Following a CAPS undercover investigation of West Hollywood pet shops and a nearly six month protest of Elite Animals, the West Hollywood City Council passed an ordinance prohibiting the sale of dogs and cats in pet shops, with an exemption for the adoption of shelter and rescue animals. Media coverage of CAPS and the West Hollywood ordinance includes The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, ABC, NBC and CBS in Los Angeles, About.com. In fact, media throughout the U.S. and the world (even New Zealand) covered this compelling story. Our work has inspired other towns and states to consider similar legislation. CAPS is currently working with Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) on an ordinance for another Southern California town and assisted Richmond, British Columbia animal advocates on a by-law banning the sale of pet shop dogs.
A CAPS investigation of West Hollywood-based Elite Animals revealed that the store was selling puppy mill dogs and defrauding customers. Undercover footage shot by a CAPS investigator showed employees telling the investigator that the puppies came from “good private breeders.” Elite Animals was also selling dogs from puppy mills in Russia and violating a federal law prohibiting the import of dogs under the age of six months for resale.
The main suppliers to Elite Animals were Gerry and Angie Wensmann, USDA licensed brokers in Minnesota, who sell to pet shops all over the country. Elite Animals proudly displayed a photograph of Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, to whom the pet shop sold a Wensmann puppy in 2000. CAPS investigations of the Wensmann puppy mill documented sick and injured animals in need of veterinary care, substandard housing with badly stained flooring, broken wood and jagged rusty wires that posed a danger to the dogs, green algae water, rusting, filthy feeders with soggy food, fecal and urine accumulation, and dogs whose feet were slipping through wire flooring. The Wensmanns also breed cats in buildings that CAPS has been unable to access. A 2008 USDA inspection stated that kittens were panting in 95 degree heat in a trailer house. Yet despite CAPS investigation evidence presented to USDA and USDA reports with serious violations, USDA has not taken action. We are very encouraged, though, that evidence from the CAPS investigations of the Wensmann puppy mill led to the ordinance. CAPS worked with Animal Legal Defense Fund, the city council and HSUS to draft the ordinance.