On Sunday, approximately 160 animal people showed up to join a CAPS-sponsored protest of I Heart Puppies in Corona del Mar, California. Some of the protesters were from San Diego-based Animal Protection and Rescue League; others were concerned residents of Corona del Mar, which is part of Newport Beach, who do not want a pet shop that sells puppy mill dogs in their town.
Picture courtesy of Leon Wagner
This may have been the largest pet shop protest ever! We had more than 130 participants inside Westside Pavilion in Los Angeles to protest the Barkworks chain and were the first animal protection group to protest inside a mall. I have organized nationwide and North American protests in as many as 40 cities, but in terms of the number of people in one place, I doubt there has ever been anything this large in front of a pet shop. There were protesters on both sides of the street. Drivers honked and shouted in support and traffic was backed-up.
The Companion Animal Protection Society is a national nonprofit that is well known for its investigation of pet shops and puppy mills. We have investigated more than 1,000 puppy mills, most of them USDA licensed, in the Midwest, NY and PA. Our investigators have worked undercover at large brokerage facilities, including that of Kathy Bauck, one of the largest in the country. She was convicted of animal cruelty based on our evidence, which resulted in the termination of her USDA license. We have also worked at the Hunte Corporation, the largest broker in the county. Hunte, which unlike Bauck, does not breed, ships out 1,000 to 2,000 puppies a week to the U.S. and abroad. We have investigated many Hunte breeders to prove that Hunte does in fact buy from puppy mills. Many Petland stores (the largest chain in the country) buy from Hunte.
The USDA's Office of Inspector General did an audit and investigation, which resulted in a scathing 69 report condemning USDA/APHIS/Animal Care, the department that inspects USDA licensed breeders and brokers (yes, these are the puppy mills). This investigation was the result of a meeting we had with them in which we urged them to investigate USDA's extreme indifference to the Animal Welfare Act. They only agreed to meet with us because of our investigative evidence in which we cite AWA violations. We are the only national organization that documents AWA violations in our reports and even on most of our footage.
Because we are recognized as the national experts on the pet shop and puppy mill industry, CAPS receives numerous requests for investigative evidence from USDA, the New York Office of Attorney General, animal advocates working on legislation, media, lawyers, and other nonprofit organizations. CAPS’ investigative work has been vital in uncovering and exposing the puppy mill and pet shop industry and has been responsible for generating growing awareness of the issue.
The owner of I Heart Puppies told West Coast Director Carole Davis that the store’s broker is Furry and Feather/Critters and Pets in San Diego. We looked at the website for this company. Furry and Feather sells wholesale pet products; Critters and Pets is an online retailer of animals. Neither company has a USDA license. CAPS has reported them to USDA. Critters and Pets buys puppies from Barb Crick (one of Crick’s puppies was in the store during a CAPS inspection), a USDA licensed breeder in Nebraska that was investigated by CAPS in December 2010. Crick has very serious violations and was cited by the USDA for tying a mother Golden Retriever to a fence and shooting her to death with a .22. The USDA inspector found the dog on the same day and merely cited Crick for not following the veterinary guidelines whereby gunshot is not an acceptable means of euthanasia. She failed to go to the authorities and file charges for animal cruelty. Shooting a dog to death is cruelty under Nebraska law. Crick is under investigation by USDA; we also turned over our investigative findings to them. CAPS works closely with USDA and has been meeting with the agency since 2002.
Crick also sells to the Barkworks chain, which CAPS is well known for protesting. We are the first animal protection group to protest inside a shopping mall in California, a right protected under the California Constitution, which is broader than the federal one (I'm a lawyer and researched the case law). One of our protests against Barkworks inside Westside Pavilion Mall had more than 130 participants.
Brooke Bradford, one of the owners of I Heart Puppies, was not happy that West Coast Director Carole Davis checked out her store and confronted her about Barb Crick. She was distressed that Ms. Davis discovered that the store had no sprinklers or alarm system tied to a fire station, a violation of state law. Ms. Davis reported the violation, and the store had to close for two days until the store was in compliance. Ms. Bradford tried to chill the First Amendment rights of West Coast Director Carole Davis by filing a motion for a restraining order, which was denied by the court. Ms. Davis was never served. Ms. Bradford’s attorney advised her to drop the motion and a dismissal was filed.
So to those of you who have spoken out against the I Heart Puppies protest and think this is just a group of crazy activists, please understand that these activists are backed by a national nonprofit - the only one whose focus is almost entirely on the pet shop and puppy mill industry and has been for 20 years, when our nationwide protests and national media stories brought down the entire Docktor Pet Center chain of more than 300 stores.