CAPS Investigator’s Journal: The Truth Behind Connecticut Pet Shops
As we wait for Connecticut legislators to introduce another bill that would ban the retail sale of dogs, cats, and rabbits – hopefully with the language we have recommended so that the pet shops cannot source from fraudulent rescues – I want to share with you the compelling findings from my recent investigation of all the pet shops in the state.
Last year, I went undercover to all 12 pet shops (currently 11) in the state and some of the mills selling to them. My investigations revealed numerous incidences of consumer fraud and disturbing evidence about the true source of the animals.
I’m Pete, CAPS’ lead investigator. I have gone undercover to over a thousand puppy and kitten mills—most of them USDA-licensed—and countless pet shops in several states over the course of my 16 years with CAPS. You might recall my six-month stint working undercover at Missouri-based The Hunte Corp., then the largest dog broker in the country, or more recently, my investigation of 60 New York pet stores in 2018. My employment-based investigation of Kathy Bauck’s huge facility in Minnesota resulted in her conviction for animal cruelty and the permanent loss of her USDA license.
Speaking of The Hunte Corp., it should be noted that, while Connecticut now has 11 pet shops that are open, I investigated 12 Connecticut pet shops, which included Puppy Kisses in Danbury. The owners of Puppy Kisses were Ray and Alysia Rothman. The Rothmans are behind Pet Connect Rescue, the fraudulent rescue in Joplin, MO that is selling to California pet shops to help them circumvent The Pet Rescue and Adoption Act. Ray Rothman is a sales manager for The Hunte Corp. The Rothmans closed Puppy Kisses last summer when they were unable to pay rent or employees.
I wish I could say the same for the other stores and breeding facilities I visited. In addition to the pet shops, I also visited a number of puppy mills in the Midwest and Tennessee that supply animals to the Connecticut stores.
The dogs in these facilities live in appalling conditions, housed in cramped, filthy wire cages. Many of them pace back and forth or turn in circles, both signs of neurotic behavioral patterns that breeding dogs develop from living in puppy mills. Dogs and cats in mills receive minimal, usually inadequate, veterinary care. Having investigated nearly 1,000 puppy and kitten mills, I have seen myriad animals with rotted teeth, eye and ear infections and open sores.
In Connecticut, I questioned pet shop employees to see what they would say about the source of the puppies. The information they told us is nothing short of lies and consumer fraud.
When I asked if the breeders keep the dogs in cages, one employee at Puppy Love in Danbury said no and showed me photos from her smartphone of large exercise yards and great outdoor spaces. When I asked if that’s how all of the store’s breeders keep their dogs, the employee said, “Yeah.”
The reality: I visited Puppy Love’s USDA-licensed breeders Angela Shubert in Tennessee, Ladonna Dailey in Missouri, and Fannie J. Schwartz in Missouri. Instead of exercise yards, there were rows and rows of constricted wired cages housing hundreds of dogs.
The same employee told me that animal activists are using photos and footage from the meat market in North Korea and that “reputable breeders are not breeding in that type of environment anymore.” NOT true. Angela Shubert told me she has six hundred heads of dog. “My rule of thumb is I want six puppies out of you or you’re not worth your feed bill,” she callously stated.
At Puppies of Westport in Norwalk, CT, an employee told me their breeders only had a few dogs. Betty Lawson (formerly Mings) in Missouri is one of the USDA-licensed breeders that sells to this store. She had around 96 adults dogs and 30 puppies during my investigation of her facility.
That same pet shop employee told me that Lawson had “no more than three” breeds of dogs. My investigation of her mill revealed 10 breeds of dogs.
At Safari Stan’s Pet Center in New Haven, CT, an employee assured me that if I get a puppy from this store, I pretty much guaranteed that the puppies are not kept in cages. The truth: Safari Stan’s buys puppies from Abe Miller, a notorious puppy mill broker in Ohio who has failed multiple inspections, been sued for consumer fraud, and been fined for animal cruelty.
A disturbing commonality among the Connecticut pet shop employees I interviewed is their tendency to lie not only about the puppies they sell but also about the USDA and what it does and does not approve of.
For example, multiple pet shop employees told us they get puppies from the “top three breeders” on the USDA list or the “platinum” or “platinum plus” breeders. NO such lists or rankings exist at the USDA.
One employee told me the USDA mandates that dogs be exercised by their breeders which is not a requirement. Another stated that the USDA has a “three strike policy.” The employee added that violations under this policy include having open bags of dog food or any other trivial offence. Again, NOT true. The USDA does NOT have such a policy. In fact, USDA revokes and terminates licenses infrequently.
The truth is that USDA-licensed breeding facilities are puppy mills. And here’s another harsh reality: EVERY pet shop in Connecticut obtains puppies from puppy mills. These dogs that are in puppy mills live in confinement, suffer from a lack of socialization and exercise, and receive minimal veterinary care.
So why is this investigation important? Because with a retail ban law, Connecticut pet shops would be not be able to sell dogs, cats, and rabbits. Instead, they could help save lives by providing space for shelters and rescue organizations to showcase homeless animals for adoption. More than 1.5 shelter animals are euthanized at U.S. shelters yearly.
Watch Undercover with CAPS: An Investigation of Connecticut Pet Shops. The video exposes consumer fraud in Connecticut pet shops and the true source of their puppies.
How You Can Help
Please help CAPS continue to make a difference in the lives of animals suffering in the pet shop and puppy/kitten mill industry by making a generous donation today. Your support helps fund critical work: pet shop and puppy/kitten mill investigations, video exposés and documentaries, legislative initiatives, and protests and other outreach.
Connecticut residents: Please contact your legislators to introduce or co-sponsor legislation that bans the retail sale of dogs, cats, and rabbits. Because the 2020 legislative session is a short one, the bill will have to be introduced in 2021. Find your legislators here: https://openstates.org/find_your_legislator/
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