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Investigations

View CAPS undercover investigation reports and videos of puppy mills and pet shops.

Reports / Videos

Models & CAPS

What do you get when you combine glamorous fashion models with cute dogs rescued from un-glamorous puppy mills?

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Pet Shop Campaign Overviews

Pet Shop Campaign Overviews (14)

Puppy Town

CAPS now has a presence in Sarasota, Florida where CAPS President Deborah Howard attended New College of Florida. Puppy Town, which “offers over 50 different breeds to play with and choose from” has stores in Sarasota and Tampa. The stores obtain puppies from Missouri-based The Hunte Corporation, and breeders in the Midwest. A CAPS investigator worked undercover at Hunte for six months and investigated some of their breeders (links to both documentaries).   Puppy Town also obtains puppies from an unlicensed Internet breeder/seller in Georgia. Consumers who purchased sick Puppy Town puppies from this breeder have filed complaints. CAPS held a protest against Puppy Town in April 2012 and will hold another one soon. 

Barkworks

Barkworks is the largest pet store chain in the Los Angeles area and the target of our most groundbreaking protests. CAPS is currently assisting with a consumer class action lawsuit against Barkworks, which now has six stores in Southern California.

On December 9, 2009, the busiest shopping day of the year, CAPS held a landmark peaceful protest with 72 participants inside Westside Pavilion Mall in Los Angeles against one of Barkworks stores. This pet shop chain undeniably purchased and continues to obtain puppies from mills, including some with serious USDA violations. The protest was a landmark demonstration for the California animal protection movement. Pet shops that sell puppy mill dogs inside shopping malls had been immune to the increasing public outcry for years because of their location. After researching California Supreme Court cases, we realized that the California Constitution, which is more expansive than the federal version, protected our rights to protest inside a mall - a de facto public forum under California case law. Moreover, California case law protects the rights of protesters to call for a boycott of a specific business within a shopping center or mall.

CAPS held a second protest on February 13, 2010 with 89 participants inside the mall in honor of Valentine's Day, a loveless day at Barkworks. The third protest on April 13, 2010 had more than 100 participants, including 70 inner city public high school students. Since then, CAPS held several more protests with high turnout rates. In lieu of signs, CAPS protesters wore tee shirts and carried large shopping bags ­ all with slogans or messages. CAPS worked closely with the LAPD whose officers provided protection of our First Amendment Rights in light of the mall's threats to have security guards arrest the protesters. CAPS' documentary about Barkworks and a disgruntled customer, who purchased a very sick puppy that died one week after purchase, was one of the most shared videos on CNN iReport.

CAPS has also protested Barkworks stores inside The Oaks in Thousand Oaks, and The Shops at Mission Viejo. We will continue to put pressure on the chain to go humane and urge consumers to boycott Barkworks.

If you purchased a sick puppy from Barkworks and would like to join the class action lawsuit, please fill out our online complaint form.

CAPS Complaint Form

Happiness is Pets

Happiness is Pets (HIP) is a chain with five stores in the Chicago area with more than 25 years of selling puppy mill dogs. CAPS is currently sponsoring regular protests in two of their locations and working with a Chicago law firm on a consumer class action lawsuit. CAPS has received numerous complaints through our online complaint form from customers who purchased sick and dying puppies.

Thanks to the CAPS team in Chicago, we continue to get media coverage and expose HIP as a puppy mill front (the company transports puppies from Iowa and Missouri mills and for the most part, HIP does its own brokering). The distemper outbreak linked to HIP, which received extensive media coverage, is yet another example of how businesses like these are not only inhumane but also detrimental to the community.  CAPS has investigated many of the breeders and brokers supplying puppies to HIP.

If you purchased a sick puppy from Happiness is Pets and would like to join the class action lawsuit, please fill out our pet shop complaint form.

CAPS Complaint Form

http://activerain.com/blogsview/1363708/happiness-is-pets-the-truth

Pups & Pets

Pups & Pets is a pet store in the greater San Diego area owned by Franco Cruz, who’s notorious for moving his animal business around under new names after getting complaints from vets and customers. CAPS traced several of the dogs sold by Pups & Pets to Midwest puppy mills.

Before Pups & Pets, Franco Cruz owned a pet store in Alpine, CA that he sold after complaints by costumers began to pile up. He moved to El Cajon under the name Puppy Time and was also forced to shut down after public outcry and complaints from local vets. His current location, Pups & Pets, in Santee continues the same model as his earlier ventures, selling purebred dogs from puppy mills.

