On Sept. 29, it was announced that American Breeders: Puppies and Kittens—a popular pet shop among Marist students—will close. This news is the result of a nearly seven month investigation by the state animal control officers from the Connecticut Department of Agriculture into the store’s alleged misconduct.
The impetus for the closure occurred in July of 2015, when the owner of American Breeders, Richard F. Doyle, 55, was charged with three misdemeanor counts of animal cruelty.
In the wake of Doyle’s arrest, protesters flocked to the store’s location in Wappingers Fall in an effort to close down the chain, which also operates in Danbury, Conn. and Mohegan Lake, N.Y. Currently, these other two locations are still in business.
This video, taken by the Poughkeepsie Journal, shows dozens of animal activists and former clients picketing in front of the store. Many people present gave testimonials of American Breeders’ wrongdoings, saying they were sold sick or dying animals.
“We’ve received a large number of complaints about [Doyle],” said Kim McNamee, a senior humane law enforcement officer for the Dutchess County SPCA. “We’re just glad this store is finally getting shut down.”
According to the Department of Agriculture, Doyle allegedly performed a surgical procedure on the eye of a Neapolitan Mastiff at his Danbury store without a license to do so. Following the surgery, the female dog sustained severe bleeding to the eye Doyle operated on.
It is also believed that Doyle confined a severely ill kitten and failed to provide it with adequate medical attention, leading to the animal’s euthanization.
Finally, Doyle is charged with failing to provide proper care for a sick Shih-Tzu puppy. Doyle allegedly brought the animal from one of his New York stores to his Danbury store and left it in the care of an employee, but elected not to pay for the necessary veterinary care to treat it for vomiting, diarrhea and coughing.
Doyle, who faces a fine of $1,000 and imprisonment of up to one year, pled not guilty to all three counts. He is next scheduled to appear in court on Oct. 14.
The store manager for American Breeders in Mohegan Lake, Kathy Seton, 29, was also charged with two misdemeanor counts of animal cruelty. Reports indicate that Seton gave medication and shots to animals without a license to do so.
According to various sources, Doyle may attempt to open another store in Wappingers Falls in the upcoming months. However, these efforts will be thwarted if he is proven guilty of the animal cruelty charges, as his license to own and operate a pet shop will be revoked.
“I’ve been to Puppies and Kittens before, about four times actually, and I always found the conditions to be sub-par,” said Timos Pietris, Marist’s student body president. “Although I’m sure members of the Marist community are disappointed to hear that this place to escape the stress of college is closed, I’m certain they’re glad the animals will be taken to a more responsible and caring home, one that will ensure that they’re at the peak of health.”
Although American Breeders’ mission reads, “We believe in healthy pets, educating pet owners and a friendly knowledgeable staff,” these recent charges are not merely an isolated incident, but part of a pattern of abuse.
“There’s been a long list of search warrants, criminal charges, and complaints from customers about [Doyle],” McNamee said.
As part of that long history of improper treatment, McNamee cited an incident in 2011 when 10 dogs were seized from the Wappingers Falls location after Doyle pleaded guilty to one count of selling a diseased animal under the state’s animal cruelty statute.
“The mistreatment of animals occurs more than most people realize,” said Pat Kelly, co-chair at the Danbury Animal Welfare Society, a non-profit organization dedicated to improving the lives of animals in their community. “Sometimes they’re abused in the stores. Or sometimes these animals coming from a place like [American Breeders], which has very weak background checks, end up in the wrong hands.”
Kelly noted that she’s seen many similar cases over her twelve years volunteering as an animal rescuer and, perhaps most dishearteningly, the actions of some owners were even crueler than Doyle’s.
According to a study published by the Animal Legal Defense Fund, New York ranks as the 43rd worst state for animal abuse, with roughly 200 cases each year.
While there may still be a great deal of work to do in preventing animal abuse, Doyle’s arrest marks a significant and celebrated victory. A Facebook post by the Dutchess County SPCA announcing the closure of American Breeders has been liked by over 1,000 people.
“Animals are often treated like merchandise, not living, breathing things.” Kelly said. “But I can say that things have gotten much better than when I first started. I think it’s good that we’re slowly becoming society that cares for animals.”