I’m Pete, one of CAPS’ undercover puppy mill investigators and author of Rescue Dogs. For 17 years I’ve investigated puppy mills and pet shops across the country for CAPS. I’ve worked undercover at a Petland, at the puppy broker Choice Puppies when it was under the name “Hunte,” and at the notorious massive puppy mill run by Kathy Bauck. CAPS used the evidence of the Bauck case to shut her operation down, but shutting down the thousands of other puppy mills in the United States is a complicated effort. It relies largely on the fight against pet shops that sell puppies.
A critical part of this fight is in New Jersey, which has 19 stores that sell puppies. A Petland store under the name of Safari Stan is supposed to open soon in Old Bridge. In August of 2019, I investigated 16 stores. Speaking to owners and employees at these stores while covertly recording their statements, I was routinely lied to about the sources of the puppies. Some store employees admitted to me they didn’t know anything about the puppies’ breeders, but employees generally bragged about how their breeders are USDA-licensed and claimed the USDA doesn’t license puppy mills. Other employees lied in a manner that was outrageous not only because of what they claimed, but because of how easy it is to disprove their claims.
At Wayne Puppies in Wayne and Shake A Paw in Greenbrook, employees stated that USDA regulations don’t allow dogs to be in cages. Simply looking up USDA’s regulations proves this claim to be false. The owner of Furrylicious in Whitehouse Station claimed that USDA brokers are “groups of breeders” instead of individual licensees who buy and resell puppies. The owners of Furrylicious and Mama’s and Papa’s Pet Shop in Englewood told me that animal rights activist claims about commercial breeders are false. Obviously, CAPS’ video and audio evidence of actual USDA-licensed facilities is very much real. At Oh My Dog in Kearny, an employee wrongly stated that it’s illegal to for stores to buy from puppy mills. An employee at PV Pets in Pennsville said that the USDA requires breeders to skip breeding cycles. No such USDA requirement exists. The owner of Puppy Palace in Trenton told me that if puppies are kept in “small crowded conditions” they can’t be licensed. I’ve seen dogs spinning and pacing in small wire cages at hundreds of USDA-licensed puppy mills.
Other lies from pet stores can more easily deceive the general public who may not know how to look up information about puppy mills. For example, the Furrylicious owner claimed their breeders don’t use cages and that the store owner visits all of their breeders. However, my investigation of Starmye Halpain in Hulbert, Oklahoma showed dozens of dogs and puppies in wire cages. Marie Doherty in Fulton, Kansas, told me that pet stores never visit her facility. Shake A Paw in Union claimed their breeders give dogs lots of exercise, yet my investigation of Kathy Slobe in Verona, Missouri, revealed dozens of dogs pacing back and forth in cages so small the dogs could only go a few steps before having to turn around.
At several stores, information about the source of puppies was inconsistent with what employees claimed. In addition, USDA inspection reports from the last two years for the store’s breeders were not available as required by the New Jersey Pet Purchase Protection Act. At Furrylicious, the owner refused to show me inspection reports., stating that I could not see the inspection reports for a puppy until I purchase that puppy. She showed me what she said is all of the information provided to a customer at the time a puppy is purchased; no USDA inspection reports were in the packet of info.
D & G Petite Pups in Paterson didn’t have the last two years of inspection reports for their breeders in the store. NJ Puppy Store in Fairlawn couldn’t find USDA reports for one of their breeders upon request. PV Pets told me they use Premier Pups as a broker when I asked about how puppies are delivered to the store, but the broker wasn’t listed on puppies’ cage cards. At Whiteway Pet Shop in Elizabeth, where an employee told me that he’s sold 2,000 puppies in 14 years, I requested paperwork for a Beagle puppy. He gave me registration papers for a breeder named Andy Yoder with no address or USDA license number and a single USDA inspection report from 2018 for Betty E. Yoder.
Several stores showed me footage of dogs and puppies playing on grassy yards in a video put together by the NJ Pet Coalition of Responsible Pet Stores. While common sense may dictate that dozens of dogs running in a yard every day would wear down the lush grass to flat dirt in a short time, most people don’t realize how many dogs most breeders have or even that it’s simply a lie that puppy mills let their dogs out to play daily in yards.
At Breeders Club of America in Middletown, an employee told me that their breeders give dogs “big huge open spaces” and that dogs have access to the ground. The store buys puppies from AJ’s Angels in Cushing, Minnesota, as well as from Petite S Zook in Seymour, Missouri. AJ’s Angels is a puppy mill with about 400 dogs in elevated wire cages and no play yard anywhere in sight. I observed dogs spinning in circles incessantly in their cages on the property for minutes at a time. This kind of behavior indicates frustration and anxiety from confinement, stimulation-deprivation, and a lack of exercise. At Zook’s puppy mill, I saw about 40 dogs in concrete runs with no access to “big huge open spaces” anywhere on the property.
Similarly, Fashionable Pets’ owner claimed their breeders don’t keep dogs in cages and that breeders “focus on specific breeds instead of having lots of breeds.” Fashionable Pets also uses AJ’s Angels, as well as Jerry L Miller in Fredericksburg, Ohio and Kathy Slobe in Verona, Missouri where I saw dogs pacing in wire cages with no exercise yards or access to the ground. PV Pets’ employee also claimed their breeders don’t keep dogs in cages and have “play time” for their dogs. PV Pets also uses AJ’s Angels as a breeder.
Pet shops lie about their breeders. But that’s part of the problem. When we consider that more than 1.5 million companion animals are euthanized in shelters every year, the issue changes from just going after stores for consumer fraud to banning puppy and kitten sales and promoting adoption. This is where you hold all of the power. Let your voice be heard. You are the voice of the animals that need your help.
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.
New Jersey residents: Please contact your legislators to co-sponsor Senate Bill 874, sponsored by Senator Brian Stack, which bans the retail sale of dogs, cats, and rabbits. Find your legislators here: https://openstates.org/find_your_legislator/
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