BLAINE, Minnesota — Kristin Smith feels like the last dog standing.
His store is the only one left in Minnesota selling puppies — at a time when demand for puppies is skyrocketing due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“What people want are little dogs that don’t waste their lives,” Smith told Blaine, over the yelps and yaps inside Four Paws and a Tail. “And they want puppies.”
Her customers know that the puppy retail business may be just a phone call away. “It’s tragic,” said Bob Espeseth, of Mounds View, who bought a “Yorkie chon” puppy (Yorkshire terrier/Bichon Frize mix) from Smith.
The business across the state was shut down largely by protesters for animal welfare and local regulations. St. Paul, Eden Prairie and Roseville have banned puppies from pet stores.
The problem, according to the Humane Society of the United States, is that most pet shop dogs come from puppy mills, defined as “a high-volume, inhumane dog-breeding establishment that produces puppies for profit. “.
Puppy mill protests have been successful by focusing not on dog breeders, but on pet stores. In fact, the success is such that there is only one place left for protesters to go: Smith’s small pet store.
They gather on Sundays in a nearby corner. A post on the meetup.com website for a Minnesota animal rights meeting shows protesters carrying signs that read “Boycott Four Paws and a Tail” and “Puppy mill dogs sold at Northtown Mall.”
Never, said Smith.
“These are puppies from good kennels, all licensed and inspected,” she said. “What could be better?”
Mall manager Paula Mueller said protesters failed to check whether the store was indeed buying dogs from puppy mills.
Smith visits her breeders regularly and says she can vouch for their reputation. She will not reveal the names of these herders, lest they be beaten by protesters. But she tells buyers of a puppy where he came from.
Smith’s customers say they are embarrassed that they could always buy a puppy from a puppy mill or one of the estimated 10,000 breeders nationwide. But they couldn’t buy the same dog, from the same breeder, at any pet store – except the Smith store.
One recent morning, a line of customers waited to enter the store.
They entered the happiest and most restless place in the state. Above the yelps, another sound grew, the “Aw-www!” two-tone. of someone meeting serious cuteness: “Oh…” “Aw, cute!” “Hey, sweetie! »
They didn’t seem discouraged by the price tags of $1,500 to $3,500 per dog.
As she dodged a boy seemingly glued to the rat terrier’s cage, Smith said COVID-isolated customers came from all over the metro area. “We serve 3 million people,” Smith said.
“People are working from home. Their children are at home. Sometimes people are just alone,” she said.
Puppies are essential during a pandemic, said mall manager Mueller, who bought a beagle puppy from the store. “Puppies keep you sane. For me, they are ad hoc psychologists,” she said.
Behind her, Smith let out the characteristic sound – “Aw!” She was looking at the “teddy bear” puppies – half shih tzu, half bichon frize, all adorable.
“Look at those puppies,” she beamed. “They speak for themselves.”