The latest show of support for the abused and malnourished Quincy dog dubbed “Puppy Doe” may have ruffled some feathers, but organizers say their hearts are in the right place.
This week, Hero Builders, a toy company based in Oxford, Conn., began selling a four-inch figurine of Puppy Doe, available online at the store’s website for $29.95.
While 10 percent of the gross sales will go to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and the Animal Rescue League of Boston, company owner Emil Vicale said he’s been receiving critical emails and Facebook messages over the figurine and any profits he may receive.
“Had I known it would be such a fire pit of controversy, I probably wouldn’t have done it,” Vicale said.
Vicale said he was initially contacted last Thursday by friend and Quincy resident Sandra Lee, who is writing a book about the Puppy Doe case.
Lee had asked if Vicale would sculpt and sell the figurine, donating some of the proceeds to charity. Vicale said he jumped on board, and by Friday the figurine was sculpted and put into production. Sales began soon afterward.
As of Wednesday, Vicale said he had several orders, but was nowhere close to the 2,000 limit. What he had received a lot of was negative reactions.
“It’s been very chaotic over the last three days, as I battle off the animals from posting on our Facebook page,” he said.
By Wednesday, only one criticism was still on the company's Facebook page, alleging the figurine sales were geared more towards profit than advocacy.
Vicale is no stranger to controversy. The creator of political action figurines, Vicale has also sold an Osama Bin Laden figurine wearing a tutu, and currently has a twerking Miley Cyrus for sale.
Though unwelcome, this criticism is comparatively light, he said.
“It’s people giving their opinion and saying some harsh things, not wanting to take our lives. So we’re good,” he said.
For Lee, the impetus behind the figurine wasn’t at all to make money, but more to memorialize Puppy Doe as a healthy, inquisitive puppy.
“It’s a special unique pieces for those of us who want something positive to remind us of the fact that the puppy had a bit of positive time in her life. I prefer to focus on that, than what ended up happening,” she said.
The dog was found in a Quincy park in late August and later was put down due to its injuries. A Polish immigrant who was caretaker for an elderly Quincy woman is currently facing a dozen animal cruelty charges for the alleged abuse.
Lee said the story hits close to home. Having grown up with a stepfather who abused and killed her own animals, Lee said the figurine was helping her cope with those memories, and hoped others would understand her and Vicale’s actions.
“You’re going to see some negative with everything, but I never expected the negativity we’re seeing with some people,” Lee said. “Those people tend to be extremists … oftentimes those groups of people can be very close-minded.”
Lee said proceeds were also far from her mind in the writing of a book about Puppy Doe and animal abuse legislation.
Working with State Representative Bruce Ayers, Lee said she hopes the book to come out in the fall, but wants to wait until some sort of animal-abuse legislation is enacted or the trial of the alleged abuser comes to an end.
The venture won’t make Lee any money, she said, but hopes the book raises awareness and facilitates fund-raising for animal causes.
Despite the controversy, Lee was optimistic that this was only the start of fundraising materials. She hoped a philanthropic donor would purchase all the figures so they could be resold entirely for fundraising purposes. If the sales were successful, a Puppy Doe key chain, and a 12-inch plush stuffed toy could be in the future, Lee said.
The end goal is to raise enough money for a memorial bench in the park where Puppy Doe was found.
“We can’t do anything to help her anymore. We have to focus on what we can do – remember her and make something good come of the horror that happened,” Lee said.