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New Alsip Nursery CEO: 'I Just Want to Save as Many Animals as Possible'

The new leader of Alsip Home and Nursery said the company has shifted to 100 percent rescue operations for dogs, cats, puppies and kittens.

There's a new guy in charge at Alsip Home and Nursery, and CEO Rich Christakes says things are going to be different. 

The company has shifted to rescue-based pet operations and is discontinuing purchasing pets from breeders. The Frankfort location at 20601 S. La Grange Rd. was pegged in 2012 as one of a dozen area pet stores linked to puppy mills. 

"In the past, we have purchased puppies from USDA approved local hobby breeders and brokers of those breeders, but the guarantee of origin wasn't up to our standards and a change for the better was set into motion," according to a statement on the website. 

No more, says Christakes. 

"It's hard to tell people we're doing this, without being associated with the negative," he said. "I've taken our company in a completely new direction."

The process to convert to 100 percent rescue operations has been a slow-but-steady one, beginning with the St. John, Ind. store in 2011, where Christakes began as general manager. In 2011, that location took in its first rescue. The next year, the store sent 100 rescued animals home with new owners, he said—including the adoption of his own dog, a shepherd/labrador mix. 

"I don't just talk the talk, I walk the walk," he said, of his fondness for rescue animals.

He was named CEO in late 2012 and immediately set in motion changes across the board. A veterinary clinic—a requirement for any rescue operation—was put in place at the Indiana store in December 2012. A clinic at the Frankfort location came next, in December 2013. 

The company is now listed as "puppy friendly" by the Humane Society of the United States. Puppy Friendly Pet Stores (those that have signed society's pledge) receive a sign proclaiming, "We love puppies; that's why we don't sell them," to display in the store, as well as free materials for their customers about how to adopt a dog or find a responsible breeder. 

While Alsip is transitioning fully into 100 percent rescue-based operations, some puppies currently offered are from breeders.

"We'll continue to provide excellent care of them until they can be matched with the home that they, too, deserve," Christakes said. "Once they have been placed we will no longer be carrying breeder puppies for either store, even from local hobbyists."

Former Alsip President Kris Shepard no longer works for the company, Christakes said. 

The stores currently work with Humane Society of the Calumet Area in Munster, Ind., as well as foster-based rescue organization I Wanna Go Home and All Breed Rescue Angels.

All dogs and cats that Alsip Nursery will bring in to find loving, adoptive homes will receive: 
The store will hold two rescue events in coming days: Feb. 22 at the Indiana store, and Feb. 23 at the Frankfort location. A representative from the United States Humane Society will visit to help promote the events. 

Christakes understands the public's skepticism of the company's new mission, but invites residents to come and check them out. 

"This is what we're doing," he said. "And we're not looking back."

