Outrage after designer puppy store opens at Woodland Mall

Posted at 10:35 PM, Jul 06, 2016
and last updated 2016-07-06 23:25:04-04

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."