SLEEPY OAK, Ark. - The town of Sleepy Oak, Arkansas was barren as late as two weeks ago. Shops were closed, sidewalks, roped off, and the town’s largest source of employment, the Sleep Oak Puppy Mill, was shut down, furloughing over 800 workers. In a town of only 3,600 residents, the effect was dramatic.
But that’s all changing as relaxed COVID-19 restrictions have allowed the mill to re-open. As a result, the town has seen a drastic return to normal economic activity and the supply of puppies has soared to meet the heavy demand of cooped up families everywhere.
New dog-mom Martha Jameson has been trying to get a puppy since March, but was unable to find one until recently.
“I looked everywhere, but all the shelves at our local Puppies Deluxe store were empty,” she said, “even Discount-Puppers only had a single, ugly one left.” Ms. Jameson finally bought a purebred border collie named Moxie, who was manufactured locally.
In only two weeks of operation, Sleepy Oak Puppy Mill has produced nearly 4,000 new puppies, well below pre-COVID production of nearly 8,500 puppies per week, but plant manager, Chuck Sherman seemed pleased, saying, “We’re doing the best we can to meet demand, and honestly, we’re all just glad to have the production lines open at all right now.”
The reduced output can partially be blamed on COVID-19 mitigation measures taken by the plant. The measures include strict social distancing and increased quality control testing. The puppies are now tested for COVID-19 to ensure there is no puppy-human transmission of the disease. These tests are in addition to the standard procedure of pet-testing to ensure each puppy is sufficiently pet-able, Instagram testing to make sure each puppy looks sufficiently cute in all Instagram filters, and other general quality control tests to ensure each puppy produced meets Sleepy Oak's standards to become a certified “good boy”.
The increased testing have been coupled with major supply chain issues to plague the re-opening as shortages of tails and cute, floppy puppy ears impact production.