"They are subject to neglect, cruelty, found under burning houses, in a box, used as shooting practice -- bringing them up here is a new chance at life," said Dawn Bateman, adoption coordinator with Pets Plus Natural, which celebrated both the opening of a new location in Gibbstown on Saturday and a new policy of only selling rescued shelter dogs.
The business, which has stores across Pennsylvania and New Jersey, has partnered with the Pennsylvania SPCA and Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) to stop selling commercially-raised puppies.
The dogs will come from the PSPCA, Bowling Green-Warren County Humane Society, in Kentucky, Animal Aid in New Jersey, Hub City Humane Society, in Mississippi, and the Humane Society of Raleigh County, in West Virginia.
It's in some of those southeast U.S. locations where euthanasia and abuse rates skyrocket, Bateman said.
The Gibbstown location, which was packed with customers and prospective pets Saturday, is the fifth store in the chain to adopt the new policy. The company plans to continue the effort at their other locations, as well.
What's more, the Gibbstown store will join the ranks of more than 2,000 other pets stores across the U.S. that have signed the HSUS' Puppy Friendly Pet Stores pledge.
According to HSUS statistics for 2015, there are roughly 10,000 puppy mills across the country, both licensed and unlicensed, contributing to an overpopulation problem. The HSUS estimates between 2 and 4 million puppies sold in the U.S. every year come from puppy mills. Approximately 3 million dogs and cats are euthanized by shelters in the U.S. every year.
"This is a life-saving effort," said John Moyer, outreach manager for HSUS' puppy mills campaign.
And what does one of those lives look like?
Just ask "Ross," a Chi mix who was born on October 22, 2012. Sitting peacefully all by himself in a large room with huge glass windows, Ross would come up when people approached and put his paws on the window. For $300, Ross, already neutered and microchipped, could be more than man's best friend -- he could be yours.
"We're trying to get (the dogs) in front of more people," Jerry Buckley, PSPCA's chief executive officer, said of the transportation of shelter dogs to stores like Pets Plus.
Buckley also noted a generational shift when it comes to people looking to adopt a pet. Although seeking out a puppy or kitten may have been the norm years ago, people now see the dire situation shelter animals face and are more frequently choosing adopting through that route.
Mike Kenny, with his daughters Makenize, 3, and Makayla, 4, were all checking out the adoptable pups Saturday, some of which were clambering all over a Pets Plus worker as he tried diligently to clean the cages.
"This is awesome. I'd be surprised if they don't all get adopted today," Kenny said.