2020 has been a year like no other. Due to the pandemic, CAPS had to overcome many new challenges in our investigations and legislative efforts. We also relocated our base of operations this year; we are now in California, just outside of Los Angeles. But thanks to the generous support of our donors, we’re happy to report that we were once again on the front lines, fighting against pet shops and puppy mills.
Our undercover investigators went into 22 pet shops across the country. We recorded hours of undercover video at hard-to-infiltrate puppy mills in seven states. CAPS also advanced legislation in California, New York, and elsewhere. And we launched five in-depth video exposés and a new PSA. These efforts and victories are just a sample of what CAPS has accomplished this year.
Last year, California’s Pet Rescue and Adoption Act went into effect. California pet shops can now only offer dogs, cats, and rabbits if they come from animal shelters or 501(c)(3) rescues. However, a CAPS investigation revealed that pet shops in the state have been using a loophole in the law to continue selling mill-bred puppies from fraudulent rescue organizations, which are fronts for USDA-licensed dog brokers. CAPS immediately investigated the fraudulent rescues—Pet Connect Rescue in Missouri and Rescue Pets Iowa—and the mills supplying them.
CAPS also joined with San Diego lawyer Bryan Pease to sue these pet shops and other entities responsible for the fraud. Customers who filed complaints on the CAPS website are also plaintiffs. We obtained preliminary injunctions against five pet shops, which were forced to close. Four other pet shops closed in anticipation of court orders. Another pet shop went out of business after receiving our cease and desist letter. In addition,
Pet Connect Rescue has been legally banned from selling puppies in California due to our efforts. Ray Rothman, who was a sales manager for The Hunte Corp. and is now with Select Puppies in Iowa, started Pet Connect with his wife. The source of the fraudulent rescue puppies was and is these brokerage facilities.
As a result of these CAPS investigations and legal efforts, there are now NO PET SHOPS selling fraudulent rescue puppies in California.
Our ultimate goal, however, has always been to fix the state law. CAPS was part of a coalition that drafted new language to amend it. Thankfully, Governor Newsom signed the new bill on September 18, 2020. The amended law prevents pet shops from having ownership or monetary interest in the animals in their stores. Pet shops are only allowed to offer space to shelters and rescues to showcase animals for adoption. Adoption fees cannot exceed $500. The shelters and rescues are prohibited from obtaining animals from breeders for compensation.
Iowa Attorney General
Rescue Pets Iowa (the other fraudulent rescue selling puppies in California) can now no longer sell puppies in the state, either. CAPS spent two years investigating the large USDA-licensed broker behind Rescue Pets Iowa: J.A.K.’s Puppies. We went undercover to 19 of the pet shops selling their “rescue” puppies and many of the puppy mills that bred them. CAPS’ lead investigator also went to the J.A.K.’s office in Britt, IA,, which was the address they used for Hobo K- 9 Rescue. This fraudulent rescue sold to Chicago pet shops and to California stores prior to the enactment of the state law.
Because of our thorough investigation and evidence, the Iowa Attorney General opened its own investigation into J.A.K.’s and its “rescues.” In March 2020, the AG announced a consent decree with Hobo K-9 and Rescue Pets Iowa. Under the agreement, these “rescues” must dissolve and pay a fine of $60,000. While the fine is small, the main goal of the attorney general (and CAPS) was to force this fraudulent company to close. This is a major victory, stopping one of the worst players in the fraudulent rescue game!
Last year, CAPS released a large-scale investigation of New York pet shops. We went undercover into over 100 pet shops (many of them multiple times), and we investigated dozens of the puppy mills and kitten mills that supply them. Because of the strength of our evidence, CAPS has been working closely with New York legislators to pass a state law that would ban the retail sale of dogs, cats, and rabbits.
Unfortunately, stalling by the chair of the New York Senate Domestic Animal Welfare Committee allowed pet shops to mobilize against us. But in early 2020, the New York Senate passed the bill. Due to COVID, however, the legislation is currently stalled and will not be considered again until January 2021.
