As we all began emerging from the pandemic, 2022 presented many new challenges. Thankfully, with the generous support of our donors, CAPS was able to keep up the fight against pet shops and puppy mills, scoring major victories this year.
Our undercover investigators went to 30 pet shops and 32 hard-to-infiltrate licensed and unlicensed puppy mills. We used our video evidence to advance legislation to ban the retail sale of animals in multiple states, including Florida and New York. In New York, after CAPS spent nine years investigating and laying the groundwork for a statewide ban, the legislation finally passed and is awaiting the governor’s signature. We also released four new video exposés, produced a new PSA, and began work on a documentary about online puppy sales. In addition, CAPS saved more than 90 dogs in ten months from a high-kill shelter in Bakersfield, CA.
These efforts and victories, made possible by your support, are just a few of our accomplishments in 2022. Please keep reading to learn more about the powerful achievements our supporters have made possible.
Internet Breeders and Sellers
CAPS was encouraged to see the adoption of homeless animals increase during the pandemic. But at the same time, people began buying puppies over the internet. Many of the horrible USDA-licensed breeders that we have investigated are now selling online. We have also found numerous unlicensed breeders selling online, which is a violation of the Animal Welfare Act. As usual, the USDA is not enforcing the law.
Last month, CAPS investigated a Sheltie breeder in Iowa who sells puppies over Hoobly Classifieds. His breeding dogs live in awful conditions, and he admitted to shooting his dogs in order to avoid needing a state license. Our investigator filed a report with the sheriff’s office and rescued two of the dogs. One had matted fur, and the other is underweight. CAPS will be investigating additional online breeders next year.
To bring awareness to this issue, we are producing a new documentary about internet breeders and sellers (those who buy from mills but don’t breed). The documentary will include undercover footage from puppy mills that sell online and interviews with customers who have bought sick and dying puppies on sites like Craigslist and PuppyFind.com.
CAPS began its New York Pet Shop Campaign as a collaboration with the New York Attorney General to expose and crack down on consumer fraud at pet shops. But because of the strength of our investigative evidence, we also worked closely with New York legislators for several years to work towards passing a state law to ban the retail sale of dogs, cats, and rabbits. The legislation finally passed in June 2022. Governor Hochul signed the bill on December 15, 2022. The law goes into effect on 12/15/24.
CAPS went to every pet shop in New York (originally 100, now 60). Some of these stores we investigated multiple times, as well as many of the puppy and kitten mills supplying them. All of the pet shops we investigated denied using mills and lied about the living conditions of their breeders’ animals. The documentary we produced about our investigation was critical evidence in the passage of the state’s new legislation.
In 2022, we also re-investigated Puppy Experience and Sportsman’s Kennels in Riverhead Township, which passed a retail ban ordinance last year. Puppy Experience and Sportsman’s Kennels have legally challenged the ordinance, so we have been gathering evidence to prove that the puppies being sold at both stores are raised and maintained in unhealthy and unsafe conditions. Both stores have up to 100 puppies. Sportsman’s Kennels also has a breeding operation with as many as 100 breeding dogs and 100 neonatal puppies, which has been cited for serious violations. CAPS’ general counsel is representing Riverhead in the lawsuit.
We will use the victory in New York to push states like New Jersey, Connecticut, and Oregon—where we’ve investigated the pet shops and mills selling to them—to move forward with their own legislation.
CAPS spent 13 years laying the groundwork for a statewide retail ban in Illinois, which finally became law in 2021. Pet shops can no longer sell dogs and cats; they can only offer animals from shelters and rescue organizations. However, four pet shops are circumventing the law. Furry Babies (with three locations) and Pocket Puppies are selling fraudulent rescue puppies from Dog Mother Rescue in Missouri, which is run by a puppy mill broker and transporter named Alison Hedgpeth. CAPS plans to investigate pet shops in the state that use fraudulent rescues and will help to stop them, just like we did two years ago in California.
This year, CAPS began helping Kern County Animal Services in Bakersfield, California, an overcrowded high-kill shelter with close to 300 dogs and puppies, and some cats and kittens, housed in two large metal warehouses with small kennels and no outdoor runs. Since mid-February, our efforts have saved the lives of more than 90 dogs.
Next year, CAPS will be making a short documentary about the deplorable abandoned dog situation in Kern County. We will use this documentary to reach out to California legislators to sponsor a bill to establish a shelter licensing and inspection program similar to the bill that recently passed in New York. You can read more about our work in Kern County here.
