As the sun beat down on Nesconset Highway on a Saturday afternoon, local residents weren’t concerned about sweating, sunburn, or any other summer infliction – they were worried about sick puppies.
Approximately 20 people stood on one of the corners of where the Smith Haven Mall connects with Route 347, holding signs advocating for an end to the buying and selling of puppies from puppy mills. Their target: American Dog Club which sits inside the mall.
American Dog Club buys their puppies from breeders across the country, and these activists are claiming that the dogs are sold sick and are not given acceptable living conditions, especially at the mills where they are born.
Keri Michel is part of the group Puppy Mill Free Long Island, which helped orchestrate this protest and has
done several others at stores across the island. She has been working with other activists for years to get the store at Smith Haven shut down.
“I’m so dedicated to expose the horrors,” she said. “There’s too many suffering animals.”
Michel’s main goal is to have consumers make informed decisions, which she says the current system is not doing a good job of. JoAnn Winkhart, a district leader volunteer for the Humane Society of the United States, works with legislators in the New York area in crafting laws that protect animals and the consumers who buy them.
“There’s quite a number of stores that are selling to an unknowing public,” Winkhart said. I believe if they were aware, they would never want to support that type of industry.”
One legislator showed up to the demonstration: Suffolk County Legislator Tom Cilmi (R-10) says that the county government can do more to look at the laws currently in place and tighten loopholes that allow for the “deplorable’ conditions in these stores.
“Every bit of attention I can help bring to this issue I’m happy to do,” Cilmi said.
One protester talked about his experience with American Dog Club, saying that the lack of information given to him prior to purchasing the dog made him question the decision. Upon bringing the new puppy home, he said it seemed physically fine but then developed mental issues, often snapping at or attacking the family and refusing to eat.
The protester, whose first name is Mike, became increasingly skeptical of the whole process once he learned where the dogs came from. He is just as unhappy about the store misleading him about what he says was the true way the dog is brought here and cared for, including the veterinarians that are “insisted” on customers by the store.
“They’re selling you a dream,” he said.
Michel says that the complaints to her about the store are nonstop and that more and more people are coming forward.
Winkhart says the ultimate goal is to close all puppy stores that buy from puppy mills. The Humane Society has a list of reputable breeders who show interested consumers where the puppies come from and their conditions before a purchase is made, according to Winkhart. She added that often, breeders will require some screenings from consumers before selling them puppies.
“The only way that we can feesibly put puppy mills out of business is putting those retail stores out of business,” she said.