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Chiheightspride17 February 06, 2014 at 06:27 AM
Alsip Home and Nursery is one of my favorite stores ever and I am very happy to hear about the changes the CEO took concerning the sale of puppies there. I do recall reading in the past, based on reviews by people, to never buy a puppy from there because the puppies come from mills. So it shows Alsip did something about it. The unfortunate and most annoying part is that people will still continue to find something to bitch and complain about the store, based on some comments above. I think it's great about the CEO and as always continue to shop there. If it had a cafe I don't think I would ever leave the place.
Joel Andersen February 06, 2014 at 11:25 AM
as a owner of three of Alsip's dogs I think this is great. I love all my dogs and even my vet has said that they give out standing care to their dog's.
MDP February 06, 2014 at 11:47 AM
You rock Rich!
meezer3 February 06, 2014 at 12:28 PM
Its ABOUT Time, Alsip!!! You took way to long to make the change over.....but at least you got some common sense finally.
Diane February 06, 2014 at 12:49 PM
This is wonderful news. Every pet store in America should be doing the same thing. Puppy mills are horrid, filthy places filled with miserable, sick animals.
R. Smith February 06, 2014 at 01:52 PM
I would never buy a purebred animal through a pet shop. The one time I did get a purebred dog I went to a reputable breeder where I was able to see the parents and meet the owners. I have adopted several cats over the years, all from shelters, and one from a pet shop that was having adoption day for the local SPCA. All these shelter cats have been wonderful pets.
Allison February 06, 2014 at 02:19 PM
This story just makes me smile. Maybe others will follow.
Mike Callahan February 06, 2014 at 02:22 PM
What a great idea. All pet shops should follow their example of compassion. Good for you guys. We offer sponsorships for compassionate causes. If your group is in need of Viral Fundraising, Please contact us. Sincerely, Michael Callahan Founder www.StarBARKSCoffee.com ,100% of our profits support Animal Welfare & Worthy Causes for All. www.Facebook.com/StarBARKSCoffee
Pamela Guevara February 06, 2014 at 06:24 PM
Nice idea but this could blow up in their face really quick if they send a dog home with a family and the dog munches on the face of one of the kids. It happens. And if it does happen, who is liable for putting the kid's face back together?
Sara Paxton February 06, 2014 at 08:02 PM
Pam, what in the world is wrong with you?
Michael Weissbuch February 06, 2014 at 08:15 PM
Since there is sadly a never-ending line of abandoned or abused dogs, more "pet stores" could be doing what Alsip has done. Whatever their motive it's a great idea and will benefit many dogs in finding their forever homes. This is a wonderful item to read.
Michelle Walters Seibold February 07, 2014 at 04:06 AM
Sara, what's wrong with Pam is that she's a breeder and trying desperately to make some pathetic excuse for continuing to breed her poor animal for profit. They all say the same thing. It's the only "excuse" they have left. According to Pam's theory, a puppy mill dog or purebred dog from a breeder would NEVER bite. If one did, would the breeder be liable? Some pretty fancy logic going on there. Bravo to Alsip! I'm proud of your contentious action!
cbg February 07, 2014 at 08:59 AM
This is great, I hope many more pet shops will follow this. A lot less animals will wind up homeless. The puppy mills are run by lazy criminals who abuse animals daily. This will save and protect many animals. I am so happy to here this news.
sherry February 07, 2014 at 02:28 PM
Excellent story for everyone involved. Thanks so much for helping homeless animals find loving homes!!
Linda Moss February 07, 2014 at 05:57 PM
Pamela.. you comment about blowing up in their face and the dog bites a child is illogical .. what is the difference between a rescue and a puppy mill dog? if any thing a puppy mill dogs may be more reactive then a rescue since they have not be socialized, I have worked with all breed doing rescue and fosters. I find that rescues make the best pets .. and I am sure that this company will screen all the dogs and not adopt out one that are not suitable for homes..
Jan February 07, 2014 at 07:44 PM
Hats off to you!!!!
jackie miller February 07, 2014 at 08:19 PM
cbg, first of all, I am not a breeder. Second, I have purchased 2 home bred puppies and a kitten...my Maltese lived in horrible conditios, Schitzu, just wonderful conditions...my Persian, perfect...If anyone wants to choose a home bred sweetie, you can do what I did. Make an appointment for the next day, then drive streight to the house...worked for me...
T. February 07, 2014 at 08:34 PM
This is fantastic..I hope it catches on and more people start thinking this way..This is really great, I would love to be able to start something like this here on Long Island..but no idea how to go about doing any of it, and probably couldnt afford it either, what a great job....I hope this becomes the new norm...Way to go Alsip Nursery's.. If anyone complains or has anything negative to say about this, they dont know how puppy mills operate, and if ignorance isnt the case, and they know the horrid conditions of the mills but still have no problems with keeping them, then they really shouldnt own a dog or a cat, or anything thats alive for that matter....this is a beautiful thing, nothing negative about it..Love this idea..Thank you, Rich Christakes wish I could do the same here in my town...
Larry February 09, 2014 at 09:12 AM
