Dog lovers protesting Lil' Pups pet store in east Carson City today allege the business has sold sick puppies bred in cruel conditions, which has involved city animal services and put the business owner on the defensive.
Lil' Pups, Carson City's first puppy store, has battled with animal rescue advocates since it opened in November. The store manager said he has done everything to soothe his critics - but some will never like his business no matter what he does.
At the front line of the crusade is Dog Town Rescue President Lorayn Walser. Her nonprofit organization is funded by dog adoption fees and grants. She organized today's demonstration and has attracted the attention of disgruntled puppy store customers by taking out a newspaper ad and posting on an online blog.
"We're not looking to have a conflict with anyone," Walser said. "We just want people to learn what's going on and make informed decisions."
Walser admits she has no conclusive proof that Lil' Pups sells dogs from puppy mills. She has talked to vets around town - many of whom were contacted for this story and will not go on the record - and speculated with dog breeders - several of whom declined to comment. Her proof is that the dogs are sick and they're from states "known to operate puppy mills."
Albert Franks, Lil' Pups manager, said most customers are happy with their puppies, and if not he has a 10-day guarantee policy.
"They can protest all they want, but I don't buy from a puppy mill. Knowingly, I would never buy from a puppy mill," said Franks, who has sold more than 100 dogs since moving from Roseville, Calif. "I buy from a broker, but I don't follow him around all over the U.S."
Pat Wiggins, animal services supervisor for the city, said he has received several complaints about the store, but they were not serious enough to warrant a citation. Nevada Revised Statute cites serious illnesses, such as parvo and distemper. Most complaints are that the dogs contracted kennel cough, which is a canine ailment equivalent to the common cold. Some puppy owners said their dogs later developed respiratory infection and pneumonia.
"He's met all requirements for vet care regarding the animals he's selling," Wiggins said.
Some protesting today plan to bring along their beloved pets purchased from the 204 E. Winnie Lane puppy store. Debra Winter said her miniature pinscher she bought for $650 has an ear infection and a chest cold. She's spent $800 so far on vet bills.
Frank Johnston said his golden retriever can't even walk. This week Lucy was diagnosed with hip dysphasia, he said.
"The poor thing can't even get off the ground by herself," the Carson City man said Friday. "I have to pick her up to take her outside to go to the bathroom."
The vet told Johnston the surgery to fix his puppy's hips could cost up to $3,000. Both owners have complained to the puppy store owner but have not returned the dogs for a reimbursement. Lil' Pups reimburses medical costs within 10 days of the purchase if the dog is taken to the store's vet.
"Once you have your emotions involved for a little while, that's a tough request," Johnston said.
• Contact reporter Becky Bosshart at firstname.lastname@example.org or 881-1212.