East Liberty Petland Goes Humane

Owners Marci and Eric Caplan adopt a humane pet store model in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, with the support of two local animal shelters

Marci and Eric Caplan, who have owned and operated the East Liberty Petland store for two years, recently announced that they will no longer get their puppies from commercial breeders. Instead, the store will now feature puppies from the Western Pennsylvania Humane Society and cats and kittens from the Animal Rescue League of Western Pennsylvania through a program they are calling the Animal Shelter Adoption Program (ASAP). The decision came to head after two years of having local animal advocates hold frequent demonstrations outside their store and hearing about a Petland store in Texas that has had success selling shelter animals.

Looking back, Dan Rossi, executive director of the Animal Rescue League, remembers how upset the staff and volunteers at the Animal Rescue League were when they heard a Petland store was scheduled to open within one mile of their shelter, as they feared it would steer people away from visiting them and adopting animals. Volunteers from the Animal Rescue League and other local groups immediately got together to stage demonstrations outside the store.

The first demonstration was held on Petland"s opening day in August of 2008 and the group continued to hold weekly demonstrations for nine months and then continued with monthly demonstrations. Their goal was to educate people about commercial breeding and puppy mills by passing out literature and answering any questions they had. They also passed out brochures and flyers throughout the neighborhood to make sure they reached as many people as possible.

Norma Bronder, a volunteer with the Animal Rescue League, stated that, "Sometimes there were four to five people, and sometimes it was just me [out there]." No matter how small the numbers, their presence made an impact.

Following a humane model

The animals will have a permanent residence at the store and will be cared for by the Petland staff. Rossi plans to hold regular meetings with the Caplans and will check on the cats and kittens to ensure that the standards for care that they established are being met. Those who are purchasing the cats and kittens will be required to fill out the same adoption application that is used at the Animal Rescue League, though the cost to purchase the animals will be slightly higher in order to compensate for the expenses incurred by the Caplans.

Since Petland"s cages were designed for small breed puppies, they will not be able to feature many adult dogs at their store. The two shelters providing animals to Petland hope to host occasional "Adopt-a-Thons" at the store to help find homes for some of the larger breed dogs at their facilities and from facilities in the surrounding areas. Both the Animal Rescue League and the Western Pennsylvania Humane Society currently hold similar events at PETCO and PetSmart, respectively. Featuring shelter animals in pet stores provides a way to reach people that would never think to venture into their local shelter or visit rescue websites.

The Western Pennsylvania Humane Society currently has six puppies available for adoption through the East Liberty Petland location and over 60 dogs available at its two shelter locations and the Animal Rescue League has over two hundreds cats and kittens, along with adult dogs, currently available for adoption. As of last week, three of the Animal Rescue League"s cats at the Petland store had found new homes, and it is their hope that their collaboration with Petland will prove successful and lead to a longer relationship that will result in finding homes for many of them.

"It"s one animal at a time," says Rossi.

For more information, please see "Petland to sell animals from shelters."

How you can help:

  • Support animals everywhere by shopping only at humane pet stores.

  • Take the Pledge to Adopt and help animals find the loving homes that they deserve!

Photos of Lady (news list photo), Rock (top) and Patches (bottom) all available for adoption from Animal Rescue League, as seen on Petfinder

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