Protesters gathered this weekend outside a Petland opening in northwest Oklahoma City.
They said they were fighting against the sale of commercially bred puppies and kittens for profit.
“We hope people will adopt instead of shop,” said Lindsey Hutcheson of the Oklahoma Alliance for Animals.
According to the Oklahoma Alliance for Animals, Oklahoma ranks #4 in the United States for puppy mills. Puppy mills are places where thousands of animals are forced to live in deplorable conditions.
“Puppy mills aren’t just your unlicensed people who have 50 dogs in cages,” Hutcheson said. “Right now puppy mills keep dogs in tiny, tiny cages. They never go out. They eat, sleep, poo and everything in those cages.”
While activists accuse stores like Petland of helping support puppy mill operations and animal abuse, Petland store owner Carl Swanson denies the charges.
“We give out a lot of information about our dogs and invite people to come see what we’re doing and learn the truth,” Swanson said.
Before buying animals for his store, Swanson said he personally visits breeders to make sure his animals aren’t mistreated.
“Petland is all about pairing the right pet with the right family and meeting the needs of both,” Swanson said.
Swanson said the breeders he goes through are inspected by the USDA, the state, the American Kennel Club and veterinarians.
That’s only part of the problem, according to Hutcheson. She said pet stores are responsible for compounding an already growing problem.
“Last year alone, Oklahoma euthanized 18,000 to 19,000 dogs in our shelters just because of overcrowding,” Hutcheson said. “We have major overpopulation in Oklahoma, and we really hope the dogs will be home forever.”
“Not all breeders meet our standards,” Swanson said.
This isn’t Swanson’s first rally against Petland stores in Oklahoma City and Tulsa. Late last month, activists gathered in Tulsa for the grand opening of this place.
Related: Animal advocates say they plan to continue protests outside the national franchise