Protesters gathered this weekend outside the opening of a Petland in northwest Oklahoma City.
They said they were fighting the sale of commercial breeding puppies and kittens for profit.
âWe hope people will adopt instead of shopping,â 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 where thousands of animals are forced to live in appalling conditions.
âPuppy mills aren’t just your unlicensed people who have 50 caged dogs,â Hutcheson said. “Right now the puppy mills keep the dogs in tiny cages. They never come out. They eat, sleep shit and everything in those cages.”
As activists accuse stores like Petland of helping support puppy mill operations and animal abuse, Petland store owner Carl Swanson denies the charges.
âWe give out a lot of information about our dogs and we invite people to come and see what we’re doing and learn the truth,â Swanson said.
Before purchasing animals for his store, Swanson said he personally visits breeders to make sure his animals are not mistreated.
âPetland is all about matching the right pet with the right family and meeting the needs of both,â Swanson said.
Swanson said the breeders he goes through are inspected by the USDA, the state, the American Kennel Club and veterinarians.
This is only part of the problem, according to Hutcheson. She said pet stores are responsible for making an already growing problem worse.
âLast year alone, Oklahoma euthanized 18,000 to 19,000 dogs in our shelters due to overcrowding,â Hutcheson said. “We have significant overcrowding in Oklahoma, and we really hope to have the dogs forever homes.”
âNot all breeders meet our standards,â Swanson said.
This is not the first rally against Swanson’s Petland stores in Oklahoma City and Tulsa. At the end of last month, activists gathered in Tulsa for the inauguration of this place.
Related: Animal rights activists say they plan to continue protests outside of national franchise