PLAINVILLE — A pet store that just opened in town has dozens of locals and outside animal rights activists in arms.
They accuse the chain store of obtaining dogs from puppy mills, which the owner vehemently denies.
The store, The Perfect Puppy, is in the plaza at Routes 152 and 106, which also houses a Rite Aid pharmacy and several other businesses.
About three dozen people turned out for Monday night’s meeting of elected officials to see what the city could do to shut down the business.
“Responsible breeders don’t sell puppies to pet stores,” said resident Jenni Coes, a canine behaviorist who runs local business Peaceful Paws Pet Care and is a volunteer district leader for the Humane Society.
“I’ve seen issues firsthand with dogs purchased from pet stores,” she said.
The Perfect Puppy also has two stores in Rhode Island, one in West Warwick and the other in Scituate.
“There is considerable documentation that they receive puppies from puppy mills,” resident Dawn Denizkurt said, noting that puppy mills often house dogs in “incredible and horrific conditions.”
Photos of dogs in inhumane, unsafe and unsanitary conditions, apparently at out-of-state breeders, were shown on a projection screen.
“It’s disgusting,” said Carey Takach, a resident involved in lifesaving programs. “Most people don’t realize these conditions that most dogs find themselves in. Your future dog doesn’t need to be bought. He can be saved.”
Rita Fitzgerald, another resident, said she recently adopted a rescue puppy.
“I can’t imagine these conditions for the animals,” she said.
Resident Lisa Kerner recounted when she lived in Pennsylvania and would help save female dogs that were going to be killed after their breeding days were over.
In a letter to selectors, store owner Scott Bergantino disputed the claims, saying they were “rumors and lies” spread by the Humane Society of the United States, the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and the Mass Coalition to End Puppy Mills. , who he says got information from a “Boycott The Perfect Puppy” Facebook page.
Bergantino said he was suing the page’s admin.
“The information provided by the HSUS and MSPCA is very misleading and couldn’t be further from the truth,” he said.
He denied buying puppies from a breeder named by the groups, but admitted buying puppies from another breeder identified by the groups. But he said he stopped doing business with the breeder after learning he had violations.
“Now every puppy in my possession is personally picked up by me directly from the breeders themselves, and I have a personal relationship with each one of them,” Bergantino said.
He added that he allows customers to contact breeders and gives them a two-year warranty, even though Massachusetts law only requires 14 days.
Bergantino said he has been a professional breeder for years, opened his first store in August 2013 and his stores made more than $2.2 million in sales last year.
“We have never been cited for a single violation by the RI Department of Agriculture or the RI State Veterinarian,” he said. “While rescuing a dog is great, it’s not for everyone. There’s no ‘one size fits all’ when it comes to choosing your pet.”
Linda Murphy of the Mass Coalition to End Puppy Mills attended on Tuesday evening and said a member of her group visited the Scituate store in Bergantino almost two years ago and found dogs from breeders who had committed violations.
City officials told the group that the city had little say in regulating these businesses. They said the authority lay with the state Department of Agriculture, which authorized the store to open.
City administrator Jennifer Thompson said the store was able to open without a hearing before planning or zoning boards and was not regulated by the board of health.
Only building department approval was needed, and it has no jurisdiction over the type of business, Thompson said, adding that the animal control officer can inspect the business four times a year.
“The Breeders’ Council has no direct authority in this area,” Breeders’ Chairman Rob Rose said.
“Unfortunately, state laws aren’t strict enough,” Denizkurt said.
However, communities have the option of passing by-laws or ordinances prohibiting stores from purchasing animals from commercial breeders. The selectors have asked concerned residents and animal rights activists who attended the meeting to consider this, with a target date of the annual town hall meeting in June.
Boston, Cambridge and Stoneham have such regulations.
Stephen Peterson can be reached at 508-236-0377.