Controversial ‘designer puppy’ store planned for Lakes Mall

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MUSKEGON, Mich. -- A self-described "purebred and designer breed" puppy store planned for the Lakes Mall is causing an uproar on social media.

The store, which has not moved into the mall yet, is called The Barking Boutique.

People are worried that the store will sell dogs from puppy mills and unethical breeders.  Some are saying the focus should be on adopting shelter dogs instead.

Many are asking who the breeders are, and if the puppies are spayed and neutered.

The store posted its mission statement and a press release on its website:

The store also made the following statement on social media:

"The Barking Boutique was established so area families can share in the wonderful and rewarding experience of welcoming a puppy into their home. While shelters provide an excellent and appropriate alternative for many individuals and families seeking their life-time companions, we specialize in select puppies provided by USDA regulated breeders. At the time of purchase, all of our customers are guided through a thorough ‘puppy basics’ booklet which is a take-home reference guide. Our goal is to educate families about the best way to care for, raise, and train a puppy so families will have the best experience at home. All of our puppies have had their scheduled vaccinations, and to further our commitment that each and every puppy we sell has the best opportunity for a long and healthy life, the Barking Boutique covers all standard veterinarian care costs associated with the puppy’s first year of care including spay/neuter. The puppies also are vetted locally to ensure the best health and practices!​​"

The Barking Boutique is slated to open sometime in May.

The Lakes Mall issued this statement:


"The Lakes Mall has a lease agreement with the Barking Boutique and is aware of the store’s policy of offering only select puppies provided by USDA regulated breeders, and of providing the first year of standard veterinary care including spay/neuter at no additional cost."  

                              Sean Phillips, regional director, The Lakes Mall

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    • Elizabeth Brinkley

      Please state your credentials to offer an opinion on the subject. Where did you train? Do you have a degree or training in animal husbandry, animal behavioral science or vet medicine? Do you have experience in dealing with MULTIPLE animals, how many years experience and where did you get that experience? Owning a pet animal or two does NOT qualify someone to speak on owning multiple animals, on the needs of different breeds and on the care and feeding of animals. “Loving animals” does not make someone an expert on animals belonging to other people. Ignorance is something that can be excused because it can be changed with education BUT willful ignorance can never be excused. If you are offered PROOF and information about a subject and still refuse to admit you might be WRONG then you are just STUPID and there is no cure for stupid.
      It is obvious you have been thoroughly brainwashed by the propaganda of the animal rights industry.

      • Jodi Therrian

        First and foremost I owe you no list of my credentials but if you know anything about this area I am highly regarded and that is ALL I owe you . Liz Wells is a highly regarded trainer.I will not lower myself to your ” fix stupid” comment. I will just say you may want to educate yourself before you start slinging mud. Find a more ethical way to make a living!

      • Diane Hansell

        My credentials is I am an founder of a puppy mill awareness group. I have spent years dealing with mills. I have seen it first hand, dealt with the mill mothers left over after years of breeding with no vet care. I can take you head on in facts. USDA breeders are puppy mills. That is a fact. If you want me to start posting proof…. you got it.

        • Diane Hansell

          There is no dispute that reputable breeders would never sell to a pet store. You are about 10 years too late in trying to open a puppy store. The world is changing. People now understand that pet store puppies are puppy mill puppies. They are closing at record numbers because enlightened cities are not allowing them to even exist. Hopefully the city of Muskegon will understand that too. Please call your city council and mayor and enlighten them.

      • Lance Brown

        ELIZABETH BRINKLEY Your ridiculous attempt at trying to shut people up by making them feel “stupid” or insignificant has only made you sound foolish and ignorant. For starters nobody has to be a dog expert to understand how puppy mills are supported by stores and how their puppies always seem to end up in the supply chain for the stores. Anyone with even a reasonable level of intelligence can find this information (& verify it) online if they want to put in the time & make a sincere effort. As far as credentials I would have to say Diane Hansell fits in that category and I happen to know Jodi Therrian & I can assure you that she is very well educated on dogs & without a doubt the subject of puppy mills.

