Outrage after designer puppy store opens at Woodland Mall

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KENTWOOD, Mich. -- A designer puppy store in Woodland Mall is creating outrage on social media, and opponents are say they are preparing to protest after the store's second day in business.

The Barking Boutique was originally set to open at The Lakes Mall in Norton Shores back in May but quietly opened at Woodland Tuesday.

The store sells purebred and so-called designer dogs, some priced as high as $4,000. 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," said Boelkes, "so we offer pictures of the mom and dad, along with breeder information as well. It’s a lot of misinformation portrayed about the pet industry. We really recommend going to a shelter or humane society, because those dogs need homes. And if they can’t find what they’re looking for there, then we’re here for that puppy."

Boelkes said the puppies come from USDA licensed breeders or private family breeders, and he has the paperwork to support it. The puppies are socialized in a nursery atmosphere daily.

But dog advocates like Kaelen Connolly say that's not enough.

"'USDA certified breeders' has about as much meaning as cage-free eggs anymore," said Connolly. "It doesn't mean too much of anything. Standards are not very high to be USDA certified breeder."

Pam Sordyl, founder of Puppy Mill Awareness of Southeast Michigan, is also opposes the store's opening. She said the issue is not about pure breeds being sold, it's about the lack of transparency available to consumers.

"It's really 'buyer beware' for anyone that buys these dogs," said Sordyl. "We don’t know what the store standards are. We know the USDA standards are minimal. They're survival standards only, and that’s what we call puppy mills."

After two days of being in business, Woodland Mall's Facebook page was filled with opposition. Many say it's a business hardly anyone knew was coming to the area.

Boelkes said the quiet opening was deliberate. "It has been a little hush-hush," said Boelkes. "I wanted to get in and get the puppies acquainted to the cribs, get our staff trained and ready."

It was a covert operation after the first round of advertising failed in Muskegon. The outrage on social media forced Barking Boutique to find a different location. Still, many plan to protest the boutique's sale of puppies for good.

"We will be organizing protests," said Sordyl. "I will let them all know we will be organizing protests and this is not acceptable. Grand Rapids is a very humane community, they support their local shelters and rescues."

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40 comments

  • Taco Tuesday

    So, the store offers proof, that the puppies don’t come from Mills. But yet, these people just ignore that fact and keep flapping their mouths that they are in fact the correct view point?

    I’m I missing something here? Leave the store alone, and protest something that makes sense. Like the two ridiculous choices we have for president.

    • Anthony

      What proof? Some pictures that could be of any dogs in the world? Do the buyers get to visit mom and dad? Do the buyers get to independently verify that mom and dad are taken care of by reputable breeders?

  • NO PC FOR ME

    What do you do when a puppy ( retail product ) becomes sick ( damaged merchandise) ? do you take it to a vet for treatment ( adding cost to a retail product that won’t increase its value and will result is a lose of profit) or do you take it to the vet and have it put down ( cutting you risk and maximizing profits) ?

  • Vickie

    I’ve gotten two puppies from mall stores. Two of the best dogs I’ve ever had. Let the customers decide if they want to buy puppies there. I would.

    • bearlake8128

      Sorry, but I’m not paying $4000 when I know that I can save a purebred puppy/dog from a shelter. How many shelter dogs lives could be saved with that $4000? Millions of dogs are being killed each day. We’ve adopted a 2 purebred Keeshonds, a purebred Golden Retriever. Before adopting these dogs, went with a breeder for our second Keeshond. All were just as loved and gave us unconditional love in return. It didn’t matter where they came from. If you’ve researched puppy mills, you’ll know why these stores are protested. Look it up, put “puppy mills” in search, try “Amish puppy mills”. Those dogs could be one of these dogs that are being sold for $4000. The horrific mills you’ll see online, if you take a look, are breeding dogs over and over and over again and then destroying the lives that produced these puppies when they’ve outlived their usefulness and can no longer breed. Believe me, they aren’t destroyed humanely. So that is the result. These protesters are fighting for innocent lives. They aren’t there to cause trouble. They aren’t there supporting violence or hatred. If these stores stay open, who is benefiting? Only the store owners and the unscrupulous puppy mill scum. If you don’t want to support the protesters, at least don’t berate them. They’re not hurting you. Actually, they’re not hurting anyone. They’re doing their best to help and it’s not easy for them. They sacrifice their time, money. They want us to stop purchasing the products of animals being used as nothing but livestock. Please search puppy mills. These dogs are caged and have never walked on grass. If they are saved, and unfortunately not enough have been. it takes them a very long time to overcome the trauma they’ve survived and to learn what it’s like to walk on solid ground and not feel cage bars below their paws, If we know better, we can do better. I know better. I’ll never purchase from a pet store again. 2 of the most wonderful, rescued dogs lay at my feet and wish to tell you that Mom knows what she’s talking about. They also have thanked us many times over, but who saved who? They’ve given us more than we could ever have imagined being blessed with.

