KENTWOOD, Mich. — Following a social media uproar and an online petition to boycott the mall, a controversial designer puppy store will no longer be operating inside Woodland Mall.
The mall announced Saturday on its Facebook page it would be 'parting ways' with The Barking Boutique, which sells purebred and so-called designer dogs, some priced as high as $4,000. Some animal rights supporters claimed the store is a 'puppy mill.'
You raised your voice and we listened. We love being part of this community and after evaluating your concerns, we have decided to part ways with The Barking Boutique. We hope all our shoppers continue to enjoy their experience at Woodland Mall.
The store was originally set to open at The Lakes Mall in Norton Shores back in May, but quietly opened at Woodland last Tuesday.
After just a few days of being in business, Woodland Mall's Facebook page had been filled with opposition. Many say it's a business hardly anyone knew was coming to the area.
The store's owner, David Boelkes, told FOX 17 that transparency is key, and those in opposition are misinformed.
"We’re here for that family that’s looking for a pure breed or purpose-bred dog in a transparent way," Boelkes told FOX 17 earlier in the week.
In a statement released Saturday evening, a representative for the store said the decision to terminate the lease came from the mall's corporate management who "capitulated to the bullying and intimidation tactics of privately funded, animal activists."
Boelkes said he was given 72 hours to leave the mall after being ordered on Friday to vacate the premise by close of business on July 11.
“These activists created a social media backlash, based on rumors, completely ignoring the facts of my store,” Boelkes said in a statement, adding the store had sold four puppies in the first four days of business.
“We held ourselves to the highest standards of humane animal treatment and transparency. This action reinforces the shelter cartel’s monopoly on dog retail, and their common practice of trafficking dogs into Michigan from southern states and other unknown origin.”
Leasing agents for the mall had encouraged Boelkes to build out the store, which cost more than $70,000 in construction and inventory, the statement said.
All families adopting from the Barking Boutique are given full visibility of the origin and pedigree of their puppy. They are given a full health and medical background, as well as comprehensive background on the breeder and puppy’s parentage. David personally met with many of his breeders to ensure and guarantee that the puppies sold in his store were raised humanely and ethically.
During the three days the Barking Boutique was open, it became an immediate draw to Woodland Mall, invigorating it with a renewed energy. More than 700 people visited The Barking Boutique each day, and the store often had more people inside than the Apple Store.
The statement also said Boelkes now faces personal bankruptcy after being forced to close. The store had employed eight people and eight puppies remain in need of a home, the statement said.
As of Sunday night, all of the remaining puppies have been sold. The boutique has a Go Fund Me page to raise funds to offset their debt.