Pedestrians on Columbus Avenue often stop to look at several puppies wrestling in the window of Pet Fashion, a new pet store between West 87th and 88th streets. But a group of West Siders says residents should know that these dogs come from puppy mills, and that the store is not welcome in the neighborhood.
Though legal, puppy mills are considered inhumane by animal rights groups, such as the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to
Animals (ASPCA). They are commercial businesses that continuously breed female dogs without regard to health or wellbeing. In fact, the first tip offered by the ASPCA to fight puppy mills is for prospective pet owners to steer clear of puppies from pet stores.
“There are poor conditions in puppy mills,” said Neil Rosenblum, who owns Pet Stop, a supply store across the street. “It’s unbelievably unsafe. This is not what breeding is about.”
Pet Fashion’s critics delivered 540 petition signatures, mainly from the Upper West Side, to shop owners to pressure the store to stop selling puppies. They are also planning a Nov. 28 protest in front of the store. Alongside the dogs, Pet Fashion sells high-end jewelry and dog collars that cost upwards of $200. The store opened on Columbus Avenue in September and has locations in Yonkers and on West 182nd Street and Broadway.
Pet Fashion’s Columbus Avenue manager, Ricky Abally, said the store does not sells puppies from mills.
“They’re not puppy mill puppies,” he said. “They’re from breeders registered with the [United States Department of Agriculture] and the Kennel Club.”
He said the puppies come from reputable breeders, are vaccinated and have microchips implanted. Anyone who buys a puppy gets complete information about the breeder and the puppy’s background.
Abally declined to show documented proof that the puppies are from breeders.
When told of the group’s planned protest, he responded, “I’ll buy them a cup of coffee.”
Charlie Hinckle, who helped collect signatures against Pet Fashion, scoffed at Abally’s claim that the store uses breeders.
“Of course he’s going to say that,” Hinckle said. “No reputable dealer will sell to a pet store.”
But selling puppies from mills is only one accusation against Pet Fashion. Jane Berger, part of the group of protesters, claims that she went to the branch on West 182nd Street and was offered a discount on a puppy if she paid cash to avoid sales tax. Louis, that store’s manager, who refused to give his last name, said he has not heard of this practice and that if any employee was offering customers puppies for cash, he would pay the sales tax regardless. Abally, the Columbus Avenue store manager, did not comment on that allegation.
Council Member Gale Brewer sent a letter to the state and city departments of taxation asking them to look in to the matter. The city’s tax department spokesperson said that its enforcement group is investigating.
Berger says her main goal is to educate Upper West Siders about the dangers of puppy mills.
“We don’t want there to be any puppies sold here,” she said. “It’s an endorsement of harm to animals.”
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