Jeff Heuchert email@example.com
In an effort to better align practices with public opinion, a Stratford pet store has adopted a new philosophy when it comes to finding homes for unwanted dogs.
While still open to supporting family breeders in the future, Ruffin's Pet Centres owner, Chris Koslowski, is now placing a greater emphasis on dog adoptions. He has a standing agreement with the Stratford-Perth Humane Society to show dogs at the store on the middle weekend of every month, or anytime they are available, and has similarly extended an open invitation to four area animal rescues – Adopt-a-Pet in Lucknow, Renewed Life Animal Rescue in Wingham, and two private operations, one in Kitchener, the other in Woodstock. Since January, the store has found homes for seven rescued puppies, he notes.
Since purchasing the franchise inside Festival Marketplace mall in 2007, Koslowski says he has taken every precaution to ensure the dogs he's brought to the store were from a loving and nurturing environment, and not anywhere that could be mistaken for a puppy mill – a large scale breeding facility that neglects the health of the animals and is only focused on turning a profit.
Typically the dogs have come from small family breeders, which Koslowski characterizes as having no more than three non-spayed females. He notes he only agrees to a short consignment contract with the dog's owner if they live within a 30 minute drive and agree to allow any prospective buyer, or himself, to come to the home to see the dog's living environment.
But Koslowski isn't naive. He understands there is a significant stigma attached to pet store dogs, whether it's warranted in every case or not.
"I believe there is nothing wrong with (bringing in dogs from) a litter as long as the animals are all cared for and socialized and they're family owned pets, not living in a barn," he says.
As a business owner, Koslowski is taking a calculated risk, trusting that the shift to adoptions will lead to greater community interest and further in-store sales of things like dog food, supplies, and toys that more than make up for the revenue he's losing from dog sales.
But it's a risk he says he was more than willing to take.
"I want people to know this is an ethical place to shop … that we can be a responsible pet store," he says. "It's about changing the whole mindset of the pet industry."
The push for adoptions isn't the only major change to happen recently at Ruffin's. Early this year the store renovated its pet area, condensing about 25 feet of cases and cages occupied by birds, gerbils and hamsters, rabbits, and reptiles to about 10. With the extra space the store has opened a grooming service under the care of Christine
Craven, who also runs her own business, Doggie Dooze Grooming Salon, in Seaforth, and for 21 years worked at Sharpe-Cut groomers in Stratford before it closed. The dogs also have new elevated pens for sleeping and eating and larger play pens.
March break hamster races
Ruffin's is also gearing up for its always-popular March break hamster races, being held Tuesday, March 11 at 1 p.m. in the mall. Registration is available beforehand beginning at 12:30 p.m. You can also sign up in advance by calling the store. Forms will also be distributed to local schools this week. All participants need to do is show up with their hamster and ball.
"It's absolute chaos," Koslowski laughs, recalling last year's event, which had 50 participants but well over 200 people crowded around the tracks watching and cheering.
As in past years, there will be cash prizes for the top three winners.