For the third time, a purebred and designer pet store called the Barking Boutique has sought the right to open up shop in West Michigan.
Owner David Boelkes has been met with protest and outrage with each attempt at opening his store, which many claim deals with questionable puppy mills. The Lakes Mall in Muskegon declined to rent Boelkes space shortly before the Barking Boutique’s opening day in 2016. The Barking Boutique’s doors were shuttered a second time after opening for just a week in Grand Rapids’s Woodland Mall, where the Bissell Pet Foundation actually went undercover to rescue six of the puppies from Boelkes’s operation.
Social media campaigns and weekly protest gatherings have been leveled at Boelkes throughout each attempt, but reasons for closing the Barking Boutique, as released by the Lakes and Woodland malls, have declined to mention what factors prompted the decision.
Now Boelkes is hoping to open the Barking Boutique by April in Grandville, Michigan, where in a packed City Council meeting, Mayor Steve Maas maintains the preliminaries have all been met. And because Grandville is bound by the Home Rule Cities Act, the city must grant Boelkes a business license if he meets the necessary requirements to operate his facility, planned at 2939 Wilson Avenue SW.
“It’s been really frustrating because it’s a minority voice speaking out for the public,” Boelkes told Fox 17 Online. “We’ve had tons of people reach out to me after we closed wishing that we were still open.”
Boelkes claims he intends to offer rescued dogs for sale at the Barking Boutique alongside purebred dogs, all with the appropriate documentation and clean USDA gene inspection reports. He has stated he won’t work with “sub-standard breeders” but those in contention with the Barking Boutique say Boelkes’s intent doesn’t match his actions.
“A reputable breeder will not sell to a third party,” Grandville resident Sonnie Bryant-Beard told Fox 17. “A reputable breeder will research the people purchasing the animal. And there’s a waiting list for that, to make sure it’s a good family match. No reputable breeder will sell to a third party like that.”
Pam Sordyl, of Puppy Mill Awareness for South East Michigan, says there is documented proof Boelkes has done business with puppy mills after he provided breeder information.
“We know this is unethical. We know families need to be protected, and we know pets need to be protected,” she told WOOD TV. “There are no reputable breeders that would sell to any pet store. He’s had a chance to prove that he’s working with reputable breeders and they were not, so he’s misled us and he’s lost our trust,” Sordyl said.
Puppy mills are a problem in more than just Michigan; they are causing needless pain and suffering for countless dogs in Missouri and other states as well. Click the button below to learn how you can bring assistance and freedom to our canine companions still living in the nightmarish conditions of puppy mills.
Matthew Russell is a West Michigan native and with a background in journalism, data analysis, cartography and design thinking. He likes to learn new things and solve old problems whenever possible, and enjoys bicycling, going to the dog park, spending time with his daughter, and coffee.
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