      • Audrey Weaver

        Very well said. This is exactly it. Everyone who supports this, or is nonchalant about it but still feels the need to make a comment…., NEEDS to educate themselves on what they are supporting. This is a very sad truth. There are many more lives affected by these puppy stores that you do not see in the store. Puppy mills are animal cruelty and we are those poor souls’ voice to stop it.

  • RG

    Sordyl is a BULLY!! Most puppies at the shelters come from hoarders/puppy mills. Some one willing to pay thousands of dollars for a pure bred puppy will probably take good care of it. If you don’t like the way a company does business don’t buy their product.

    • Rachel

      Most dogs at shelters do not actually come from hoarding situations or puppy mills. They come from people who got a dog as an impulse buy (like they would do in a store setting) and decided they don’t want to deal with everything that owning a dog entails. So those of us trying to help out the shelters end up with both the parents (after their done being bred, if they make it out alive) AND the puppy (now adult) after the owner can’t take care of it any longer. There absolutely no reason to purchase a puppy from a retail store instead of going to a reputable breeder or shelter. Reputable breeders want to know who is purchasing their puppy and would never consent to selling them to a store to be sold again.

        • Rachel

          Yes, we get dogs from hoarding situations, but what people don’t realize is that 80 is not a massive number compared with how many dogs are currently in the system in shelters across west michigan. 80 dogs is a small portion of what’s in the shelter.

        • Gina

          Have you been to a shelter? There’s all kinds of pure bred dogs. There’s thousands of rescues devoted to pure bred dogs.

        • Michelle VanGeest

          The reason you don’t see a lot of pure breed dogs in shelters is because many go directly from puppy mill to a rescue, where they receive the love and care necessary to make them somewhat adoptable. Some breeders will sell their “used up” breeders at flea markets; rescues have been known to pay small purchase prices in order to rescue the dogs from being sold to perhaps another breeder. I agree that a person who pays upwards of $1000 for a puppy is pretty serious about wanting it. It’s the PARENT dogs that we’re most concerned about, because they are “behind the scenes,” and in our VAST EXPERIENCE with the unseemly world of puppy mills, their lives are miserable.

    • Wendy Scott

      most of the morons commenting here have never seen what we see every single day! The cast offs from the puppy mills- mammary tumors, eye injuries, liver shunt, mvd, every genetic disease that you can imagine. The puppies are the lucky ones if they survive the trip from the mills (most transports have small doors so that no one sees the dead ones and freezer to keep the bodies)…………….

  • Red

    My parents bought a puppy from a pet store. They fell for the “they all deserve love” mindset and also feel for the breeder bio and pictures taped to the kennels. They love their dog, but between her congenital heart defect and bad knees, she’s turned out to be the most costly dog they’ve ever had and have vowed to never again go to a pet store for a pet.

    • Stephanie

      Why? Are you going to slander the vet now and suggest they are jeopardizing their license by falsifying documents?

  • lakeshorelibertarian

    Here’s the actual conundrum that emits from this. You cannot have a ‘designer purebred’ anything. The moment you crossbreed two dogs, it is no longer purebred. Its in the description. A mixed breed dog is what we used to call a mutt. If they want to sell HuskyPoos or GermanDoodles, I’m fine with that. just call a spade a spade and not a ‘designer shovel’.