Despite his experience, Cruz hasn’t given any indication that the store will go humane. CAPS will continue to protest Pups & Pets until the store goes humane. Ironically, Cruz sold his Alpine puppy store to Evan Ames, Alpine Animal Jungle’s new owner, who felt a moral obligation to go humane and bring in shelter dogs for adoption.

Pet Works

Pet Works in La Mesa, California (San Diego County) sold sick puppies for over 16 years. The owner, Richard Fuller claimed, “We only get our puppies from the most reputable USDA licensed breeders.” CAPS investigated some of these breeders, including Marjorie Walker, who had her broker’s license revoked by USDA and was a booking agent for The Hunte Corporation, where we worked undercover for six months in 2004. The notorious Wensmann kennel in Minnesota, investigated twice by CAPS and the main reason for the West Hollywood ordinance, supplied puppies to Pet Works.

CAPS began protesting Pet Works in January 2009. The store shut its doors for good prior to CAPS’ protest with 40 activists on December 11, 2010.

Mr. Fuller didn’t bow out gracefully. He bitterly cited CAPS protests as the main reason his business went under and accused Grossmont Center mall, which sued him for breaking Pet Work’s lease, for allegedly not protecting the pet store from the weekly protests.

In a wonderful turn of events, the former Pet Works location in Grossmont Center is now a permanent location for the San Diego Humane Society. Consumers can adopt pups in desperate need of a good home instead of supporting the puppy mill cycle!

I Heart Puppies

On August 7, 2011, more than 150 people (probably the largest pet shop protest ever) participated in a CAPS-sponsored protest of I Heart Puppies, a new store.  I Heart Puppies used an illegal broker who bought from Barb Crick, a USDA-licensed breeder in Nebraska, and other puppy mills.  CAPS investigations of Crick uncovered filth, inadequate shelter, sick dogs and other serious violations. Due to our weekly protests, I Heart Puppies went out of business in February 2012.

Humane Stores

Four Pet Shops in the Los Angeles Area Went Humane in Just Eight Months

Aquarium & Pet Center in Santa Monica, California signed a legal agreement to convert to a humane business model.  In late October of 2009, this pet store, which has been in business for over 20 years, decided to stop selling puppies from mills.  Aquarium & Pet Center now works with a rescue organization to promote adoptable animals from the Los Angeles municipal shelter system.  The store adopted out a number of animals in 2010 and 2011 and serves as a model for humane stores.

Aquarium & Pet Center had been the target of an ongoing CAPS investigation linking the store to The Hunte Corporation, the largest USDA licensed dog brokering facility in the country.  CAPS is quite familiar with the practices of Hunte as the result of an undercover employment investigation at this large facility and ongoing investigations of Hunte's puppy mill suppliers.  In addition to dogs supplied from inhumane breeding facilities in the Midwest, some of the puppies sold at Aquarium & Pet Center were from a puppy mill just outside of Los Angeles.  

Aquarium & Pet Center was the fourth store in Los Angeles to succumb to investigations and protests by CAPS between March 2009 and November 2009.  The store went humane after just three weekend protests by CAPS.  Other stores no longer selling puppy mill dogs include Elaine's Pet Depot, Elite Animals, and Pets of Wilshire. Elaine's Pet Depot, part of a chain in the U.S. and Canada, offers rescue animals for adoption.  On the basis of our efforts against Elaine's, the entire Pet Depot chain stopped selling dogs and cats (some didn't before).

Ordinances

Pet Shop Ordinances are local government laws that crack down on pet stores selling certain companion animals: dogs, cats, and sometimes rabbits. The ultimate goal is an outright ban on the sale of animals. However, due to restrictions in some states, many municipalities cannot implement outright bans on the sale of dogs, cats and rabbits. They can impose restrictions, such as allowing only the sale of cats and dogs that are older than the USDA-required age of eight weeks and banning the sale of dogs or cats from breeders who have recent U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) violations. Restrictive type laws can also improve on existing regulations regarding pet shop care, such as requiring the disclosure of detailed records to consumers - including information about where the dogs were obtained. When strictly enforced, municipalities can fine violators.

These type of ordinances are instrumental in diminishing the retail demand for puppy and kitten mill animals. They also promote a humane model of store adoption from shelter and rescue groups. The model helps shelters, rescue organizations and the pet shops – by making adoptions more convenient and increasing the pet shop retail traffic. Ordinances also provide transparency for consumer protection. The benefits are numerous and lasting.

