Eric and March Caplan hold some of the last non-shelter puppies they have for sale at their Petland store in East Liberty. Once these puppies have been sold, the store will only have shelter dogs and kittens for sale.
By Linda Fuoco Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Puppies and kittens from commercial breeders will no longer be sold at Petland in East Liberty, a regular target of animal rights picketers.
Instead, that puppy in the window -- as well as kittens and rabbits -- will come from two local shelters.
"It's a good thing to do," said Eric Caplan, when asked about the change. He and his wife, Marci,, own the franchise for that Petland store, located at 6401 Penn Ave. in the Village of Eastside.
The store inventory currently includes five purebred puppies and three "designer" mixes, including a fluffy cockapoo, which is a cocker spaniel-poodle cross.
When those puppies are sold, the store will bring in puppies, kittens and rabbits from the Western Pennsylvania Humane Society and kittens from the Animal Rescue League of Western Pennsylvania. The store owners hope it will happen in the next week or so.
The Caplans are calling it ASAP: Animal Shelter Adoption Program. The animals will live in the store, and not all of their time will be spent in cages. The store has indoor exercise and play areas.
"We look at this as a step in the right direction," said Dan Rossi, executive director of the Animal Rescue League. "We don't get many puppies," but the shelter is inundated with kittens. The Petland store does not have adequate living and exercise facilities for larger animals, but adult dogs may be brought from the Larimer shelter to Petland on weekends for adoption events, Mr. Rossi said.
Lee Nesler, executive director of the Western Pennsylvania Humane Society, said she is "really pleased. I think it's going to be a wonderful relationship. It's making a commitment to save lives."
Very few puppies are turned in to Allegheny County shelters, presumably because spay and neuter campaigns are working. Ms. Nestler said the local Humane Society gets puppies from surrounding counties "and from a shelter in Georgia where unfortunately there are plenty of puppies" that need homes.
ASAP has the approval of Petland corporate officials.
"We have many franchises that have partnerships with shelters and rescue organizations" and a Petland store in Texas "has never sold purebreds. They've always been totally shelter adoptions," said Elizabeth Kunzelman, director of marketing and communications at Petland's corporate office in Chillicothe, Ohio.
Petland has 100 stores, and only four are corporate-owned. The rest are franchises.
Eric and Marci Caplan have owned the East Liberty Petland for two years.
Small numbers of animal rights activists have regularly picketed the Caplans' store. Picketers object to purebred puppies being sold in stores while millions of animals in shelters and rescue groups need homes.
Picketers also said Petland sells animals from so-called "puppy mills" -- described as large-scale for-profit facilities where breeding animals and puppies are kept in crowded, filthy conditions with little or no socialization.
Mr. Caplan said the puppies he and his wife sold came from commercial breeders licensed and inspected by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, he said, and from some local breeders.
The Caplans will add a service fee to the shelter animals that are sold, he said. "It won't be a profit. It will be to help cover our costs."
Kittens are usually $60 at the Animal Rescue League. The Caplans expect to add about $30 to $40 to that cost to cover the care they provide. The Western Pennsylvania Humane Society puppy adoption fee is $200, and Mr. Caplan said he'll add about $100 to the cost.
The adoption fee includes neutering by a veterinarian, inoculations and microchips. The Humane Society fee also includes the cost of training classes.