass out our breeders info, it is because these extremists will turn around and start harassing them, just like they did on facebook with a 16 year old girl who got her puppy from us and wrote a nice review about us. Her mother got authorities involved. Our breeders are respectable law abiding citizens and deserve their right to privacy. The only time we have a puppy shipped through a broker such as the Hunte Corp. is when someone requests a specific breed we cannot find otherwise. We tell them the dog will be shipped and they pay half up front. The other 2150 puppies are personally picked up by myself or my father. I believe that everyone has the right to own a dog. And while "reputable" breeders and rescues also have the right to refuse you a dog, they cannot take away your right to own one. They discriminate against people and justify it by self-proclaiming themselves as "reputable". I see them as a bunch of narcissists who have self appointed themselves as the Jesus Christ's of dogs. They feel they themselves have the right to decide whether or not you are fit to own one, and they want to take away your right to find one elsewhere like at a pet shop. Anyone with kids knows how frustrating it can be when you tell them NO and they run to your spouse and get a YES. In fact many of my customers have either been turned down or even ignored by rescues and "reputable" breeders. and while i wouldn't try to sell a border collie to someone who lives in downtown providence, or a boxer to someone in a studio apartment, it is still that persons right to have a dog. dogs are cute, and they do become members of the family, but some people become more attached than others forgetting that as much as we love them, they are still animals. no more or less special than all the cows it took to stock the meat case at stop and shop. but you won't see these people picketing the McDonalds or the IGA, both in the same plaza as my scituate location... And thats because there is noone raking in a 6 figure salary as the director of some nonprofit national rescue group that puts sad pictures of the cows on TV over Sarah McLachlan's music. while that example may seem a bit ridiculous, its extremely accurate. Because all these "reputable" breeders trying to help advance this cause do not realize they are next on the hit list.