A New England pet shop is no longer selling pets – it is saving them, and the store’s owner says it’s a welcome change.

Judy Blackington, co-owner of Salem, NH retail outlet Discount Pets, said that at the end of February, she decided to stop selling dogs and instead, is now offering shelter dogs for adoption.

“Instead of buying our puppies off breeders, we decided to take puppies that are about to be killed,” she said. “We’ve saved seven puppies this week and get about 35 a month.”

The store has formed a partnership with Brookside Husky and Lab Rescue in Alton, Maine. Director Nicky Bowman says that after five years in animal rescue, this is her first time working with a retail outlet, and she claims the results are promising enough to warrant consideration of a national movement away from the retail sale of pets.

“We’ve never worked with a pet store like this,” Bowman said. “I think more pet stores ought to do this. I see every day the gruesome reality of puppy mills. We’re making a point to people that breeding really needs to stop because overpopulation is a problem.”

For Blackington, making the change from selling dogs to rescuing them is not only good for her conscience – it’s also been great for business.

“The breeder prices have gone up lately and the puppies haven’t been very healthy,” she said. “The customers don’t like paying $900 for a puppy and then have to spend more on the vet. These dogs are healthier than the ones we’ve gotten from breeders. I think it’s going to be better for the business, and people love it.”

Elizabeth Dobbins, director of the Salem Animal Rescue League, said she was surprised and encouraged to hear that Discount Pet had embraced the concept of promoting shelter animals.

“They’re a retail outfit and there’s a difference between rescue and retail,” Dobbins said, “Pet stores have kind of disappeared around here. Both Sea World and Debby’s Pet Land closed. That’s due to people’s awareness. They vote with their pocketbook and say I’d rather rescue a life than buy from a puppy mill.”

Dobbins said other pet store owners should pay attention, and that we may be witnessing a welcome change in the way pet retailers nationwide attract customers.

“If they are really legitimately trying to save lives, I commend them for that,” she said. “Sadly, there is no shortage of adoptable pets in this country. So there’s room for plenty of us. Maybe that’s a trend of the future, that pet stores would look to go out and rescue animals instead of buying from breeders.”

Potential owners are required to submit an application and allow for a home visit, making for better long-term matches than the typical cash sale. Blackington said that despite the vetting process adopters endure, the store has had no trouble finding families that prefer adoption – in fact, the phone won’t stop ringing.

“We’ve had more people come in than ever,” she said. “They love that we’re an adoption center now and not a puppy store.”

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