Pet Shop Owner Takes To Selling Shelter Animals

WILMETTE, Ill. (CBS) – Why would a North Shore businessman, earning a good living, happily make a decision that cut his bottom line?

Dave Cozzolino did it because he wanted to give some down-on-their-luck animals a second chance at a good life.

As CBS News Correspondent Cynthia Bowers explains, Cozzolino is owner of the Wilmette Pet Center, at 625 Green Bay Rd. in Wilmette. Designer dogs that went for $1,800 to $2,000 used to make up 30 to 40 percent of his business.

But, Cozzolino says, “It’s always been a goal of mine not to need to sell puppies; to end the puppy sales.”

It took three years to figure a way to stay afloat without dealing in purebreds, but Cozzolino did it, and now sells only shelter dogs and cats.

“After we first announced it, it was such a huge relief off my shoulders that I can now help instead of add, maybe, to a problem,” Cozzolino said.

It is a problem on heartbreaking display at animal control facilities. A total of 20,000 cats and dogs are shuttled through the giant City of Chicago lock up facility, at 2741 S. Western Ave., each year.

“I don’t think people realize that in general, animal control facilities across the country euthanize at least 50 percent of the animals that walk in the door,” said Chicago Animal Care and Control executive director Cherie Travis.

A total of 7 in 10 cats, and 5 in 10 dogs, are destroyed in shelters, and an estimated 3 to 4 million cats and dogs are euthanized by shelters each year, according to data from the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

Travis says getting exposure at shelters, foster homes or shops like Wilmette Pet, is critical.

“I mean for a facility like this, every opportunity to get animals out of here and into another, whether it’s a shelter or a store that can find good homes for them, is wonderful,” she said.

Cozzolino’s biggest surprise is that shelter dogs are selling faster than the purebreds did.

Furthermore, the adopted families keep coming back. On average, Dave finds homes for four animals a week. Lucas here was adopted after just a day.

“Every time a dog finds a home, we feel good at the end of the day,” Cozzolino said.

Each pet adopted means one more homeless animal gets to be the doggie or kitty in the Wilmette Pet Center window, where with any luck, they will find a good home.

About a quarter of the dogs at shelters are still “pure bred,” so, if you want one — you can adopt at a shelter — or stores like the Wilmette Pet Center.

To find out more on adopting pets in the Chicago area, you can visit

  • Rita

    What a wonderful initiative. Hopefully, the standards for adoption are appropriate and a good home, not just any home, is the outcome.

    • Bev Pines

      The big piece left out of this story is that the store has partnered with Adopt-A-Pet, a local foster-home-based rescue group. Adopt-A-Pet processes all applications and does all the adoptions. The usage of the phrase “selling puppies” was misleading; Dave doesn’t sell these animals at all. He generously fosters them for AAP. He had mentioned the arrangement with AAP several times during the interview, but apparently the folks who put this piece together didn’t seem to think that was integral to the story.

      • Pat Frederickson

        This certainly is an important piece of the story! I agree that the word “selling” is terribly misleading. He is helping to adopt out the shelter animlas that a NONPROFIT organization is servicing. He is NOT selling the animals. Thank you, AAP, for all you to do help reduce the number of unavoidable euthanasias due to lack of space and funding.

  • yes!

    This is excellent, and I hope other pet shops will follow Cozzolino’s lead. It’s unacceptable to breed dogs and cats for profit; animal welfare should be placed above money making.

  • moshucat

    This is so great. I hope I can get out to your shop. I’m looking for a dog. Keep up the good work.

  • Kathy

    THANK YOU! I have always rescued shelter dogs.. actually, they pick me. They truly are the best dogs. Sincerely thank you for saving these wonderful animals.

  • Isabel

    Thank you Dave! I love hearing stories like this where people help homeless pets rather than add to the problem!

  • Pat Frederickson

    Kudos to Dave C. for doing the right thing. Here’s hoping PetLand and other pet shops that contribute to the pet overpopulation crisis soon follow suit.

  • Janet

    As several have pointed out, shelter animals are ADOPTED, not SOLD. Reading the headline initially, I was incensed that a pet store would sell a shelter’s animals. It wasn’t until I read the full story that it became clear what was really meant. You need to be more careful about the words you choose.

  • Janie Jenkins

    I am from The Puppy Mill Project in Chicago and we applaud Dave C. and Adopt A Pet for this incredible effort that will both save lives and end puppy mills. This story by CBS was very misleading as it implies that Chicago Animal Care and Control is helping to provide animals from their overrun facility as quoted by Cherie Travis, “Travis says getting exposure at shelters, foster homes or shops like Wilmette Pet, is critical.” but the fact is that she has refused to help these pet stores. Our group has tried to contact her many times regarding pulling animals for pet stores and we have gotten no response from her. This story should have focused solely on Adopt A Pet and Wilmette Pet Center as they have overcome incredible hurdles to accomplish this! Congratulations to both of you! This story is about you!

  • Julie L.

    Dave, the store owner of Wilmette Pet is doing a wonderful thing by turning his cage space in to an adoption center for Adopt-A-Pet to help save more homeless dogs and cats. I am extremely disappointed that CBS chose not to mention Adopt-A-Pet at all and gave their viewers the mistaken impression that the animals came from the Chicago pound and then were being sold for profit. Furthermore, there is a huge difference between the words adopt and sell. CBS should have made sure they used the correct terminology in their segment as I’m sure many viewers were led to believe that Wilmette Pet “sells” pound animals when nothing could be further from the truth! Please support Wilmette Pet Center.

  • Lorri Woodcox

    Leading by heroic example! Way to go Dave I hope fo you great success and you will certainly feel rewarded and fullfilled in more ways than you know.

  • t davis

    Finally! A pet shop with a clue! Thank you!

  • Tanya Petrovna

    Great Thanksgiving story too! I’m going to move to Chicago now even though I fear the cold weather!! Let’s put the shelters out of business one day!! No more homeless pets!

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  • Sarah Simons

    As many have stated, Wilmette Pet doesn’t sell animals at all. Dave is doing a great thing working with Adopt-A-Pet to help foster animals, adopting them out, and saving lives. Adopt-A-Pet is the sole shelter that works with Wilmette Pet Shop & Dave. CBS should have more thoroughly gone over their information before putting out this haphazard piece.

  • Jo Burchfield

    I’m so very proud of you and sure hope you are starting a new trend!!!

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