CAPS is the leader in the retail pet shop ban movement. Publications, such as International Business Times and Newsweek, have covered CAPS' efforts to pass municipal ordinances that ban the retail sale of pet shop puppies, kittens and sometimes rabbits. These ordinances mandate that the source of animals in pet shops be limited to shelter and rescue animals. Evidence from undercover investigations is the key to success in getting ordinances passed, especially in municipalities that have pet shops. In addition to providing extensive documentary evidence in support of ordinances, CAPS is involved in the drafting of municipal legislation, a task that takes many hours.

The following are just a few of our legislative successes:

Suffolk County, New York

Thanks in part to CAPS’ efforts, Suffolk County became the first in New York State to pass a ‘puppy mill’ law on June 2014. Even though the ordinance was not an outright ban, it implemented stricter rules for pet dealers and prohibited the sale of animals from proven puppy mills. This landmark legislation was possible because of a push, by CAPS and other animal welfare organizations, on New York State government to allow municipalities to enforce stricter local regulations for pet dealers. A “Pet Dealer” Bill was signed into law by Governor Andrew Cuomo on January, 2014, and for the first time communities were able to choose if they wanted to enact tougher rules for pet dealers.

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Today is a victory for Suffolk County's animal advocates and puppy mill breeding dogs. The passage of the "Puppy Mill Bill" is a testament to how we can produce positive results for companion animals by working closely with other animal advocacy groups. It has been a privilege to work with local legislators and educate them on the connection between puppy mills and our local pet dealers. This bill is a first step in stopping Suffolk County's pet dealers from sourcing puppies from puppy mills. It holds pet dealers accountable, something that was long overdue.”

Barbara Dennihy
New York Director
Companion Animal Protection Society (CAPS)

San Diego, California

On July 9th, 2013 the city council committee made a unanimous decision to ban the commercial sale of dogs, cats, and rabbits making San Diego the 2nd largest city in the US to ban the sale of companion animals. Currently, San Diego Puppy and The Pet Market are the only pet shops remaining in the city of San Diego.  CAPS initiated the ordinance more than a year ago after a two-year investigation of puppy mills that supply pet stores in Southern California. CAPS began investigating San Diego Puppy in June of 2011 after complaints from consumers who had purchased sick and dying puppies. The owner of San Diego Puppy, who first sold over the Internet and opened his store in the spring of 2012, obtains puppies from The Hunte Corporation.

Los Angeles, California

CAPS is also behind the Los Angeles ordinance banning the sale of pet shop puppies, kittens and rabbits that passed in November 2012. In January and February of 2011, CAPS provided the Los Angeles City Council with the results of its two-year investigation into L.A.'s retail pet stores and the California and Midwest commercial breeding factories that supply them. The undercover investigation included video and photographic evidence of puppy mill operators who routinely violated the Animal Welfare Act, as well as state laws to protect animals. CAPS uncovered evidence that L.A.'s pet retailers are currently in business with commercial breeders (puppy mills) who are neglecting and abusing animals, repeatedly violating USDA minimum standards of care. CAPS also discovered that L.A.'s pet stores are fraudulently selling sick and dying animals that come from substandard commercial breeding facilities and misleading consumers.

Villa Park, Illinois

In the Chicago area, the Villa Park City Council passed an ordinance in October 2012 banning pet shops that haven’t leased or owned a retail store for at least one year from selling puppies and kittens.  Being a non-home rule town, they couldn’t do an outright ban. However, the only remaining pet shop in the town no longer sells dogs. The ordinance, which also bans the sale of pets in farmers markets, flea markets and parking lots, is the first one in Illinois. The CAPS Chicago team is now working on trying to get ordinances passed in other towns, especially those with Petland and Happiness is Pets stores.

Irvine, California

In October 2011, the Irvine City Council passed a ban on the sale of pet shops puppies and kittens, using, as Glendale did, language similar to that of the West Hollywood ordinance. Just before the passage of the ordinance, the Irvine Company announced that its properties will no longer lease to pet shops that sell puppies and kittens. The two Russo’s stores will have to leave once their leases expire (the Newport Beach location has four more years).

