With the effects of the pandemic still weighing on all of us, 2021 has been another challenging year. Thankfully, with the generous support of our donors, CAPS has been able to weather the storm and keep fighting against pet shops and puppy mills, scoring major victories this year.
Our undercover investigators went into 25 pet shops across the country. They also recorded hours of undercover video at hard-to-infiltrate USDA-licensed and unlicensed puppy mills in the Midwest. CAPS also worked on legislation in New York, Florida, and elsewhere, aimed at keeping mill-bred animals out of pet shops. Plus, this year we launched eight in-depth video exposés to educate lawmakers and the public. These efforts and victories, made possible by your support, are just a sample of what CAPS has accomplished in 2021. Please keep reading to learn more about the powerful achievements your donations have been generating.
Internet Breeders and Sellers
During the COVID lockdown, CAPS was encouraged to see the adoption rates of homeless animals go up. But at the same time, people began flocking to the internet for puppies. Many of the horrible USDA-licensed breeders that CAPS has investigated, such as Steve Kruse, Amos Allgyer, Melanie Moore, and Ed Van Doorn, are selling animals online as well as to pet shops. We have also found numerous unlicensed breeders selling online, which is a violation of the Animal Welfare Act. As usual, USDA is not enforcing the law.
Young Van Roekel was one of the many horrific internet breeders we recently investigated. She sells puppies on PuppyFind.com and on her own website, which claims: “All puppies on this site are born and raised in our home.” It also states: “We purchased 24 acres just so we would have enough room for my passion; my dogs.” The website only shows six sires and seven dams, all of which have been cleaned and groomed for their photos. These claims make it appear as though her facility has only 13 dogs that run on acres of land and live in her home. These claims are all lies. At her facility, CAPS saw 80 dogs, matted and stained, living in filthy, rusty enclosures. Some were pacing in circles, a clear sign of emotional stress. Despite CAPS reporting Van Roekel to the Texas Department of Agriculture and USDA, no actions have been taken against her.
To bring awareness to this issue, CAPS will be producing a new documentary on internet breeders and sellers (those who buy from mills but don’t breed), which will include interviews with customers. We will be releasing the documentary in the first half of next year.
In anticipation of statewide pet shop legislation, CAPS went undercover to eight pet shops in New York, including three with more than one location. Our investigations uncovered that Puptown NYC in Manhattan is selling puppies from Hungary and Korea. We filed a complaint with the USDA, which has done nothing. New York Agriculture and Markets inspected the store twice after our investigation. The inspector found a sick French Bulldog who had not received veterinary care and no health and other records for the 30 puppies in the store. Documents required under the New York lemon law were not available. A follow-up inspection noted two French Bulldogs over four months old without rabies certificates. The store continues to operate despite these violations.
CAPS plans to re-investigate Puppy Experience and Sportsman’s Kennels in Riverhead Township, which passed retail ban legislation in October 2021. New York law prevents municipalities from enacting retail ban ordinances if the animals living at the mills supplying the pet shops are kept in a “healthy and safe” manner. Sportsman’s Kennels has legally challenged the ordinance (we anticipate that Puppy Experience will do the same), so we have to prove that the breeders are not keeping their animals in a healthy and safe manner. CAPS’ general counsel will be representing Riverhead in the lawsuit. In 2022, CAPS will also be investigating both Citipups stores in Manhattan.
CAPS has been working for many years in Illinois, investigating pet shops and providing legislators with compelling evidence that proves that the state’s pet shop animals come from mills. Finally, all that work has paid off! On May 31, 2021, the Illinois legislature passed retail ban legislation, which means that pet shops in the state will no longer be able to sell puppies and kittens. Governor Pritzker signed the legislation on August 28. Pet shops have 180 days from that date to stop selling dogs and cats and have the option to offer rescue and shelter animals. CAPS will be keeping an eye on the state’s pet shops to make sure they comply.
Major victories like this one depend greatly on the evidence collected by CAPS.
CAPS is suing the pet shop Puppy Heaven. Formerly run from two Los Angeles area locations, both investigated by CAPS, Puppy Heaven has been selling puppies online from its Las Vegas pet shop—without a USDA license. They were delivering puppies to Southern California residents in parking lots, which is illegal. They are currently delivering to homes in California and flying puppies to other states. Puppy Heaven obtains many of its puppies from the broker Pinnacle Pets. CAPS and a California consumer plaintiff are suing Puppy Heaven for fraud, deception, negligence, and unfair business practices.
