In 1989 when Deborah Howard, President of Howard Communications, noticed the cramped and unsanitary conditions at the Docktor Pet Center, a pet store in the Perimeter Mall in Atlanta, she became enraged.

A tiny Yellow Labrador Retriever puppy had its leg pressed against its cramped metal cage. It was cut and bleeding badly. She asked to see the puppy immediately, and as it clung to her she knew this wasn’t the first time this animal had felt pain.

Many people are simply unaware that many pet store animals come from “puppy mills,” high-volume, sub-standard dog breeding operations.

Unfortunately this is a story that is repeated time after time at pet stores across the United States. According to the Humane Society of the United States, an estimated 6-8 million pets enter shelters each year. With so many animals in need one wonders why there is a need for Pet Stores at all.

Howard went about contacting several animal rights groups in the Atlanta area to address the pet store issue with little success. Steadfast and tenacious, she heard of a young gentleman who had taken a job at one of the Docktor Pet Centers merely to help the animals. She met him, rented a video camera and documented many sick and dying puppies.

Footage in hand, Howard partnered with animal abuse investigator Robert Baker. Their efforts led to a series of exposes on ABC’s 20/20 as well as People and Life Magazine in which the Docktor Pet Stores were named directly. They also showed the horrors of puppy mills.

Docktor Pet Centers filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in February 1993. The company had more than 300 franchises at the time. Howard and Baker went on to start the Companion Animal Protection Society in Cohasset, Mass. It is the only national nonprofit dedicated exclusively to protecting companion animals.

Since that time Howard has worked with Dateline NBC, CNN, Hard Copy, and Numerous Newspapers around the country, as well as an HBO documentary that will air the end of 2008.

The Companion Animal protection society will be holding their first ever “Claws and Paws Shop” online auction to raise funds and awareness for their critical mission from November 5-30. Items include trips to Australia, Bermuda and signed memorabilia from the Boston Red Sox. There are also a ton of Pet items! Visit for more information.

Courtesy of Image Unlimited Communications. Blast Magazine edits commentaries for style only, and they do not necessarily represent the opinions of Blast Magazine, its editors or its publisher.

About The Author

John Guilfoil is the editor-in-chief of Blast: Boston's Online Magazine and the Blast Magazine Network. He can be reached at [email protected]. Tweet @johnguilfoil.

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