Eleven Lowcountry animal-welfare groups are cutting ties with a Summerville pet store because the new owner is selling puppies from commercial breeders.
For the last six years, Petland Summerville has helped place dogs and cats from overcrowded local shelters and rescue groups. That’s also been the policy of other pet stores in the Lowcountry, such as Petco and PetSmart.
The Summerville store at 975 Bacons Bridge Road was sold last month, and the new owner announced plans on its Facebook page to start selling puppies from commercial breeders, along with videos of the facilities where they're raised.
Local rescue groups responded by saying they will no longer take their animals to the store for adoption.
"We cannot in a good conscience move forward in a relationship with a business knowing that the animals they are bringing into our community will overwhelm an already existing taxed system," Dorchester Paws executive director Kim Almstedt said Thursday at a press conference outside her group's Summerville shelter.
"To import animals from a commercial breeder at a time when we are battling to save more of these precious lives is a tragedy," said Pearl Sutton, president of the South Carolina Animal Care and Control Association.
Also represented were Pet Helpers, the Charleston Animal Society, Doc Williams SCPA, Lowcountry Animal Rescue, Hallie Hill Animal Sanctuary, No Kill South Carolina, Sinbad-Sadie Second Chance Rescue, H.F. Help No-Kill Rescue and Humane Net.
The first couple dozen puppies — a wide variety of breeds — arrived at Petland Summerville Thursday afternoon. They're in enclosures in the middle of the store where customers can interact with them.
Brad Parker of Atlanta, the new owner, also owns two Petland stores in Georgia and one in Florida. He said it’s always been the company’s policy to offer dogs from reputable breeders as well as from shelters.
"This is the Petland model for puppies,” he said. "If you want to buy a pure-bred dog, we’re probably the safest place to buy one if you’re talking about top-quality breeder standards."
He said he had been talking with some of the shelter operators and was surprised to hear that they called a press conference.
"I’ve been doing this a long time," he said. "I’ve never had a press event held against us. … It was a little disappointing."
Parker said he’s willing to help the shelters find homes for their animals.
"We do a lot of marketing and get a lot of exposure and traffic," he said. "If the rescues would just work with us, we would help them adopt way more puppies than they’re probably currently adopting."
That doesn't seem likely, at least not in the near future.
"For years we valued Petland’s support of our shelter and animals," said Natalie Hutt, president of Dorchester Paws. "The new ownership is going in a direction now that we can’t simply continue to be a part of. ... We are pleading with the store owner to drop those plans and urging the public to adopt not shop."