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October 10, 2013

Animal advocates turn out at educational meeting

Puppy Mill Awareness group takes aim at longtime Mount Clemens pet store

By Julie Snyder
C & G Staff Writer

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Pam Sordyl, founder of Puppy Mill Awareness of Southeast Michigan, led an educational town hall meeting at the Mount Clemens Public Library on Oct. 8. Her goal was to show her fellow animal advocates how they can work together to end the sale of these animals at area pet stores.

MOUNT CLEMENS — Around 20 people showed up for a town hall meeting at the Mount Clemens Public Library on Oct. 8.

Some were there to learn about how they can get involved in ending commercial kennels, also called puppy mills, while other showed up to defend one local pet shop currently under scrutiny by a state puppy mill awareness group.

The recent town hall was organized by Pam Sordyl, founder of Puppy Mill Awareness of Southeast Michigan.

Sordyl has, since forming her organization in 2008, led multiple protests at what were considered questionable pet shops around the tri-county area, most recently outside the Gibraltar Trade Center in Mount Clemens, where Pollywood Pets has operated since 1991.

“The people are upset about what they see in that store,” said Sordyl, after the latest picketing campaign on Sept. 15.

During that weekend, a group passed along their concerns about the treatment of the animals at Pollywood by carrying signs that read “Boycott Pollywood Pets” and “Caution: Bad Breeders.”

Puppy Mill Awareness is an organization that works to end commercial dog breeding in substandard conditions, and encourages people to boycott those pet stores that do not work along with adoption and animal rescue organizations like the Humane Society.

Pollywood owner Shelley Myers and her husband, Dave, said the protest had little effect on business; rather, it brought more people into the store to see what was going on for themselves.

“They apologized to us for their (the protesters’) ignorance,” said Dave Myers.

But the efforts by Sordyl and her supporters have reportedly hurt Pollywood in other ways.

Shelley Myers said during the recent meeting that complaints made by Puppy Mill Awareness and Sordyl to the Macomb County Animal Control Department have interrupted business. She also claims to have been bullied and threatened, and that her vehicle was vandalized by local puppy mill adversaries.

Shelley Myers said she gets the puppies she sells from the private sector.

“They are all privately raised in family homes, and all my animals are regularly checked by a veterinarian and certified,” she said, adding that those who claim she does not keep her animals healthy “are liars.”

Sordyl said it’s not just about the health of the animals at Pollywood Pets; it’s the conditions that have her and many other animal adoption advocates angry.

Macomb County Animal Control Director Jeff Randazzo would not comment on any violations issued to Shelley Myers or Pollywood Pets, and referred any fine information to the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, who did not return phone calls for comment.

Shelley Myers said she has never been fined, and she has only been given suggestions to try and improve things, such as the lighting, for the dogs.

“They are not heat lamps; there is a space (in the store) that is dark and I use lights to brighten it up.” Other “suggested” changes included using only USDA-approved cages and keeping the animals’ food properly secured.

“They never find anything wrong,” she said of when her store is inspected.

Sordyl produced a letter dated in 2009 that stated that the owner of Pollywood Pets was fined $250 for two unspecified violations, but Shelley Myers said she never received it. Sordyl admits that it may have never been sent.

According to their website, the MDARD has licensed and regulated pet shops since 1969, offering mammals other than livestock or rodents for sale. However, due to state financial constraints, they were no longer able to operate the pet shop program, and it was suspended in 2009.

“The laws are still enforced, but there is no one to enforce them,” said Sordyl.

In addition, MDARD no longer accepts new applications for a pet shop license.

“Although MDARD will no longer be regulating pet shops, all pet shop operators are advised to use the laws and regulations concerning pet shops as guidelines for animal care in their facilities,” its website states. In addition, the department will also no longer be supplying pet shop health certificates. “Complainants wishing to file complaints against pet shops will be directed to local law enforcement agencies.”

“All I’m trying to do is run a good, tax-based business and provide employment,” Shelley Myers said.

But that’s little comfort to former Pollywood customer Kim Miles, who purchased a schnauzer/poodle mix puppy from Pollywood last year.

Miles said her daughter immediately fell in love with the pup they later named Lizzy.

She put down a $300 deposit but had some misgivings.

“It was just really bad in there,” she said. Miles said she wanted to forgo the deposit, but her daughter was adamant that Lizzy should live with the family.

A check up at the veterinarian’s office confirmed that Lizzy’s lethargic and sickly nature was the result of a liver shunt, which she likely inherited from her sickly mother, a dog the Miles family knew nothing about and was unable to find answers about.

“We called her over and over, trying to find out where the dog came from,” she said.

Miles said Lizzie underwent extensive and expensive surgery to repair the shunt to no avail. She will live the rest of her life on a special diet and twice-a-day medication to keep her liver soft so she can absorb the proper nutrients.

Still, she’s sick almost every day.

“She threw up twice today, and she walks in circles,” said Miles, adding that the behavior is a result of the illness affecting her brain.

“I didn’t know anything about that until (the night of the meeting),” said Shelley Myers. She said every customer is required to sign documents requiring they take their new puppy to a vet for a thorough checkup within 48 hours of purchase. She said she is willing to provide a refund if an animal is not 100 percent healthy.

“I don’t know how long she had the puppy before she had the problem,” Shelley Myers said, adding that staff is at the store every day caring for the animal, not just on Fridays, Saturdays and Sunday when Gibraltar is open to the public. “You’re dealing with live animals. If there are issues, take it back. But if you don’t call me or provide me with the documentation, there is nothing I can do.”

It matters little to Sordyl, who plans to meet with Mount Clemens officials in the near future to figure out what can be done to close Pollywood Pets for good.

“We will be protesting again during the holidays,” said Sordyl, a Clarkston resident.

“We have asked the store to stop selling puppies and kittens, so now we’re proceeding with a public education campaign … to warn families about ill and genetically defective animals sold at the store,” Sordyl said.