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 said 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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