(Note: This story was originally published in October 2010.)
KNOXVILLE (WATE) – A Knoxville pet store owner purchased several hundred puppies from a flea market called Dog Alley in Canton, Texas. However, he claims he doesn’t support puppy mills.
Each year, pet stores sell thousands of puppies to Tennessee families who know little about the animals’ histories.
But those pet store operators are quick to say their animals don’t come from puppy mills, where profit instead of a pet’s welfare is the bottom line.
Pet stores are aware of the Animal Welfare Act, which sets minimum standards of care and treatment for animals bred for commercial sale.
For dogs, the act requires a USDA license for any breeder with more than three breeding females who sell puppies wholesale to pet stores or a broker.
The dogs for sale at Puppy Zone in West Knoxville scamper about in baby cribs. They’re cute and hard to resist.
But in March, demonstrators protested outside the store accusing the owner, Steven Glatz, of buying from puppy mills, which he flatly denied.
“We do not support puppy mills or people who hurt animals in any way,” Glatz told 6 News Reporter Hana Kim.
Glatz also said his supply of puppies comes from private breeders, and he won’t accept puppies from families that have more than three or four dogs.
Puppy Zone’s Facebook page claims, “Our babies come from loving homes.”
6 News turned to public records to find where Glatz bought his puppies during the first six months of 2010.
Those records from the Tennessee Department of Agriculture filed by Glatz in July show Puppy Zone purchased over 200 dogs representing two dozen breeds from Alysa Graves in Canton, Texas.
We made a trip recently to Dog Alley in Canton, 60 miles east of Dallas. Puppies in crates are stacked on top of one another with little human contact. Bargain hunters and puppy store owners can find every breed through the maze of pathways that courses through acres of sheds.
The array of animals are part of the decades-old practice called First Monday Trade Days where we found Alysa Graves.
She said while the puppies for sale in her booth included only Yorkies and Chihuahuas, she has access to many breeds she has sold to Steven Glatz for Puppy Zone.
Next we talked to Jim Bias, who’s president of the Texas Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) in Dallas.
“If a dealer buys puppies from someone who sells puppies in a place like Dog Alley, is that dealer supporting puppy mills?” I asked. “Well you can connect the dots,” Bias said.
He says Texas has no statute that regulates breeders or brokers on a statewide basis. He checked federal records and found Graves isn’t licensed by the USDA as a breeder or broker.
“For someone in Tennessee who’s acquired one of these animals, they’re not getting any assurances from the state of Texas that these animals are coming from a facility that’s been inspected or licensed,” Bias explained.
Records filed by Glatz show Graves lives at 988 County Road 2318, eight miles south of Canton.
There’s a no trespassing sign in front of her home, and a fence surrounding it. In the back yard we saw a shed and what looks like an outdoor dog pen with a canvas cover over it.
6 News asked Karen Marguand and Tyrine Hawthorne to look at the undercover video from Texas. The two are leaders of the Small Breed Rescue Association of East Tennessee.
They were disturbed by the cramped, overcrowded conditions at Dog Alley.
“He’s (Glatz) not breaking any laws, but when you tell people that these puppies are coming from loving homes, I think the consumer has the right to know,” Marguand said. “This puppy did not come from a loving home. This puppy came from a puppy mill, and if (you) choose to support that with informed knowledge, so be it.”
We took this report to Steven Glatz to get his comments.
“I’ve met Alysa (Graves) on several occasions and I know what she looks for when she buys puppies,” Glatz said. He says Graves looks for health puppies, but he wasn’t aware she’s not licensed.
“She’s a buyer,” Glatz said. “A broker,” I said.
“She’ll go to people’s houses and she’ll buy puppies,” Glatz said. When asked about Dog Alley he said, “I’ve seen it,” but added that he hasn’t been there in a long time.
When asked how he would describe conditions at Dog Alley, “It’s, it’s….I’m not sure exactly the best way to describe it, but it’s where a lot of people bring their puppies to sell them,” Glatz said.
“I check out the breeders that I deal with,” Glatz said.
That begs the question, when he buys from Graves how does he check the dozens of breeders she buys from and the quality of the animals she sells to him? “Well I guess I’ll have to look into her a little bit closer before we buy from her again,” Glatz said.
His store, Puppy Zone, is properly licensed. When it was inspected in September it passed the standards established by the state.
Steven Glatz claims his animals are healthy, and he offers a 14 day limited warranty on them. A check of records show the puppies came from six different states and 90 different breeders in just six months.
You have to wonder, how well does he know those breeders?