BLAINE, Minn. – Kristin Smith feels like the last dog standing.
His store is the only one left in Minnesota selling puppies – at a time when demand for puppies is skyrocketing due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
âWhat people want are small, hair-free dogs that are suitable for families,â Smith said, over the barking and barking inside of Blaine’s Four Paws and a Tail. “And they want puppies.”
Her customers know the puppy retail business may be the end of the line. âIt’s tragic,â said Bob Espeseth of Mounds View, who bought a Yorkie chon (Yorkshire terrier / bichon frize mix) puppy from Smith.
The business across the state has been shut down largely by animal welfare protesters and local regulations. St. Paul, Eden Prairie and Roseville have banned puppies from pet stores.
The problem, according to the Humane Society of the United States, is that most pet shop dogs come from puppy mills, defined as “an inhumane, high-volume dog-breeding facility that produces puppies for profit.” “.
Protests against puppy mills have been successful by focusing not on dog breeders, but on pet stores. In fact, it was so successful that there is only one place left for the protesters to go – Smith’s little pet store.
They gather on Sunday in a nearby corner. A post on the meetup.com website for a Minnesota animal rights meetup shows protesters carrying signs saying “Boycott all fours and one tail” and “Puppy mill dogs sold at Northtown Mall.”
Never, says Smith.
“They are puppies from good breeding, all licensed and inspected,” she said. “What could be better?”
Mall manager Paula Mueller said protesters did not check to see if the store was indeed buying dogs from puppy mills.
Smith regularly visits her breeders and says she can vouch for their reputation. She will not reveal the names of these ranchers, lest they be affected by protesters. But she tells buyers of a puppy where it came from.
Smith’s customers say they’re embarrassed that they could still buy a puppy from the puppy mill or one of the estimated 10,000 breeders nationwide. But they couldn’t buy the same dog, from the same breeder, at a pet store, except the Smith store.
One recent morning, a line of customers waited to enter the store.
They have entered the happiest and most restless place in the state. Over the barking, another sound grows, the two-tone âAw-www! From someone meeting serious cuteness: “Ohâ¦” “Aw, cute! “Hey, sweetie!”
They didn’t seem daunted by the price tags of $ 1,500 to $ 3,500 per dog.
As she dodged a boy apparently stuck to the rat terrier’s cage, Smith said clients isolated from COVID came from across the metro area. âWe serve 3 million people,â Smith said.
âPeople work from home. Their children are at home. Sometimes people are just alone, âshe said.
Puppies are essential during a pandemic, said Mall Manager Mueller, who purchased a beagle puppy from the store. âPuppies keep you sane. For me, they are ad hoc psychologists, âshe said.
Behind her, Smith let out the signature sound – âAw! She looked at the “teddy bear” puppies – half shih tzu, half bichon frize, all adorable.
“Look at those puppies,” she beamed. “They speak for themselves.”