CAPS has been laying the groundwork for pet shop ordinances in Florida, which has 68 pet shops. Florida has now surpassed New York as the number one pet shop state. Since 2018, CAPS has investigated more than 60 pet shops in the state. This year, we released a shocking video exposé about the pet shops in Miami-Dade County.
In May 2022, CAPS went undercover to all of the pet shops in Broward, Palm Beach, and Collier Counties (23 in all) and to the Petland in Doral (Miami-Dade), gathering evidence in support of retail ban ordinances. All of the stores made false claims about their breeders. We are currently investigating puppy mills that sell to these stores, and our findings clearly contradict the misrepresentations made by the stores.
CAPS is working to get the most animal-friendly commissioner in Miami-Dade to sponsor an ordinance to ban the retail sale of dogs, cats, and rabbits. We are hoping that our recent investigative evidence, added to our earlier findings, will finally persuade pro-business commissioners that a retail ban ordinance is overdue.
Passing local ordinances and statewide pet shop laws depend greatly on the evidence collected by CAPS.
Kansas has five Petland franchises. CAPS has been investigating these stores and the breeders who sell to them. We uncovered a pattern of consumer fraud and deception at all of the stores. In July 2022, CAPS’ Kansas director persuaded Wichita to introduce an ordinance banning the retail sale of dogs, cats, and rabbits. CAPS will be involved with the language of the drafting.
CAPS also investigated Petland stores in Topeka and Overland Park, and we will be working to pass ordinances there, too. Local legislation like this will help lay the groundwork for a statewide pet shop lemon law. We will also be working with HSUS’ state director to fight Petland on state legislation that would prohibit municipalities from passing retail ban ordinances.
In November 2022, CAPS investigated pet shops in San Marcos and Garland, Texas, for ordinance work by Texas Humane Legislation Network, which was successful in getting ordinances passed in Houston and Dallas. Despite the passage of a dozen ordinances, Texas still has around 30 pet shops selling puppies and kittens. Numerous stores also sell rabbits. CAPS plans to investigate these pet shops for state legislation to ban the retail sale of dogs, cats, and rabbits.
Oregon’s pet shop lemon law requires pet shops to provide breeder names, addresses, and USDA numbers to prospective buyers. The stores must also say if the breeder had 0-2, 3-10, 11-39, or 40 or more litters in the year prior to the day the puppy being looked at was born. CAPS investigated the only two pet shops in Oregon and found them both to be blatantly violating this law.
This year, CAPS released a video exposé showing all of the ways that these two Critter Cabana pet shops are misleading customers and breaking the law. Employees at both stores refused to disclose the names of their breeders. But one employee inadvertently provided the name of a Catahoula breeder in Oregon. A CAPS investigator went to this kennel, which was a run-down, backyard breeding operation. CAPS will be providing our evidence to the Oregon Attorney General and to Rep. David Gromberg, who previously sponsored retail ban legislation. We will be working with him again in 2023.
The pet shop ordinance strategy continues to gain steam, keeping mill-bred animals out of consumer’s hands. Shelter statistics show that adoption rates increase after the implementation of retail ban laws.
Reaching Out to the Latino Community
CAPS filmed a Spanish language PSA for TV and radio this year, about the importance of spaying and neutering dogs and cats. Jaqueline Pinol, a professional bilingual actress, who has a podcast called “The Canine Condition,” is the PSA’s spokesperson. We have also developed Spanish flyers on spay/neuter and vaccination, and our pet shop and puppy mill brochures are in English and Spanish. The PSA will also appear in both Spanish and English on the CAPS website and on our social media.
We Need Your Help!
CAPS, as the nonprofit that pioneered the ordinance movement, is pouring all of our expertise and resources into a region-by-region and state-by-state effort to ban the retail sale of animals across the United States through local ordinances and statewide laws. And this strategy is working! Since 2010, the number of USDA-licensed dog breeders and brokers has dropped from 5,000 to less than 3,000.
But the key to passing these laws is evidence.
Legislators need to see irrefutable proof of what’s going on. Otherwise, it’s too easy for the animal mill lobby to muddy the argument and kill the legislation. This is why the thoroughness of our investigations is so critical. And it’s why we continue to need your help.
None of our nationwide efforts would succeed without your committed support. Millions of companion animals are currently suffering in inhumane breeding conditions. With your assistance, we can make real changes and prevent the suffering of companion animals.