Angry animal lovers gathered outside a Bensonhurst pet store on Saturday to protest the shop’s allegedly substandard conditions — which activists claim includes selling customers sick and dying dogs.
“This store sold us, and hundreds of others, a puppy that was sick with kennel cough and had a congenital eye defect,” said Elena Okhotnikova, an executive at the non-profit American Alliance for Protection of Animals Inc. “We had to surgically remove his right eye because it was a dead eye.”
The manager of Puppy Boutique, located on 80th Street between 16th and 17th avenues, said that the store sells six breeds from 67 licensed breeders, and more than 250,000 canines have passed through the shop in their 25 years — with only a fraction of them having health problems.
However, Okhotnikova claims that just because a breeder is licensed by the state doesn’t mean that it abides by ethical practices, and said that customers reported purchasing dogs suffering illnesses typically contracted in puppy mills.
“As long as people continue buying puppies from pet stores, they are promoting puppy mills and thus promoting animal cruelty,” she said.
During the protest, several bereaved dog owners spoke about their bad experiences with the puppy store, and held signs that read “Puppy Boutique = Puppy Mill” and “Save the pups, Close them up!”
The neighborhood’s Councilman Justin Brannan, an avowed animal rights activist who once played in a band with two pitbull vocalists, said that his proposal to ban puppy mills could shut down the Puppy Boutique.
“The commercial puppy industry treats dogs like machines and keeps them captive in cruel conditions, just so they can keep churning out puppies,” he said in a statement. “Fortunately, there is a bill in Albany that would outlaw this practice. I hope it passes this year and I even sponsored a City Council resolution in support of it.”
One unhappy customer said that the store sold her an 8-week-old Shih Tzu suffering from heartworm — a parasite transmitted through mosquito bites that cause lung and heart disease — landing the dog in the hospital for five days and leaving her with a $5,000 medical bill.
“The vets were saying that had it gone longer he would’ve died,” said Karina Sanchez, who bought her dog, Kush, in late January.
Sanchez said she was appalled by the conditions and care that Puppy Boutique provided the dog, saying she found the pooch surrounded by feces and discovered staff feeding the her Gatorade and Frosted Flakes!
“I noticed there was something weird in their drink,” she said. “I asked the employee and he said, ‘Oh, we give puppies Gatorade because it gives them electrolytes.”
A manager at the store, who would only give his name as Philip, admitted to feeding the dogs sugary foods, saying the diet was cleared by the city’s Department of Health, which inspects the store regularly.
“We only got a ticket once in 25 years, and it was for a vacuum problem,” Philip said.
Several online resources, including mypetsneedthat.com and herepup.com, also endorsed the practice of feeding Gatorade to dogs in small quantities, claiming it wards off dehydration and is useful for treating canines’ diarrhea.