Florida and New York now lead the country with 58 pet shops respectively. This year, CAPS went undercover into pet shops in Pinellas, Miami-Dade, and Lee counties, gathering evidence in support of retail ban ordinances. We also investigated a pet shop in St. Petersburg that sells rabbits, birds, and other animals.
Stores in the City of Largo and in Miami-Dade County failed to provide breeder information to us prior to sale, as required by regulatory ordinances, and denied that their puppies came from mills. All of the stores made many false claims about their breeders. Our investigations of the puppy mills selling to these pet shops clearly contradict the misrepresentations made by the stores.
We provided our investigatory evidence to Pinellas County commissioners, who are considering a retail ban ordinance that would grandfather in existing pet shops. CAPS is working to keep the grandfather clause out of the bill.
CAPS will also give its Miami-Dade County evidence to three animal-friendly county commissioners to persuade them to sponsor an ordinance. As a county commissioner, Mayor Levine-Cava drafted the 2018 pet shop ordinance, which didn’t have enough support. 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.
CAPS also returned to the Pet Stop in Hialeah, which we reported to Miami-Dade Animal Services in 2018 for inhumane, filthy conditions and mother dogs with puppies in a back room. This time, we saw birds and rabbits living in squalid, tiny cages. Again, we reported the store to animal services, and CAPS President Deborah Howard notified Mayor’s Levine-Cava’s office.
Next year, CAPS plans to investigate all of the pet shops selling puppies and kittens in Broward (15) and Palm (7) counties and some of the mills that sell to them.
Kansas has five Petland franchises. CAPS has been investigating these stores and the breeders who sell to them in order to produce a video exposé for legislation and outreach. CAPS’ Kansas director, who has been working on local and state legislation, has persuaded Wichita to introduce an ordinance banning the retail sale of dogs, cats, and rabbits. Local legislation will lay the groundwork for a state pet shop lemon law.
Oregon’s pet shop lemon law requires pet shops to provide breeder names, addresses, and USDA numbers to prospective buyers. The store 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 to be violating the lemon law.
The website for the two Critter Cabana pet shops claims that the stores use local breeders, yet the cage cards for certain dogs stated that the animals were born in Idaho and Washington. A request to the state for Certificates of Veterinary Inspection (interstate health certificates) produced nothing. We believe this means that Critter Cabana is transporting puppies across state lines without CVIs.
Employees at both Critter Cabana stores fraudulently stated that conflict of interest laws superseded the state’s pet shop lemon law, which is why they couldn’t disclose breeder names to our investigator. But one employee inadvertently provided the name of a Catahoula breeder in Oregon. The CAPS investigator drove 90 minutes to this kennel, which was a run-down backyard breeding operation. CAPS will be providing our evidence to the Oregon Attorney General and to the state representative who previously sponsored retail ban legislation.
In April 2021, Governor Jay Inslee signed into law HB 1424, which bans the retail sale of dogs and cats. Unfortunately, the legislation was changed after introduction to grandfather in the sale of puppies at the three existing pet shops. CAPS investigated these pet shops.
Fairmont Pet Center is a depressing pet shop in Renton that refuses to provide breeder information but claims to use Washington-based USDA-licensed breeders. The USDA database shows that only a few dog breeders are licensed in the state. All them appear to only sell puppies online, not through pet shops.
Justin Kerr owns Puppyland in Puyallup and Puppyworld in Olympia, which recently relocated to Renton under the name of Puppyland. These stores obtain puppies from J.A.K.’s Puppies in Britt, Iowa, a notorious broker that buys puppies from atrocious mills. CAPS has extensively investigated J.A.K.’s and its breeders.
Public Service Announcement
Last year, CAPS launched a 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. The PSA is currently running on national and regional cable and TV stations in various local markets, including stations in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Philadelphia, and Baltimore. NBC Los Angeles featured the PSA on its website for Clear the Shelters Week (August 23 – 30, 2021). Here is the longer version, which appears on our website:
The pet shop ordinance strategy continues to gain steam, keeping mill-bred animals out of consumers hands. Shelter statistics, such as for California shelters, show that adoption rates have increased after the implementation of retail ban laws.
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. Please donate today.