National City Passes Pet Shop Ordinance to Close Loophole in California Law

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The National City, California, City Council passed, by 4 – 1, a critical pet shop ordinance night on September 3, 2019. The purpose of the ordinance, which goes into effect 30 days after passage, is to close the loophole in The Pet Rescue and Adoption Act (AB 485). California pet shops are taking advantage of this loophole by selling mill-bred puppies from fraudulent rescues – fronts for USDA-licensed dog brokers. National City has two such shops: National City Puppy and The Puppy Patch.

CAPS President Deborah Howard worked with the city attorney for National City to draft the language, which incorporates the language in Massachusetts Senate Bill 175: pet shops shall have no monetary or ownership interest in the animals and cannot benefit financially from adoption fees. In addition, the ordinance states that pet shops cannot have a financial interest in adoption events held by rescues/shelters at pet shops. CAPS will be encouraging other California municipalities with 13 pet shops currently selling fake rescue puppies — Santa Ana, Westminster, Corona, Temecula (5 pet shops), Escondido (2 pet shops), and Santee – to follow the lead of National City.

On January 1, 2019, the Pet Rescue and Adoption Act, (AB 485) which bans the sale of dogs, cats, and rabbits in pet shops, went into effect in California. The law’s goal is to keep mill animals out of pet shops and to increase the adoption rate of the animals who really need homes: those in shelters and with rescue organizations. California pet shops can now only offer these animals if they come from animal shelters or 501(c)(3) rescues. In 2017, CAPS provided lawmakers with extensive evidence and testimony critical to the law’s passage. 

Prior to the new law, there were thirty-two pet shops in California. CAPS investigators went to all of them and traced their animals back to puppy and kitten mills. As of January 1, 2019, there were nineteen California pet shops remaining. CAPS went undercover to see if these shops were complying with the new law. 

The dogs were all purebred or designer hybrid puppies, eight to sixteen weeks old, selling for between one thousand and six thousand dollars. The puppies were also being sold with health warranties and high financing options. 

At three of California’s remaining pet shops, our investigators found them to be blatantly violating the new law, openly selling dogs from local breeders. We turned those stores over to the authorities. The other sixteen pet shops all claimed that their puppies were “rescue animals” from Bark Adoptions and/or Pet Connect. 

Bark Adoptions is based in Menifee, California, but it gets its dogs from Rescue Pets Iowa in Ottumwa, Iowa. CAPS uncovered that the person behind Rescue Pets Iowa is Jolyn Noethe, the owner of J.A.K.’s Puppies, a largescale Iowa broker. In November 2016, Noethe obtained a 501(c)(3) for Hobo K-9 Rescue. She began selling “rescued” puppy mill puppies to pet shops, including three in California, in anticipation of the new law, and two in Chicago to circumvent their ordinance (we have the Illinois Attorney General investigating). The attention we shined on Hobo K-9, including persuading the Iowa Attorney General to open an investigation and having The Dodo write an article featuring our exposé and evidence, caused Noethe to try a new approach: partnering with another fake rescue, Bark Adoptions, to act as a pass-through for puppy mills. Bark Adoptions did not have a 501(c)(3) until February 28, 2019. Animal control agencies could cite pet shops for every puppy who came from this fraudulent rescue before the IRS determination date.

Pet Connect, a fraudulent rescue in Joplin, Missouri, is run by Ray and Alysia Rothman. The Rothmans also owned Puppy Kisses, a pet shop in Danbury, Connecticut (investigated by CAPS and recently closed due to eviction for unpaid rent) that gets puppies from the Hunte Corporation. Hunte is one of the largest puppy mill brokers in the country and where Ray Rothman also conveniently works as a sales manager. We suspect that Pet Connect’s “rescue dogs” are actually mill animals coming from the Hunte Corporation.

Both of these fraudulent rescues have been passing off mill-bred puppies to unsuspecting California consumers. And the pet shops that have been partnering with these “rescues” have been fully complicit in this deception.

A CAPS Investigation: California Pet Shops Selling Fake Rescue Dogs

CAPS worked with animal control agencies around the state to crack down on violators. Animal Friends of the Valleys, which has jurisdiction over the five supposed retail adoption centers in Temecula, CA, issued sixty citations at $500 each. Animal control officers, however, can only issue citations or warnings to pet shops that are using rescues without 501(c)(3) status, or that are missing cage cards with the names and locations of their rescues. Therefore, CAPS has been turning over evidence to attorneys general in California, Iowa, and Missouri.

CAPS President Deborah Howard was in California in February 2019  working on our California pet shop video exposé and doing interviews for stories with ABC San Diego, CBS Los Angeles, and NBC San Luis Obispo/Santa Barbara – all of which aired between March and May. Since we released the California video on March 18, 2019, it has been viewed more than 37,000 times and shared more than 1,000 times on Facebook. Instagram views total more than 2,600.

We sent our critical evidence to Assemblymember Patrick O’Donnell, the sponsor of The Pet Rescue and Adoption Act, requesting that he amend the law to close the loophole that is allowing this consumer fraud and deception at pet shops. He did not get back to CAPS, despite two messages left with his scheduler, and missed the deadline to amend the law.

How you can help:

If someone you know purchased a fraudulent rescue puppy from a California pet shops after January 1, 2019, please ask them to fill out the CAPS complaint form:

Read the National City ordinance HERE. If you live in a California town or city with a pet shop selling fraudulent rescue puppies, please meet with your city council members and encourage them to pass this ordinance. Chicago has three pet shops circumventing that city’s ordinance by selling mill-bred puppies as rescues. CAPS investigated these pet shops, too. J.A.K’s Puppies is behind one of the rescues supplying puppies to these pet shops. CAPS has turned over our evidence to the Illinois Attorney General. We encourage Chicago residents to meet with their aldermen about adopting the National City ordinance. 

California residents should also meet with their state legislators to request that they propose an amendment to The Pet Rescue and Adoption Act. You can find your local legislator here:

We encourage you to donate to CAPS so we can continue our investigations of pet shops selling fraudulent rescue puppies. CA Puppy just opened in Westminster, California. The owner is also selling fake rescue puppies from PuppySpace in Santa Ana. In addition, David Salinas, whom you may recall lost his lawsuit against CAPS over the San Diego pet shop ordinance, is transporting “rescue” puppies from his four California pet shops to his Nevada and Utah stores, thus spreading the consumer fraud being perpetrated in California to other states.

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