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Petland opponents sound off; owner responds

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  • Karen Loveless
    Yea right - read the part about where he says his Petland can reduce the overpopulation problem! Who is he kidding?
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 6, 2004
      Yea right - read the part about where he says his Petland can reduce the
      overpopulation problem! Who is he kidding?


      Petland opponents sound off; owner responds
      By William Gillis
      Athens NEWS Writer

      A representative of the Athens Coalition for Companion Animals addressed
      Athens City Council Monday to discuss Athens' pet overpopulation problem
      and called for a ban on the retail sale of animals in the city.

      Monday's meeting took place in front of a packed house of about 60
      people, with most of the audience on hand to support coalition member
      Kate McGuckin's opposition to the Petland retail store reportedly coming
      to the East State Street strip-mall building that currently houses

      McGuckin presented to City Council a petition with 836 signatures from
      local persons "concerned about the retail sale of animals in Athens and
      its impact on overpopulation in Athens," she said.

      City Council listened to her presentation, though currently it's
      uncertain whether council has the authority to do anything about it.

      McGuckin, who also directs the Athens shelter for victims of domestic
      violence, declared that Petland's arrival will "exacerbate the existing
      problem" of pet overpopulation in Athens. "It would be an understatement
      to say we have a pet overpopulation problem," she declared.

      (McGuckin and Troy Gregorino cowrote a related Reader's Forum that
      appears on page 6 of today's Athens NEWS.)

      McGuckin and other area residents have spoken out and/or written letters
      to oppose Petland's animal policies. Several animal-rights groups allege
      that Petland franchises sell pets raised in "puppy mills" and "kitten
      mills," where the animals are treated poorly and are subject to disease.
      Petland also has no corporate policy that mandates that puppies and
      kittens sold by a franchise must eventually be spayed or neutered.

      According to Debbie May, director of communication for Chillicothe-based
      Petland, Inc., the company has 157 franchises worldwide and 24 in Ohio.

      Athens area resident Richard Vieland confirmed Tuesday that he currently
      is in talks with Petland, Inc., to become the owner of the Athens
      Petland franchise. He said that he believes that Petland can actually
      alleviate the pet overpopulation problem in Athens.

      Vieland, an instructor at Hocking College, said he has lived in Athens
      for 20 years. He said he did not attend Monday's meeting, but he is
      aware of the concerns expressed by some Athens residents about a Petland
      store in the city.

      "I'm also a pet owner," Vieland said. "I'm going into this with the
      perception that Petland is hopefully going to be part of the cure, not
      part of the problem."

      Vieland said that as a Petland franchise owner, he would be free to
      choose where he gets the pets he would sell in the store. "I intend if
      it's at all possible to get my pets from local breeders," Vieland said.

      Vieland also said he plans to visit breeders personally to ensure they
      are treating their animals humanely. "I will visit to make sure they're
      not puppy mills," he said.

      According to Vieland, the store is due to open sometime this spring,
      probably in May.

      ON TUESDAY, MCGUCKIN DISMISSED outright Vieland's assertion that a
      Petland franchise might help reverse Athens' pet overpopulation
      situation, and questioned any pet breeder who would sell pets to a
      retail chain like Petland.

      "No legitimate breeder would ever place a puppy or kitten in a pet-store
      environment," McGuckin said Tuesday. "There's no way a legitimate
      breeder could bring forward the number of cats and dogs a pet store
      sells and do it ethically. Legitimate breeders have a contract that
      guarantees the health of an animal for a lifetime and guards against
      hereditary diseases."

      "Mr. Vieland's intentions are to make money," McGuckin charged. "This is
      all about money."

      Sarah Filipiak, president of Pound Rescue of Athens and a professional
      dog trainer, said Wednesday that no responsible breeder would "ever,
      ever, ever" sell a puppy to a pet store.

      "Anyone that would sell their puppies to a pet store is not someone I
      want to be buying a puppy from," Filipiak said.

      McGuckin and Tracey Hayes of the Athens County Humane Society, a
      privately funded non-profit, both said that Vieland's plan to use local
      breeders is not realistic.

      "I think it sounds really ideal, but I don't think it's actually a
      possibility," Hayes said Tuesday. "For any pet store to keep puppies in
      their windows, they're going to need a lot of suppliers, and I don't
      think it could be done locally."

      The Athens County Humane Society operates the Cat Shelter on Hoon Drive
      in west Athens.