        I also want to add another VERY important comment about breeders & puppy mills. I used to know a licensed breeder & she took great pride in the fact that she followed ALL the rules ALL the time which is something she said most breeders she knew did not do. She discussed this in detail with me and I was very surprised how poor these rules are. Even though she followed all the rules the government required her to follow, it was still a sad way for these animals to live. No living thing should have to live that way. The level of care the government requires is woefully low and even following the rules is pretty much still allows them to effectively be puppy mills (albeit a much better environment than many unlicensed breeders).

        Also, if a person genuinely cares about animals (other than profit related) they would never want to create more puppy’s when there are quite literally MILLIONS of dogs being euthanized every year. Very, very often they die cold, scared (often down right terrified) and feeling alone. That is know way for anything to die! These euthanizations don’t always go well either and the animals are often not treated well by staff that have become desensitized to what they are doing so they can do their job). Puppies are awesome, but for all practical purposes every litter of puppies displaces other dogs that already exist and desperately need a good home. Not one of these dogs deserves this just because people want to continue to produce puppies. Whether it’s an individual or to a greater degree by breeders that sell to stores.

  • Jodi Therrian

    Adopting is great and the best way hands down.But if you do want a pure breed with papers this is still NOT the way to go. Trainer Liz Wells says it best by saying , “Good breeders sign a Code of Ethics with their parent club that says they will never sell to a pet store or any other type of dog dealer. ” Ethical breeders will take the puppy back no matter what if it doesn’t work and prevents more pets being given up to shelters.I would really like to see these so called USDA breeders ethics the Barking Boutique talks about. Shame on you Lakes Mall , Shame on the Barking Boutique.

  • Lexie - and I am a CVT

    Reputable breeders do not breed “designer” breed dogs. Also, reputable breeders meet, interview and screen families looking to add a new pet to their family. Reputable breeders do NOT sell their puppies to pet stores to later be resold to any schmoe off the street.

  • Lori Ross

    If you are being regulated by the USDA, you are a puppy mill. I have been breeding dogs for over thirty years and not once have I interacted with the USDA. Of course, not once have I sold a pup to a store. Only puppy mills do this. Please, please do not get a pup from a pet store. If no one bought a pup from a store for six months, the mills would go out of business and thousands of dogs wouldn’t be sentenced to a life in a cage popping out puppies. Also, the only ‘designer’ dogs are purebreds who are bred for specific traits, designed to hunt, herd, guard, cuddle, etc.

    • Matt U

      Well is Petco and Petsmart get animals from a company that is regulated and inspected by the USDA, that should make them equally responsible, and they should be shut down too…right? I guess not, since most people ignore the big name companies, and stab at the small companies that won’t make it if we degrade them enough online. Why bother with this company that may or may not make it in muskegon for a month if no one will pay any attention to the companies that have been doing it for years?

      • Diane Hansell

        Matt…both PetSmart and PetCo give space in their stores to local shelters and rescues to show adoptable dogs to the public. They do not sell dogs. They are part of the solution, not part of the problem.

  • Stacy

    People are like oh look my dog had puppies, and I’m like oh look thousands of homeless dogs were put to sleep today. Humans are disgusting and this store is coming to an already popping at the seams with homeless animals city.

  • Amanda Godwin

    These are going to be mutts that will come at a very steep price that no one in Muskegon will be able to afford anyway. He’s not going to last long, especially with all the backlash before the store is even open.

  • Misty

    I don’t see this lasting long. Most areas have banned the sale of puppies in stores. This is totally disgusting to me. And people are correct that ethical breeders wouldn’t sell their puppies to be sold in a pet store. And if you are purchasing a puppy from a breeder you should want to see the parents and know the conditions they came from. You can’t do that at a store like this.