Shake A Paw

After seeing a Shake A Paw ad in the Philadelphia Inquirer, Jeff Crabtree, drove more than 25 miles to the pet shop to look for a puppy for his wife's birthday. Jeff and his mother-in-law, Bobbie Hinrichsen, fell in love with a darling two-month-old female Bichon Frise puppy. One of the Shake A Paw owners assured them the puppy did not come from a puppy mill but from a breeder in Minnesota. Jeff purchased the puppy for $599.

Pennie Pennie

Shake A Paw, originally based in Millstone Township, New Jersey, had franchises in a number of states. Shake A Paw stores, which are now independently owned, are located in New Jersey and New York. Shake A Paw claims its stores specialize in "privately bred" AKC puppies. The stores call themselves "breeder representatives." Store owners deny they obtain puppies from puppy mills. Shake a Paw puppies live in crates on the floor. Employees encourage potential buyers to play with the puppies. Physical contact with these puppies can be a health hazard to humans. In fact, potential and actual customers have been exposed to sarcoptic mange. Other   (these worms can go the brain, eyes and spinal column, especially in children) - are also transmittable to humans.

Shortly after Jeff's wife, Ann Margaret Hinrichsen, received the dog, Penny, at her birthday dinner, Penny began coughing violently. Ann Margaret took Penny to the veterinarian at 8 a.m. the next morning. The veterinarian thought the puppy had a respiratory infection. After leaving the vet, Penny began vomiting and had diarrhea. Ann Margaret and her husband brought Penny back to the vet that evening. Within eight days of leaving the pet shop, Penny died of parvovirus, distemper, coccidia and kennel cough.

While Penny was at the animal hospital, Bobbie Hinrichsen called the pet shop a couple of times to tell them about Penny's condition. The owners promised they would pay the veterinary bill. The day Penny died, Jeff called the store. He asked one of the owners to reimburse him for the cost of the puppy, supplies and veterinary bills. The owner refused Jeff's request. The Shake A Paw warranty states that the only recourse for the loss of a puppy due to illness is replacement with another puppy of equal value.

Two days later, Jeff, Ann Margaret and Bobbie went to the store and demanded restitution. After much arguing, the owners finally agreed to provide a Visa credit for the puppy and supplies but refused to cover the veterinary bill of $214. Nearly a week later, Jeff and Ann Margaret received a check for $214. But the money could not bring back Penny. "That sweet puppy was one-of-a-kind and cannot be replaced," says Ann Margaret. She and Jeff are angry that the store owners represented Penny as a healthy puppy who did not come from a puppy mill. They want to know what the owners are doing about the sick puppies in the store who are infecting healthy animals.

CAPS determined that Penny came from a breeder in Minnesota. We found out that the breeder sold the puppy to a Minnesota broker, Pick of the Litter, who deals with a number of Shake A Paw franchises. Bob Baker, during his investigation of South Dakota puppy mills in 1992, discovered that this broker obtained puppies from the two horrendous facilities featured in the Life magazine article (9/92). He also learned that the broker was selling puppies to a new pet shop chain: Shake A Paw.

"Hard Copy" featured Ann Margaret in its May 5, 1998 expose of pet shops and puppy mills. This segment showed footage of the facility where Penny was bred. "Hard Copy" also confronted one of the owners of the Bensalem Shake A Paw. She told them to remove the camera. One of the owners of this Shake A Paw told the reporter on the phone that if conditions at the breeder's and broker's facilities were as horrible as "Hard Copy" claimed, the would no longer buy from Pick of the Litter. Minnesota health certificates show that Pick of the Litter is still a major supplier to the Bensalem Shake A Paw.

As part of our Shake A Paw investigation, we have collected a number of complaints from customers who purchased sick or dying puppies as well as dogs with behavioral problems. Some of these stories are very tragic. These customers were shocked to learn their dogs came from puppy mills. And none of them realized that Shake A Paw buys directly from brokers. Shake A Paw deliberately misleads the public by claiming its franchises are "breeder representatives." Some Shake A Paw advertisements state that puppies are "privately bred for temperament." How can these dogs be privately bred when they are being mass-produced in commercial breeding facilities for resale?

Shake A Paw store owners deny they buy from puppy mills. In fact, one store owner told a customer he buys puppies from Missouri because Pennsylvania is the puppy mill state. While it is true that Pennsylvania has puppy mills, Shake A Paw is buying from Midwest brokers who obtain puppies from mills. Missouri has the largest number of puppy mills in the country.

As we started collecting complaints, we obtained the names of a number of Missouri breeders and brokers who deal with Shake A Paw. A CAPS investigator inspected these facilities. A crew from WTNH, the ABC affiliate in Hartford, went with our investigator to film some of these facilities. The two-part series aired in November 1998. Surritte Kennel, the USDA licensed puppy mill that produced Susan Lively's Dachsund puppy (Dublin, OH Shake A Paw) -- the dog died of parvo -- was atrocious. One of the pens had a dead dog. Reader's Digest also featured the story of Susan's puppy in its February 1999 article, "Scandal of America's Puppy Mills."

CAPS' investigator and the television crew visited Superior Pets, a brokerage facility in Elkland, MO. In the fall of 1998, a driver for Superior was found guilty of 96 counts of animal cruelty. Unfortunately, the judge did not fine him and sentenced him to accelerated rehabilitation which means that his record will be erased if he stays out of trouble while serving two years of probation. After exiting the Long Island Ferry, he crashed into a railroad bridge in Bridgeport, CT. Puppies were stacked from floor to ceiling in cages. They had been in the dark truck without water for at least four days. Two puppies were dead. The truck had already made stops in Ohio, Indiana and Long Island and was scheduled to make deliveries in Westchester Country, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland and Massachusetts. Superior Pets forfeited the puppies to the Connecticut Humane Society.

The owner of the Bensalem Shake A Paw told a CAPS board member just before this incident that he uses several brokers but prefers Superior. CAPS knows for certain that two Shake A Paws were using Superior Pets. We requested health certificates from the Missouri Department of Agriculture (MDA) for all states with Shake A Paws. The MDA requested exorbitant fees for finding and copying the certificates, and therefore we were unable to obtain them.

We must expose Shake A Paw's misrepresentations to the public. Customers have told CAPS they had no idea their dogs came from puppy mills. They are shocked when they learn that Shake A Paw is not a "breeder representative" but instead buys directly from brokers. And how can some Shake A Paw ads state it is "not a pet store?" Some ads also state that puppies are "privately bred for temperament." How can these dogs be privately bred when they are being mass-produced in commercial breeding facilities for resale? Since franchise owners claim their puppies are not from puppy mills, it is essential to show the public the horrible breeding facilities in the Midwest.

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Deborah Howard

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