In anticipation of this, CAPS is investigating nine pet shops in New York, including three with more than one location, and a new store in Manhattan. After investigating some of the breeders who sell to these stores, we plan to make new video exposés to use in helping get the legislation passed.
CAPS investigators have gone undercover into all 12 of the pet shops in Connecticut. One of these pet shops (now closed) was owned by the same people running Pet Connect Rescue (a fraudulent rescue that has been selling puppies to pet shops in California and Chicago). In February, we released a new video exposé on Connecticut—the first video that CAPS (or any other organization) has ever produced about the state’s pet shops. The video has been viewed over a hundred thousand times on social media.
Using our evidence, CAPS worked closely with State Representative David Michel, an animal rights activist, on statewide legislation to ban the retail sale of dogs, cats, and rabbits. Unfortunately, the chair of the Environment Committee did not allow a vote on the bill. But the bill will be introduced again in 2021.
With 124 municipal ordinances, New Jersey has more laws banning the retail sale of dogs and cats than any other state. CAPS works closely with the animal activist responsible for these ordinances. However, 20 of the state’s pet shops and grooming parlors are still selling puppies and kittens. CAPS has gone undercover into 17 of these pet shops and many of the mills that supply them. This year, we released a stunning new video exposé on these stores.
CAPS is using this evidence in support of S. 1874, which, if it becomes law, would ban the retail sale of dogs, cats, and rabbits statewide. In addition, we are making sure that the legislative language does not have any loopholes that would allow fraudulent rescues to sell to pet shops.
Florida is the nation’s second largest pet shop market (after New York). CAPS has investigated three dozen pet shops in Orlando, Ft. Myers, and Miami-Dade County, gathering evidence of consumer fraud. We have also investigated Petland stores in Manatee County, as well as many of the puppy mills that supply Florida’s pet shops. This evidence is crucial to our ongoing legislative efforts in the state.
In the months before the pandemic, CAPS was holding weekly protests at pet shops in the Chicago area. Most of the time, no puppy sales took place during these protests. Our Illinois team is also working on municipal ordinances in parts of the state. This year and last, CAPS investigated three pet shops in Chicago that have been obtaining puppies from fraudulent rescues. We are considering lawsuits against these stores.
Wichita and Topeka, Kansas, both have Petland stores. CAPS’ Kansas director has been raising funds for a billboard near two Petland stores in Wichita, against which CAPS holds protests. She’s also been coordinating with a CAPS advisory board member in Topeka where a Petland customer recently lost a new puppy to parvovirus. CAPS is investigating the Petland stores in Kansas (and breeders who supply them) for a new video exposé we’re creating to aid in legislation and outreach.
Social Media, News Media, and Website
In February, CAPS hired a new digital marketing specialist to expand our social media following and engagement. Our media presence includes compelling videos, blogs, and news stories to spread awareness about mills and pet shops. We also continued our partnership with The Dodo, the most widely viewed online animal publication, which uses our investigative findings and viral videos.
In March, CAPS started using the services of a new web developer. He is fine-tuning our new website, which debuted in September 2019, and he works closely with our digital marketing specialist.
Rescue Dogs: A Book by CAPS’ Lead Investigator
We are very proud to announce a new book by our lead investigator, who has been with CAPS for 17 years. In the book, “Pete” discusses his undercover investigations, detailing the horrible conditions that animals endure as the breeding stock for the pet shop industry. He also talks about the importance of dog adoption and how to train and welcome a new rescue animal into a loving home.
Public Service Announcement
In October, CAPS launched a brand new public service announcement about cat adoption. This PSA shows footage from undercover CAPS investigations of pet shops and of the USDA-licensed kitten mills that supply them. A 2-minute version appears on social media and a 30-second version will run on national and regional cable and TV stations next year.
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 puppy mills has dropped from 5,000 to 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 are so critical. And it’s why we continue to need your help.
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. Please click here to donate today.