Berkley looking at moratorium on businesses selling dogs, cats

By: Mike Koury | Woodward Talk | Published April 19, 2023

  The opening of Puppygram in Berkley in February caused some outcry, and it led to the city to review its ordinances for opening stores that sell cats and dogs.

The opening of Puppygram in Berkley in February caused some outcry, and it led to the city to review its ordinances for opening stores that sell cats and dogs.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes


BERKLEY — The arrival of a puppy store in Berkley caused much attention a couple months ago, and the City Council is on the verge of passing an ordinance to temporarily prohibit future businesses from settling in the city.

In February, Puppygram, located at 28297 Woodward Ave., opened in Berkley as a place for people to purchase bred puppies. It resulted in a protest outside the store and accusations that the business secured the puppies through unethical breeders.

City Manager Matt Baumgarten said the city has had conversations with Puppygram about its standards of care as well as the standards it uses when reaching out to breeders.

“Our animal control officer was out there several times initially and the first couple of weeks of them having animals in the store,” he said. “He reviewed the standards of care in the store, found them to be well taken care of. But the issue of the conversation has really centered on their lives prior to making it to the store. And then the conditions of which they’re bred, conditions on which the mothers are kept and just making sure that there’s humane standards put in place for the breeders themselves. That’s been our chief worry here.”

Puppygram CEO Miles Handy said the business conducts inspections with its kennels and breeders and follows protocols for the puppies, all the way up to eight weeks, before bringing them to their locations.

“A lot of the information that was surrounding our business model was wrong,” he said. “In no capacity do we support puppy mills. … We use USDA-inspected kennel facilities, our dogs are thoroughly veterinarian-checked and screened for issues for anything, and that’s why we do such a good job with our business model.”

Handy said the business’s real estate agent reached out to Berkley last September to make sure it was OK with the use, and Puppygram was assured by the real estate agent that it met the criteria for its zoning and parking, so they continued to move forward with drawing up plans to submit to the city.

Handy stated there was no pushback on the business until about a couple of weeks before it was to open, which caught the business off guard.

“We spent a sizable investment to improve the look of the building and, I mean, it was vacant for nearly 10 years,” he said. “We opened and there’s some outside agitators, not from Berkley, that got involved.”

Handy also said that Puppygram has no issues with the city of Berkley and that it just wants to operate a business that it fully believes in.

“We’re not against rescue dogs, we’re not against shelter dogs, but not every person, a shelter dog or rescue dog, are the right fit for somebody’s family,” he said. “Our puppies are bred with certain characteristics and genetic traits that can transition into a family fairly easily. And that’s why we’re different. Our dogs get socialized on a daily basis, all of them get rotated through our play areas so they get played with constantly, but what we try to do is we try to be more like a matchmaker, where we try to fit the family and their lifestyle towards a specific breed, because we want it to be a successful transition for a family.”

In terms of what the city of Berkley is planning next, the City Council held the first reading of an ordinance at its April 17 meeting to put in place a temporary moratorium on new businesses or the expansion of existing businesses that sell dogs and cats. The moratorium would last for six months.

“The Berkley City Council is in the process of examining options appropriate to the City of Berkley to regulate retail pet sales in the City,” the ordinance language states. “While examining this issue, the City Council finds that it is in the best interest of the City, and the life, health, safety and welfare of residents, animals and potentially impacted businesses, to avoid the potential expansion of commercial establishments engaging in the retail sale of dogs or cats. … This temporary moratorium is needed to prevent the increase and sale of potentially unhealthy or inhumanely bred animals while the Berkley City Council considers policy options related to pet sales in the City of Berkley.”

The meeting occurred after the Woodward Talk went to press.

Baumgarten said a moratorium would give the city time to review state standards, federal standards and what’s been done in other states and municipalities as Berkley crafts its ordinance.

“We certainly don’t want to rush into something that doesn’t really work for our city,” he said.