Take a ride to Tinley-PAWS, YOU can purchase , Adopt a dog for $150.00 with it's shots and micro-chip. And by the way if you are concerned about your pet getting loose have a micro-chip put in them, otherwise if they aren't micro-chipped and are found without a micro-chip they might end up at the Chicago-Ridge Animal-Welfare League where after a time period they will be PUT-DOWN. Also make sure your pet has a collar and a tag with your phone number and or your address if possible.
Terri February 09, 2014 at 08:39 PM
Wonderful news!
Ty Conderoga February 10, 2014 at 12:16 AM
Mmmmm. There sure is a lot of blog spam here- kind of makes me hungry. Re-read the comments and see if you can spot all theAlsip schills: Great ! I love Alsip ! They are wonderful !!! I buy all my supplies at Alsip !!! ___________________________________ I don't forgive companies that made a LOT of money for DECADES on inbred and abused animals as quickly as the fake posters here. Same owners, same pockets you are filling.
Ty Conderoga February 10, 2014 at 12:16 AM
http://www.petshoppuppies.com/report.asp?ID=PETSHOP7596
Ty Conderoga February 10, 2014 at 12:22 AM
Just ONE dog's experience: Upper respiratory infection; giardia; hypoglycemic; being evaluated for bile duct shunt
Ty Conderoga February 10, 2014 at 01:05 AM
...many dogs the store bought from Heritage Puppies in Iowa, a huge puppy breeder-broker. Alsip staff told the HSUS investigator that they only buy puppies from breeders with small numbers of dogs (lie), yet, on a recent USDA inspection report for Heritage Puppies, the federal inspector noted 458 adult breeding dogs (mill) and 220 puppies on the property. _____________________ Nearly 700 dogs in one place. SEVEN HUNDRED.
Larry February 10, 2014 at 08:10 AM
What took Alsip nursery so long to change their direction??? It is great when you can eliminate puppy mills and sick dogs. Rescue dogs are great pets, I have adopted 2, One a-Yorkie Poddle, whom is very smart. 2nd- one a Yorkie- Maltese that is another intelligent dog. There are plenty of animals Dogs, Cats etc. that need good homes especially when the economy is as bad as it has been and some pets are given up just because people can't afford them.
chase693 February 11, 2014 at 06:27 PM
It is the same owners. Rich is Bill Christakes' son who is the owner. Chris Shepard left to start a nursery in WI. I guess Rich came in and convinced his Dad that this was the way to go and now they have a grand PR push because of the backlash. I think they lost a lot of business because of this and also because their flowers are so high compared to Home Depot. I don't mind supporting local business, but when they are constantly ripping off people, it is time to be done with them.
Karen Ortolano February 23, 2014 at 05:10 PM
This is a great idea in theory, but I have quite a few questions. What's the store's application and screening process for people who wish to take home a dog? Does it do home checks on potential adopters? What happens if the dog isn't a good fit in its new home? Does the store accept returns? Does it follow up with "adopters" a month or two after the dog has gone home? What happens if one of their dogs ends up in an open-admission (high-kill) shelter? Do they reclaim it? These are all checks, balances, and contingency plans that real rescues have no choice but to deal with and plan for. I'm over the moon that the store is no longer supporting mills (incidentally, there is absolutely no such thing as a "hobby breeder" who sells to pet stores or uses a broker; that's all CEO CYA, and a shamefully bad job of it). From what I just read, however, it sounds like the store simply changed its sourcing policies in response to pressure from advocacy groups, backlash from the public, and a drop in sales. Without all the info on how they place (sell?) these dogs, I can't help but wonder if the pats on the back might be a bit premature.
P February 25, 2014 at 11:31 AM
In addition, an Alsip employee had told me that they will still be "ordering and selling small animals". If this is true, this whole "100% rescue" is just a huge farce. Rodents, rabbits, reptiles, birds, and amphibians all live through torturous lives in breeding mills and at the hands of backyard breeders, and in many cases I'd say they are worse off than puppy or cat mills. http://www.humanesociety.org/issues/puppy_mills/facts/pet_mills.html Petsmart, Petco, Pet Supplies Plus, and various other places have all been named as buyers of animals from some of the most disgusting, cruel, depressing breeding mills exposed.
voklst February 25, 2014 at 12:40 PM
My husband and step daughter were at Hinsdale Humane Society... to get a dog... they were told the daughter is too young....she was 9 at the time..they said she had to be 12. they had an acre of land and no fence....no dog for you... I took us to Happiness is Pets on 94th ave and We bought a full bred West Highland Terrier ***we already had one at home 2 yrs old ... no problem all AKC papers included to see what parents were about and those breeders. this is the best dog either of us have ever owned. Personality Plus. My husband was amazed that no one said NO to us and our 1/3 acre has no fence... We will continue to look at dogs by Breeders, rescue shelters, and stores that sell puppies... NOT PUPPY MILLS!!!! I've been in several of those andcalled the humane society each & everytime... 2 tells...1) the SMELL, and 2) constant dogs noise. I will continue to shop at Alsip for garden supplies, furniture, decor, & dogs
Lynn Neuberg February 25, 2014 at 06:25 PM
This is a good path to take for this Nursery, glad they changed their ways. Let's please remember, it's not only dogs sold in pet stores, but, cats are also in need of loving homes, and they will help both animals here..sometimes, cats are forgotten, so wanted to shed light on them too...so someone can adopt them in this process!

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