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Pet Shop Owner Takes To Selling Shelter Animals

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Wilmette Pet Center

Shelter dogs such as these are found at the Wilmette Pet Center. (Credit: CBS)

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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 adoptapet-il.org

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