Glendale, California

The Glendale City Council passed an ordinance in August 2011 banning the sale of cats and dogs in pet stores. In June 2011, CAPS presented an investigation report to Glendale’s City Attorney Scott Howard. The report included evidence of violations that were occurring in Glendale’s Pets R Us, which obtained its puppies from The Hunte Corporation in Goodman, MO. CAPS conducted a six-month undercover investigation at Hunte, the largest dog brokering facility in the country, as well as investigating 50 of their breeders, who were mostly USDA licensed. Approximately 50 percent of these puppy mills had serious enough violations to warrant an investigation report to the USDA. “The information provided to our office by CAPS representatives was fact-based and assisted us with the preparation of a report and ordinance. Their efforts to address the problems associated with substandard breeding facilities is to be applauded and their assistance to our office is greatly appreciated," said Howard.

West Hollywood, California

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 in February 2010 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 included 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.

A CAPS investigation of 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 CAPS investigations led to the ordinance.


Ongoing Ordinance Campaigns:

Sarasota County, Florida

CAPS also has a presence in Sarasota, where CAPS President Deborah Howard attended New College of Florida. In the county, we mounted a strong campaign against Puppy Town, which obtains puppies from the Hunte Corporation and an unlicensed Internet breeder/seller. Our efforts placed all three of the pet shops that sell puppy mill dogs on the spotlight, including a Petland franchise. Despite our initial setbacks, CAPS continues to work with the county commission on an ordinance to ban the retail sale of puppies, kittens and rabbits. When we succeed, Sarasota will be the first county in Florida and the country to pass such an ordinance.

Naperville, Illinois and Orland Park, Illinois

CAPS Chicago team is currently working on ordinances that could potentially ban the sale of dogs from puppy mills. The residents of both cities are pushing for legislation after the distemper outbreak and controversy with Happiness is Pets – which has locations in both cities. For more than a year, CAPS Chicago team has protested several Happiness is Pets locations.

New York City, New York and Southern New York Counties

CAPS New York team is currently assisting with several ordinances and mounting investigative evidence to support them. CAPS has a strong presence in New York and worked closely with the New York Attorney General’s Office on several cases.

Aquarium & Pet Center

Aquarium & Pet Center is a pet shop in Santa Monica, California that converted to a humane business model in 2009. Before the switch, they used to buy from Missouri-based The Hunte Corporation, the largest broker in the country.

CAPS was very proud of the decision of Aquarium & Pet Center to sign a legal agreement to convert to a humane business model. They worked with a rescue organization to promote adoptable animals from the Los Angeles municipal shelter system. The store was truly a model for humane stores. Unfortunately, the store started selling puppies again in late 2011. CAPS was ready to resume protests. After a few months, however, the store stopped selling puppies.

Aquarium & Pet Center had been the target of an ongoing CAPS investigation linking the store to The Hunte Corporation, the largest USDA licensed dog brokering facility in the country. CAPS is quite familiar with the practices of Hunte as the result of an undercover employment investigation at this large facility and ongoing investigations of Hunte's puppy mill suppliers.

CAPS held just three weekend protests in front of Aquarium & Pet Center before the store went humane. Unfortunately our campaign was marred by a violent incident on October 10, 2009 in which activists were shot at by an unknown assailant with a high-powered air rifle, spraying them with two millimeter brass slugs. Two of the protesters were slightly injured.

Aquarium & Pet Center was the fourth store in Los Angeles to succumb to investigations and protests by CAPS between March 2009 and November 2009. Other stores no longer selling puppy mill dogs include Elaine's Pet Depot, Elite Animals, and Pets of Wilshire. Elaine's Pet Depot, part of a chain in the U.S. and Canada, offers rescue animals for adoption. On the basis of our efforts against Elaine's, the entire Pet Depot Chain stopped selling dogs and cats.

Bea's Beat

Blog with CAPS Spokesmodel Beatrice, a puppy mill survivor and vegan advocate.

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Deborah Howard

Deborah Howard

Learn more about Deborah Howard, president and founder of Companion Animal Protection Society.

Meet Deborah

CAPS Blog

Keep up-to-date about CAPS and read about issues affecting companion animals, especially those suffering in pet shops and puppy mills.

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Contact Us

Contact CAPS

Companion Animal Protection Society (CAPS)
759 CJC Hwy., #332
Cohasset, MA 02025
p: 339-309-0272
501 (c)(3) Tax ID#: 58-2040413

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Class Action Lawsuits

scales of justice

If you purchased a sick or dying puppy from Barkworks or Happiness is Pets, you may be able to join consumer class action lawsuits. The first step is to fill out the CAPS complaint form.

Read more about Happiness is Pets or Barkworks.

CAPS Complaint Form