Chicago’s oldest pet store announced today that it will stop selling dogs and cats it has obtained from puppy mills and kitten mills and is now going humane. Collar and Leash Pet Boutique at 1435 North Wells in Old Town at will begin transitioning out of dog sales on April 1 and will have a grand reopening on April 6 and 7. It will then work with rescue partners in the community by hosting adoption events.
Sonja Raymond, the owner of Collar and Leash, began exploring alternative options to selling pets over five years ago after noticing many animals coming into the store with genetic defects and incurable illness. Although Collar and Leash always stood by the sale of their animals, she could no longer turn a blind eye and began uncovering the truth behind many breeders.
Inhumane breeders were slipping through the cracks, medical records were being doctored, and animals were producing strictly for profit. Raymond wanted more for the animals, and for her family's business, a Chicago institution for almost 60 years.
"We'd been in touch with The Puppy Mill Project Founder, Cari Meyers for a long time, and realize it's time we take this jump with them to help make a statement to put an end to puppy mills. This truly is going to be an adventure," says Raymond. "We will no longer buy and sell cats and dogs from mills and are proud to align ourselves with The Puppy Mill Project."
The Puppy Mill Project has been working with the store since earlier this year to make the transition to stop the sale of puppies. The move comes after several years of protests by the organization outside the store to help educate consumers about the origin of the pets sold at that location.
“This is huge for all of us,” says Cari Meyers, founder of The Puppy Mill Project. “I grew up looking at the puppies in the window of this store and it’s been my priority to stop the sale of dogs and cats at this store and move it to an adoption model. We’ll be working with shelters and rescues to host adoption days at Collar and Leash in the future.”
The Puppy Mill Project will provide assistance, guidance and direction to Collar and Leash to facilitate their transition to a humane pet store business model. Through outreach and education, The Puppy Mill Project will help Collar and Leash incorporate an adoption program and to abandon selling puppies as products.
Collar and Leash is in the process of building partnerships with several specific breed rescues as well as mixed breed organizations that will help facilitate the adoption process through the store. Vaccinations and wellness checks will be made available onsite and Raymond says "this is not just about not selling puppies anymore, but about community wellness and awareness as well."
Four area stores now humane
Collar and Leash has been at the Old Town location since 1956 and will become the first Chicago pet store to stop selling puppies and kittens. It joins Dog Patch Pet and Feed from Naperville, Thee Fish Bowl in Evanston and Wilmette Pet Center as the fourth pet store in the metropolitan area to make the move.
The Puppy Mill Project worked with Dog Patch owner Greg Gordon starting in November of 2011 to stop selling puppies and move to a rescue model – a move that Gordon has called a success. The organization also worked with Thee Fish Bowl the previous year. Wilmette Pet Center works with long-time rescue partner Adopt-a-Pet and fosters dogs and cats for adoption by that organization.
Family's original mission
Raymond, her husband Dan and his brother Bob Fleming own Collar and Leash. The store was founded by the Flemings’ grandmother who opened the store to sell extra puppies from her show dogs. In recent years, they have been working with dog brokers who have been purchasing dogs from puppy mills.
“The pet stores that sell dogs do make a lot of money from that end of their business when they make the transition,” says Meyers. “Once they make the transition, they will see a lot of new customers that will want to shop at their store because they’ve stopped selling puppies.”
"This mission is personal. Collar and Leash was founded by my husband's grandmother in 1956,” says Raymond. “It's been a family business since. Last year, my husband's mom passed away and up until her death, she was working with me towards this humane model. My husband, his brother and I are moving forward as a family to keep the business alive in an ethical and respectful way."
Collar and Leash will host a re-grand opening weekend Saturday, April 6 from 10 am - 6 pm and April 7, from 11 am - 5 pm. There will be animal adoptions on-site as well as Broadway Animal Hospital performing wellness checks and vaccinations.
Follow The Puppy Mill Project on Facebook for updates on the relaunch of Collar and Leash.