Front, from left to right, Bradley Cech, Terry Cech and Damian Battinelli protest along Route 3 in Plattsburgh in the spring of 2012.
Tina Dashnaw Rock arrived at Northern Puppies at the same time as employee Sandra Barber made her way inside and the former snapped a photo of the puppy pen.
Before long, the picture of puppies in a pen with several piles of feces and urine was making the rounds of Facebook, inciting anger in many who viewed it. Suddenly, a growing number of people demanded the Plattsburgh pet store shut its doors.
But Tammy Staley, owner of Northern Puppies, her employees and several customers, paint a different picture, defending the pet store and its practices and condemning what they say is a clear misrepresentation of the business.
“I would like people to come in and see for themselves and form their own opinions,” said Mrs. Staley.
Barber had just opened the doors of Northern Puppies at 11 Plattsburgh Plaza and was followed inside by Rock, who snapped the photo of the puppy pen as Barber helped a customer with a snake he has been keeping at the store.
“I wouldn’t just let my six-foot boa go to anybody,” said Louis Phillips. “I would recommend this place to anyone. All the pets we got here were healthy, and there is nothing wrong with any of the animals here.”
But Rock and others disagree.
The photo, on Rock’s Facebook page, and which has been shared on Facebook by many, includes a caption that claims to describe the photo, saying there was urine and feces in the drinking water and blood in the feces, all of which the puppies ran through.
“This is their sleeping and playing area for all of these pups. No toys and no blankets. Please help me shut this place down.”
Missy Pion said a family member purchased a puppy from Northern Puppies and the animal was sick before it left the store. She said the puppies smell like feces and their play area is filthy.
“I am not looking to shut Northern Puppies down,” Pion said. “My intention of helping any way I can is to make the store strictly selling pet supplies and not be able to sell any pets at all.”
As Rock’s photo continued to be shared on Facebook, those outraged started a page called “Wake up Northern Puppies.” It is described as a place for community members, animal activists, and “decent humans” who care for the health and safety of animals.
The page states it is united in saving lives at Northern Puppies. It encourages people to contact local authorities and file complaints with the state Department of Agriculture and Market.
“We can only hope that through investigations and word of mouth, they will close the doors at Northern Puppies.”
This past weekend, a group of people stood near the edge of Route 3, protesting against Northern Puppies.
“These people are uneducated when it comes to taking care of animals,” said Damian Battinelli. “Thirteen hours in their own feces in urine. You wouldn’t do that to a human. Why would you do that to animals?”
Terry Cech, who protested beside Battinelli, said he was there to “speak for our four-legged friends who can’t.”
Denton Publications made two surprise visits to the store. On both occasions the puppy pen was clean and the animals playful.
Staley’s husband, Mike, said that is because none of the accusations are true.
“Everybody here takes good care of the animals.”
He has spent a lot of time at Northern Puppies lately because he said people have threatened to break into the business.
He further said some of the individuals upset with the business have made personal attacks against his family.
“Don’t attack my wife and my kids and family,” he said. “I would like to see it go away, but it’s not gonna go away.”
PETA has been to the store, as well as law enforcement.
Mrs. Staley said a love of animals inspired her to open a pet store two years ago. She did so with a desire to be better than the average pet store.
She explained that when the picture was taken, her employee had just arrived and had not yet had time to clean up the mess the puppies made overnight.
Regardless, she has since hired Thomas Krause and Evan Liberty to work through the night, cleaning up after the animals and watching the store, which she fears could be damaged according to some of the threats she said she has received.
“They are attacking our family, calling my kids ugly and me names.”
She wishes people would just come in and check the store out for themselves.
Michele Laurin purchased a puppy from Northern Puppies more than a month ago. The animal has been healthy and she has been pleased with her purchase.
“We looked for months and frequented the store a lot and it was always clean and Tammy was wonderful,” Laurin said.