ST. JOHN | Dogs in the market for new homes and dog lovers crowded Saturday afternoon into Alsip Home and Nursery's pet section.
Lake County Sheriff John Buncich and St. John Town Manager Steven Kil were among those gathered when Alsip CEO Richard Christakes cut the ribbon on a grand reopening of its facility as well as a new policy of featuring only adoptable, rescued dogs rather than commercial breeders.
"It's not just fluff balls anymore, but also adult dogs," Christakes said.
The Humane Society Calumet Area, Lake County Animal Control and Adoption Center, Schererville Animal Control, St. John Animal Control, I Wanna Go Home Rescue, Great Lakes Greyhound of Indiana, As Good as Gold — Golden Retriever Rescue, PAWS, Starfish Animal Rescue and Local Canine Companions for Independence and other shelters are contributing about 50 adoptable dogs on any given day.
The Humane Society of the United States issued a written release endorsing Alsip, which has stores here and in Franklin, "for making this conversion and being a leader in the humane economy, where business and industries that practice humane principles flourish."
It said Alsip joins a partnership of more than 2,200 pet stores that have signed the national humane society's Puppy Friendly Pet Store pledge.
Among the occupants of the new section were Bennett, a 7-year-old mixed breed poodle, Danny, an 8-week Labrador, and Annie and Jimmy, small German Shepherd puppies.
Christakes, who had worked at the St. John store's greenhouse since 2002, wrote in a press release that he first began hearing of efforts to stop pet stores from using commercial pet breeders when he became store manager in 2011.
He said the store began pet adoptions that year and has successfully rescued more than 100. The company also provides dog food and free grooming for six area police dogs.
He wrote, "I believe that we can be very successful in business without buying dogs from anyone or anyplace ... even from local hobby breeders."
The national humane society states as many as 4 million dogs are sold in the United States every year from puppy mills, large scale breeding facilities with minimal veterinary services, poor food and crowded cages that produce poorly socialized pets.
Humane society officials say puppy mills contribute to an overpopulation and a similar number of pets being euthanized every year.