VERIFY: The Barking Boutique puppies were not from a puppy mill

It's been a lightning rod for controversy every place it has opened in West Michigan -- The Barking Boutique.

MICHIGAN - As the controversial Barking Boutique works toward opening a new store in Grandville, protests similar to those that forced the shop to forfeit locations in Muskegon and Kentwood continue.

Opponents claim owner David Boelkes acquired at least some of the dogs he sold at his former store in Woodland Mall from known puppy mills.

Hensons Dogwood Kennels of Cassville, Mo.; breeder Marie Doherty of Fulton, Kan.; and Personality Plus Puppies of Mount Vernon, Mo., were identified by protesters as the three alleged puppy mills.

"They are usually provided minimal care as far as shelter, food, socialization and veterinary care," said Pam Sordyl, founder of Puppy Mill Awareness of Southeast Michigan. "Profits come first."

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All three of those commercial breeders are licensed under the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which regulates any facility with five or more breeding females who sell their dogs commercially or sight unseen. There are 130 inspectors who monitor nearly 10,000 licensees and registrants nationwide. 

Boelkes told WZZM 13 that he did not visit any of those specific breeders, but instead acquired those dogs through a third-party broker Pinnacle Pets.

Pinnacle Pets, which no longer works with The Barking Boutique, said in a statement to WZZM 13 they are:

"Committed to ensuring the health and welfare of dogs raised by responsible breeders. Our vetting process is extensive and includes thorough reviews of USDA inspection reports, on-site visits from our breeder support team, and strict health and vaccination protocols."

Boelkes said a veterinarian examined each of his dogs before signing off that they were healthy and fit for sale. During that initial exam, common intestinal worms were found in some of the puppies -- all of which were then prescribed proper medication.

Shannon Reincke, who managed the foster and medical care of the six dogs the Bissell Pet Foundation purchased said that there was no way such severe respiratory and intestinal issues would have developed so quickly during the nine days those dogs were still in Boelkes possession unless Boelkes wasn't maintaining the dogs welfare properly.

"There is no way that those symptoms would not have been recognized by anybody with any level of animal care experience," Reincke said.

The 14-day puppy warranty Boelkes gave to each person who bought one of his dogs stated treatment and medication would have been reimbursed as long as the dog was still in the possession of the original purchaser.

There is no legal definition of what a puppy mill is; instead the USDA monitors commercial breeders under the Animal Welfare Act. WZZM 13 can confirm that three of the dogs Boelkes sold did come from USDA licensed facilities, all of which have been cited for non-compliance issues in the past.

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VERIFY: Sources

Tanya Espinosa, U.S. Department of Agriculture 
Chris Fleming, Pinnacle Pet

Pam Sordyl, Puppy Mill Awareness of Southeast Michigan

Shannon Reincke, Vicky's Pet Connection

David Boelkes, The Barking Boutique

VERIFY: Resources

ANIMAL WELFARE ACT: Full regulations
ASPCA: Puppy Mills
USDA: Licensees and Registrants reports

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