By Kathy Mordini
On the surface, a story by ABC 7’s Karen Jordan on Wednesday, December 19 about a young man whose family has been through an unspeakable tragedy receiving a puppy as a gift from Petland seems to be intended as a feel-good piece. However, there is much more to this story than meets the eye.
It focuses on Petland in Naperville giving a new puppy to Matt Plackowski whose mother is facing murder charges. Plackowski’s story is heart wrenching—his mother is accused of the brutal stabbing deaths of his seven-year-old brother and the five-year-old girl she was babysitting. She also is accused of killing two dogs that were in the household. One of those dogs, Tootsie, was Plackowski’s close companion.
“We all need to reach out to those who are hurting, but offering an individual a 9-week old puppy (that was most likely obtained from a puppy mill), falls short of obtaining hero status,” says Cari Meyers, founder of The Puppy Mill Project. Her organization is an advocacy group that educates the public about puppy mills and their connections to pet stores and Internet pet sales.
“As the Chocolate Dapple Dachshund sat in its new [caregivers] arms, it’s not hard to picture the conditions from which it came,” adds Meyers. “The puppy’s mother and father are most likely freezing in the storms that have been hitting the Midwest. They are probably sitting in a wire cage preparing to produce more puppies to be sold at Petland and other pet shops.”
The timing of this story is also very suspect for another reason.
Just a few weeks ago, the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) issued the results of an undercover investigation of 12 Chicago-area pet stores. That investigation tracked the pets being sold at those stores to puppy mills. These dog breeding operations were all facing many USDA violations.
In this particular report, Petland wasn’t one of the stores investigated. That doesn’t mean that Petland gets its dogs from reputable breeders either. Petland just wasn’t on the list of stores shopped in this particular case.
Then, a week later, comes the heartwarming story from Petland. In the warm holiday media spotlight, the pet store donated a puppy to a grieving family. But in the wake of previous news story, that was covered by ABC 7 and other members of the media, there was a major disconnect on this particular story.
What about past investigations? In 2008, The HSUS unveiled an eight-month investigation into Petland and its relationship with large dog brokers and the commercial breeding industry. That investigation revealed that the Petland stores inspected do purchase and sell puppy mill dogs. A separate undercover investigation by Animal Planetin 2010 featured video content on the conditions of the commercial breeders where Petland or the store’s brokers purchase their puppies.
You can visit The Puppy Mill Project for a rundown of where this Petland and others in the Chicago-area get their “product.” There are also links to the violations the USDA has uncovered at those breeding operations.
That brings us back to the news story. We all need a little good news, however, every reporter still has an obligation to fully research his or her stories. ABC 7 and other media outlets can still investigate and take the time to connect the dots to Petland and the puppy mills where the company purchases its dogs. If you’d like to see ABC 7 further investigate this connection, contact their newsroom at firstname.lastname@example.org and ask them to dig further on the topic.
Kathy Mordini is an animal lover who has counted rescue pets as a member of her family since she was a child. As a writer and public relations specialist, she is passionate about advocating for homeless pets and the rescues that give these pets a second chance, and she does work with The Puppy Mill Project in Chicago. Kathy also loves to connect with the many pet businesses in Chicago that support animal rescue. Reach her @kathymordini or by email at email@example.com.