Testimony of: Deborah A. Howard, Founder/President, Companion Animal Protection Society (CAPS)
Submitted to: Assembly Committee on Business and Professions
Regarding: AB 2152, An act to repeal and add Sections 122354.5 and 122357 of the Health and Safety Code, relating to public health.
Date: May 21, 2020
Chairman Low, Vice-Chairwoman Brough, and Honorable members of the Committee, on behalf of CAPS and its supporters in California, I thank you for considering my testimony in support of AB 2152. I am a native Californian who grew up in Los Angeles. My law degree is from Santa Clara Law. CAPS plans to relocate from the Boston area to Southern California later this year.
Founded in 1992, the Companion Animal Protection Society (CAPS) is the only national nonprofit dedicated exclusively to protecting companion animals from cruelty in pet shop and puppy/kitten mills. CAPS addresses animal suffering through investigations, legislation, education, media relations, consumer assistance, and rescue.
Support for AB 2152
CAPS is part of a coalition of animal nonprofits that is involved in drafting AB 2152. As such, we are strongly in favor of the passage of this necessary amendment to The Pet Rescue and Adoption Act (AB 485). The bill is named “Bella’s Act” after Bella, a Corgi puppy from Broadway Puppies in Escondido whose purchasers used the CAPS online complaint form.
It is imperative that we close the loophole in The Pet Rescue and Adoption Act that is allowing pet shops to sell mill-bred puppies from fraudulent rescues – fronts for USDA-licensed dog brokers. The true purpose of the law is to stop the sale of mill-bred animals and to provide space in pet shops for shelters and legitimate rescues to showcase homeless animals for adoption.
With decades of experience focusing exclusively on all aspects of the pet shop and puppy/kitten mill industry, CAPS is uniquely qualified to provide expert testimony and investigative evidence. We have strong relationships with key players in all levels of government, other nonprofits, and the media. CAPS is the only national organization that investigates inside USDA-licensed dog and cat breeding facilities (more than 1,000 to date). We have also been undercover to hundreds of pet shops in numerous states.
History of CAPS’ Accomplishments in California
Since 2008, CAPS has investigated every California pet shop selling puppies and kittens (and some selling rabbits and other animals) and many of the USDA-licensed breeders and brokers that supply these stores. Our investigative evidence, including a documentary and video exposés about two pet shop chains, was critical to the passage of AB 485. We were the first animal group to protest inside a mall, which is allowed under the California Constitution and state case law. One of our protests inside Westside Pavilion in Los Angeles had 130 participants, including 60 inner city high school students.
CAPS was behind ordinances in West Hollywood (the genesis for the retail ban legislation movement in the United States and Canada), Glendale, San Diego, Los Angeles and South Pasadena. We are also behind ordinances in New York, Illinois and Florida and have assisted activists in the U.S. and Canada in getting ordinances introduced and passed.
Investigations of California Pet Shops Selling Mill-Bred Puppies from Fraudulent Rescues
In the first quarter of 2019, there were nineteen California pet shops remaining that sold puppies. CAPS went undercover to see if these shops were complying with The Pet Rescue and Adoption Act. The dogs our investigators saw 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.
Investigators found three pet shops to be blatantly violating the new law by openly selling dogs from local breeders. CAPS turned those stores over to the authorities. The other sixteen pet shops all claimed that their puppies were “rescue animals” from Bark Adoptions in Menifee, CA (a pass through for Rescue Pets Iowa) or Pet Connect Rescue in Joplin, MO. We provided our evidence to attorneys generals in California, Iowa, and Missouri and worked with animal control agencies in every jurisdiction with the 16 pet shops selling fraudulent rescue puppies.
California Pet Shop Investigations, January through March 2019
Iowa Attorney General Decision Impacts California Pet Shops
CAPS is proud to announce that our work with the Iowa Attorney General recently brought about positive results. The fraudulent animal rescues Hobo K-9 Rescue and Rescue Pets Iowa have been forced to dissolve and pay a fine of $60,000. J.A.K.’s Puppies Inc., a large USDA-licensed broker in Britt, Iowa, created these fake rescues in order to circumvent laws that ban the retail sale of dogs, cats, and rabbits.
At first, Iowa-based J.A.K.’s Puppies created Hobo K-9 Rescue to sell “rescue” puppies to pet shops in Chicago and California. CAPS exposed the pet shops and Hobo K-9 Rescue.
Once the Iowa Attorney General started investigating Hobo K9 at our request, J.A.K.’s created a second fake rescue called Rescue Pets Iowa. They colluded with Bark Adoptions, a fraudulent rescued started by a California pet shop owner, and together they sold puppy mill dogs to California pet shops.
David Salinas’ Use of Fraudulent Rescues
California pet shop owner David Salinas, who hired a lobbying firm to fight AB 485, has once again expanded his empire. With the opening of pet shops in Nevada and Utah, he now has 10 locations. And CAPS has investigated all of them. Every Salinas pet shop sold fraudulent rescue puppies from Bark Adoptions or Pet Connect Rescue. State records show that Salinas transported “rescue” puppies from his California stores to his stores in Utah. CAPS provided evidence to the Utah Department of Commerce, which opened an investigation. Salinas recently stopped featuring California “rescue” puppies on the websites for his Utah and Nevada pet shops, which we believe is a result of the lawsuits and investigations initiated by CAPS. We just released a new video exposé about David Salinas and his pet shops selling fake rescue puppies.
National City Ordinance
CAPS worked closely with the city attorney for National City, California on an ordinance that prohibits the sale of pet shop puppies from fraudulent rescues. National City had two pet shops selling puppies from Bark Adoption (via Rescue Pets Iowa) and Pet Connect. The city attorney followed our recommendation to use the effective Massachusetts and Oregon legislative language. The city council passed the ordinance 4-1 in early September 2019.
Lawsuits Against California Pet Shops
CAPS and San Diego animal lawyer Bryan Pease are working together to sue California pet shops for violations of state and federal laws. The defendants include pet shops, the fraudulent rescues supplying the pet shops, and the individuals involved in these entities. Some of the customers who filed a complaint on the CAPS website are plaintiffs to the lawsuits. National City Puppy and Bark Avenue have preliminary injunctions and are closed pending the outcome of their cases. Riverside County has four operating pet shops, while San Diego has two.
I urge the committee to vote to pass AB 2152. This legislation will effectively close the loophole in The Pet Rescue and Adoption Act that is allowing pet shops to sell puppies from fraudulent rescues. On behalf of the animals suffering in the pet shop/puppy mill industry and California consumers, the state must restore the real intent of AB 485: to stop the sale of mill-bred animals and to provide space in pet shops for shelters and legitimate rescues to showcase homeless animals for adoption.
With the exception of Massachusetts, Oregon and New York (to a certain extent), legislation in other states, either pending this year or being reintroduced next year, still has the loophole that allows pet shops to sell fake rescue puppies. California must, once again, lead the way but this time with foolproof language that can be an example for other states. Thank you for your consideration.