      "We're here to provide an alternative to (Petland)," Hayes said. "We're
      here to provide the same animals (Petland would provide) that would die
      if they were not adopted. We can sell them at a fraction of the cost
      (Petland would sell them for)."

      Hayes said that the cat shelter is forced to euthanize almost 300 cats a
      month during the summer.

      Vieland said Tuesday that he hopes to work with Hayes and other local
      shelters and pet-rescue programs to purchase rescued animals and sell
      them at Petland. He also said that he plans to encourage locals to adopt
      dogs from the local dog shelter.

      "I would like to work with those agencies to make that option available,
      and work with the public and with those agencies to reduce the unwanted
      pet problem," Vieland said.

      Petland, Inc.'s May said Tuesday that her company runs an Adopt-A-Pet
      program that encourages franchises to work with local shelters and
      rescue agencies to sell rescued animals in Petland stores. She said that
      a company-wide survey showed that 20,477 cats or kittens and 8,508 dogs
      were placed in homes through the program.

      Hayes said Tuesday that she's not sure if her organization would be
      willing to work with a local Petland store. "It depends on how (Vieland)
      decides to run the franchise," Hayes said.

      "There are a lot of disadvantages of working with a corporation like
      that," she added. "Franchises do have some leeway with how they run the
      stores, but there are a lot of corporate policies that would have to
      change for us to work with them."

      One Petland policy Hayes opposes is allowing franchises to sell cats and
      puppies without contracts that require them to be spayed or neutered.
      "One of our main oppositions to pet stores in general is that they are
      selling animals that are not spayed or neutered," Hayes said.

      Vieland said that he will encourage Petland customers to have their pets
      spayed or neutered, and wants to help make the public aware of clinics
      that offer such services. Vieland said that he himself has had his pets
      spayed at such a clinic.

      Vieland also said the Athens Petland store will issue certificates that
      will allow pet buyers to have their pet spayed or neutered at a later
      time. He added that the store will have an on-staff veterinarian.

      Filipiak said Wednesday that encouraging pet owners to spay or neuter
      their pets rather than requiring them to do so "is like night and day."

      "Athens Pet Rescue and the Athens Humane Society have agreed that we're
      not placing any animals without a spay/neuter contract," Filipiak said.
      "Without a spay/neuter contract, you're just adding to the
      (overpopulation) problem."

      Vieland said Petland will offer purebred pets, helping to satisfy a
      local demand for such pets. "People want what they want," Vieland said.
      "If they want a purebred pet, that's what they're going to get

      MCGUCKIN SAID TUESDAY THAT shelters and humane societies actually take
      in many purebred dogs that are available for adoption. "Twenty-five
      percent of all rescue dogs are purebred," she said. "If people want a
      purebred, they should go to rescuer first. If you don't find a purebred
      from a rescuer, buy one from a breeder. Never buy one from a pet store."

      Hayes said that she is opposed to any pet store that mass markets
      animals. "As long as there are people out there that want specific
      breeds, there will be people out there that sell the breeds," Hayes
      said. "I am 100 percent opposed to stores that buy and sell breeds.

      "A lot of the breeds that people are spending thousands of dollars on
      they could get at a humane society," Hayes added.

      Vieland stressed that the East State Street Petland will be a locally
      owned and operated franchise, and not a corporate store. "It's a
      franchise," Vieland said. "It's not going to be a company-owned business
      out of the area." He also said that he appreciates residents' concerns
      about these types of local issues, and that type of community concern is
      one of the reasons he likes Athens and lives here.

      The East State Street property is owned by Ohio University, which is
      leasing the property to Continental Properties of Wisconsin. When told
      that the university likely would receive criticism from locals about
      Petland's arrival in Athens at an OU Board of Trustees meeting in
      December, OU President Robert Glidden smiled and said, "Let me say, I'm
      not surprised."

      After Monday's meeting, at-large City Council representative Sarah
      Sexton said that council will consider McGuckin's comments.

      "I think that's something we definitely should look into," Sexton said.
      "It's such a problem. I know you see a lot of people, like students
      leaving animals (behind) at the end of the year. It's a horrible
      problem, so we should try and curb that."

      City Law Director Garry Hunter said he'll be happy to look into the
      situation, but currently cannot give an opinion on whether council can
      prohibit a Petland franchise from opening by ordinance.
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