Opinion: Lessons, The Tully’s Campaign

By on July 29, 2015

On Monday, July 27, The Omaha World Herald told readers about an online campaign that arrested the attention of pet lovers throughout Omaha. Social media and a Change.org petition caused quite a stir, directing eyes and ears to what happens in Tully’s Kennels, a decades-old operation that has drawn the ire of many an animal advocate. Read the World Herald article here and take a look at the campaign that garnered so much attention.

Cassandra Johnsen is the Omaha woman who started the online petition and was cited in the World Herald. The article was especially interesting because it detailed the reflection of Johnsen and the altered endgame she hopes for (the rumors and evidence regarding Tully’s is nothing new). At the time of the petition’s creation, Johnsen was admittedly angry and provided less information than emotion. And if anyone knows anything about social media, it’s no surprise that thousands of people shouted, anonymously by and large, that Tully’s needs to shut its 50+ year old business down. Johnsen now says she would have written with a cooler head, giving more facts.

I communicated a bit with Cassandra also– after seeing the petition and signing it myself, I reached out to her, seeking more information about her effort. She indicated that her goal, after a short period of time since writing the petition rant, was changing. Though her concern is genuine and the goal of changing the conditions at Tully’s is noble, this has clearly been a humbling experience and a learning opportunity for Johnsen. Scan the comments after the Omaha.com article and it’s easy to see she has support, but also many who felt compelled to call her out on being more emotional than informational. She has, at the very least, shed a little light on a place with a generally bad reputation, and that’s commendable. As easy as it is for unknowledgeable  social media clickers to cry wolf, it’s also easy to crucify her for being less prepared than she needed to be. Make no mistake though– Tully’s is less than perfect and deserved the criticism it has received. Especially after the World Herald published a complaint filed about Tully’s conditions.

If you were on the fence or waiting for more details about the kennel and puppy proliferators, this document is likely to sway you to the side of Johnsen- and me, for that matter.

While the aforementioned World Herald article says, “A July 14 inspection by the Ag Department and the Nebraska Humane Society found no serious violations,” here’s what the complaint detailed (report written by Rick Herchenbach, inspector) :

East outside kennel area rust and sharp points present on tin-metal...” –

Ok, that’s an easy fix, but a sin nonetheless.

Not all records were available for inspection...”

If you say your puppies don’t come from unregistered breeders or puppy mills, it’s nice to have the documentation to prove your claim.

“A rodent smell was present in the boarding kennel area...”

See above comment on easy fix, sin.

It does appear that some pups may be originating from unlicensed breeders…

Reputable breeders are LICENSED breeders.

“A large number of pups are received through Heather Campbell, who operates a pet store in South Sioux City, Ne. Records will indicate that from last fall to present that nine individuals names are attached to the name of Heather Campbell on selling pups to Tully’s over that period of time. Also, a name of a individual was found on pups sold in the month of March 2015 who is not licensed as a breeder in Nebraska…”   

If your pups are coming from a pet store, those pups are likely from a mill. And another unlicensed breeder? Geez oh man…

Here’s the kicker for me: “Indications, also, appear to show that dogs are being breed (sic) at the kennel facility at Tully’s, pups are born at the facility, or other locations, and then sold at the Tully’s location…”  

Ok. Tully’s is not a puppy mill (it says), but it breeds dogs in its facilities and sells them for hundreds of dollars. A puppy mill, as I understand it, is a commercial breeding facility more concerned with monetary gain than the welfare of its animals. The shoe seems to fit.

Read the entire complaint here.

This is an opinion article. I am biased. When it comes to animal welfare, it’s hard to set aside emotion. This is, however, my best attempt at objective observation made after seeing a formal complaint. And this commentary is also informed by much of what I’ve heard from the people of Omaha’s pet community. Side with me or don’t, believe Johnsen about her observations or don’t. Here’s one thing that is indisputable: TULLY’S WILL WITHER AWAY AND PUPPY MILLS WILL DIE IF YOU UTILIZE SHELTER ORGANIZATIONS AND RESCUE GROUPS. ADOPT. DON’T BUY.

It will be interesting to see what happens to Tully’s as a result of this complaint and social media campaign. What’s important to remember is your role as an animal advocate, should you choose to be one. Adopt. Rescue. Support your local shelter. Also, be informed about why mills exist and where the puppies people buy come from. There are many articles here and elsewhere detailing the ins-and-outs, the state and federal standards on conditions, the trail of money one can follow going to and from commercial breeders.

While Cassandra Johnsen’s effort may have been carried out in, admittedly by her, the wrong way, while she may have miscalculated things, she’s right about Tully’s. She may be even more right than she knows.

What will happen to Tully’s remains to be seen, but YOUR takeaway, and our mission, is that rescues and shelters are the best disinfectant we can use to rub out the stains that are mills and awful breeders. Use our Rescue Friends articles and Shelter Spotlights to find where you can adopt and avoid contributions to puppies-for-money outfits.

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