  • Craig Shapiro

    The proof doesn’t matter. What does is that every dog purchased from a pet store or breeder–even a puppy costing an obscene $4,000–denies a home to one languishing in a shelter. Always adopt, don’t support pets stores or breeders.

    • Joe B

      Adopter beware. We got a puppy from shelter that was suppose to be small cocker mixed. Grew into a sheep dog that bit kids. Had to put it down.

      • Ellie

        Actually you didn’t have to put it down, you could have found it a home with no kids. I guess it died because it didn’t fit your needs, as if that dog was defective thing for ordered.

  • Carole Velding

    Dog selling in stores are Out Of Date…we now have so much information about puppy mills where these poor pups come from. We have plenty of puppies and dogs in rescue centers and humane societies!!! Remove these stores from existence!!

  • DP

    Pure greed! There are plenty of dogs at shelters and the humane society. This “owner” was managing an Abercrombie store last week I think. This makes GR look ridiculous.

  • Vicki mineo

    There is absolutely nothing wrong with buying a well bred purposely bred puppy from a reputable breeder that is sold from a store that has transparency. If you look at the breeder information through the rigorous inspections and do not want to buy, don’t buy. But people should have the right to chose where to get their next pet. I think a responsible pet store is a great option!

    • bearlake8128

      You’re right, they should. However, I recently saw a puppy (the breed we love, adore and have had 4 of) advertised at Petland. Although I’m a passionate animal advocate and know better, I called them and asked how much. $2500. The past puppies we’ve owned were rescues/adopted, another from a reputable breeder. The highest we ever paid was $350. I continue to search for our breed through petfinder.com, and since we are not a family who purchases dogs for show, we are looking for a pet. They are fabulous. I kept checking on the Petland website to see if the puppy I had called about was still there. He is. He’s been in that cage for over a month now in a pet store. There is no way we can afford a puppy for $2500. As I’m sure you know. this puppy will outgrow his adorable, fuzzy, teddy bear appearance. As this breed ages, they go through a phase we call the “awkward teens”, are not as cute, and are most likely going to sit in that cage until his price is reduced or until someone like me walks in and falls in love, and man oh man, that is why I called and didn’t go in. If I had been looking in that cage I most likely would have shelled out $2500 that I needed more than that puppy and have come home to a husband who may find his photo on the front page of the paper for killing his wife (if you catch my drift), So, you’re right. If you want to walk into a store and pay up to $4000 for a puppy in a store rather than walk into a shelter and save a dog (whose euthanasia date may be tomorrow, if at a high-kill shelter) of the same breed, that’s entirely up to you. As I’ve aged, I’ve become even more passionate in my love for dogs. As a result, I’ve researched. I’ve seen puppies sit at the pet store and we all know, millions of dogs sit unwanted at shelters, many of them high-kill. I’ll stay out of the pet stores and will continue my search on petfinder.com. If I can save one animal’s life, I will. BTW, when did these mixed breeds become designer pets? When I was a kid they were mutts, and we owned some of the most lovable mutts who ever lived and grieved losing them more than words here could possibly convey, whether we paid $100 or $4000. I don’t know this for a fact and am just speculating, but could the paperwork shown at a pet store be falsified? I’m sure, if each puppy brings in thousands of dollars, there has to be a network that does this purely for profit. Concerning that, I don’t know. I only know that money is the bottom line at pet stores.

    • bearlake8128

      Please pray for the fallen in Dallas. 5 police officers are dead, one was married 2 weeks ago, almost all of them leave kids behind. It’s definitely an American “problem”. Our hearts are broken.

  • carla Beatty

    U think this is right. What is wrong with assholes. These animals r not urs to profit from . god did not put them here for that

  • Martha

    We bought our puppy last year from a store; one of the sweetest little dogs. We all love her so much, including our springer beagle mix. 😊🐶🐶

  • Cindi Venlos

    What is the problem? They used to have pet stores, I bought the best dog I ever had from a pet store and had him for 18 years, I love going in and seeing all the puppies, adorable! Some people just ruin things for everybody!