Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Companion Animal Protection Society Asks Laguna Beach to Ban Sales of Pet Factory Animals

May 1, 2012 UPDATE: Laguna Beach Passes Ordinance

 Laguna Beach City Council Members, The Companion Animal Protection Society (www.caps-web.org) is a national, non-profit organization that exclusively investigates pet factories, puppy mills and pet stores. We have a national record of success exposing commercial breeding operations that violate federal and state laws. Our investigations and direct action campaigns have led to the ordinances that ban the sale of puppy mill dogs and cats you see being passed throughout California. We assisted the cities of West Hollywood and Glendale in the drafting of their ordinances. The Los Angeles ordinance, which is in the works, is based on the evidence from our investigations and our recommendations.

 We were appalled to read the letter sent to you by Peter Weinstein, senior director of the SCVMA, who purports to understand anti-puppy mill legislation. We believe his letter breaks his oath to “do no harm.” It is full of false information and we sincerely hope that is unintentional. It is obvious that he knows nothing about the puppy mill business and its sinister relationship with pet retailers. He has evidently never been to a puppy mill and we have been inside thousands of them. We do not believe he speaks for most veterinarians. All the veterinarians we know would like to see an end to puppy mill cruelty and a ban on the sale of puppy mill pets. Furthermore, and even more shocking to us in the animal protection movement, is that Mr. Weinstein seems to be cravenly protecting his business of selling medical care to the owners of sick puppy mill dogs, and protecting the deceitful business relationships between some veterinarians who enable unscrupulous dog dealers.

CAPS’ investigative evidence is included in several lawsuits being filed on behalf of consumers who have bought sick puppy mill dogs in California pet stores. Some veterinarians who work with these pet stores are in fact co-conspirators in the fraudulent business practice of selling puppy mill animals. They actually profit from treating the illnesses and congenital defects that are diagnosed in puppy mill dogs. CAPS does not profit from investigating and exposing these facts.

 We applaud you for considering a ban on the sale of puppy mill animals in your city. We have irrefutable evidence that inhumane breeding factories have been supplying California’s pet stores. Ordinances banning the sale of puppy mill dogs and cats is the way to end puppy mill cruelty. Anti-puppy mill ordinances in the form of a sales ban, successfully relieve the local municipal shelter system by encouraging pet retailers to “go humane” (by holding adoptions of your local homeless animals instead of selling puppy mill pets). This is a win/win for the city, for the tax payers, and for animals. This type of measure is not unduly punitive to pet stores either. We have a lot of experience converting pet stores to our humane business model and they do very well.

 This is not only an animal protection issue, it is also a consumer protection issue. With such an ordinance, you will be taking a bold step to mitigate the suffering of animals in other states as well as protecting local consumers from being defrauded. Having investigated over 2000 commercial breeding operations, we can tell you that without a doubt, that even when commercial breeding operations adhere to USDA minimum standards of care, animals are being abused and neglected. We’d be happy to show you evidence of that.

 Carole Davis, West Coast Director, The Companion Animal Protection Society

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Chris Brown Illegally Selling Pit Bulls?

Watch Carole Raphaelle Davis, West Coast Director of The Companion Animal Protection Society on CNN with Jane Velez-Mitchell talking about Chris Brown and his selling of pit bulls on-line.

Carole Raphaelle Davis of CAPS Decries Pit Bull Breeding by Pop Star Chris Brown

Is Chris Brown breaking the law once again? The Companion Animal Protection Society would like to know. Is he breeding dogs without a breeder's license? Why are his personal dogs, who live at his mother's house in Virginia, not sterilized as they should be? Is Chris Brown's mother a backyard breeder? Are they subject to a breeder's inspection program? If so, where is their license and where is a copy of their last inspection report?

Chris Brown's publicist claims "this is not a business venture." If it is not a business, then why is his mother selling the eight puppies for $1000 each? Does Brown's mother really need another $8000? Are they not paying taxes on this money? The IRS and the Board of Equalization will want to know.

There are strict laws about dog breeding in the state of Virginia (see here ) that Mr. Brown might want to look at before the authorities come looking for him.

Chris Brown has once again shown us how thoughtless his actions are. Our nation's shelter system is experiencing a deadly pet overpopulation crisis and it is unconscionable to breed, sell or buy dogs while over five million companion animals are killed at the pound every year.

And Pit bulls are plentiful in the shelters. Once they enter the shelter system, they only have hours to live unless someone steps up to adopt them. I did an Internet search today and found over nineteen thousand pits in danger of being killed for lack of adopters.

Grow up, Chris Brown and act like a responsible human being. We do not need more pit bulls right now. There is a glut of them being killed as I write this. Sterilize your dogs like you are supposed to and stop making money off your dogs' backs. Stick to making money from your music and stop exploiting animals.

For those of you who might be tempted to buy Brown's dogs, take that $1000 and give it to a family in need. Then go to your local shelter and save a dog's life. You'll feel good about yourself.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Corona del Mar Pet Store Closes Under Pressure From Animal Rights Activists

CdM I Heart Puppies Store To Close

by Amy Senk, reposted from Corona del Mar Today
Read online here: 
posted: February 24th, 2012 12:33 pm |11Comments
UPDATED with comment from store owner and from an animal rights activist who had investigated the store.
Eight months after its opening drew thousands of protesters to Corona del Mar, I Heart Puppies is closing its retail shop at 2801 East Coast Highway, according to a sign in the shop’s window.
“I Heart Puppies would like to thank the community of CdM for their kindness, generosity, and support. Sadly, we are closing our store front,” the sign states. “I Heart Puppies will continue to provide the same quality puppies for sale on our website, where we will be able to offer a larger variety of breeds. We take pride in offering puppies from our reputable breeders; we personally visit our breeders and their kennels and continue to monitor them to maintain the highest level off quality. We look forward to providing you with professional, quality one one one service in selecting your future puppy.”
The store opened on July 1 at 2801 East Coast Highway, selling $1,500 puppies, food and accessories; read our story here. But the shop soon drew scrutiny from animal rights activists, who said the owners bought their dogs from inhumane Midwestern puppy mills, and protesters began picketing the shop in August; read our story here. Protesters also attended several City Council meetings, asking that Newport Beach consider a ban on puppy sales, but Council did not respond to those requests.
The store’s owners, Brooke Bradford, Suzanne Bradford and Summer Gorjian, defended their puppies and said they visited the kennels and breeders personally and did not buy from puppy mills — although animal rights activists challenge their claim.
In an email today, Carole Raphaelle Davis, West Coast director of the Companion Animal Protection Society, said the store’s closure was not the “victory we hoped for.”
“We wanted IHP to thrive as a ‘rescue only’ store like so many other pet shops we have converted to the humane business model,” she said. “We investigated and exposed evidence of the horrific puppy mills they were buying from and then we staged the largest animal rights protests in NB history. No store selling factory-bred pets has ever been able to withstand our formula of investigations and protracted protests by local activists…They could have made money AND saved lives of OC homeless pets desperately in need of homes.”
She added that many protesters continue to hope that the Newport Beach City Council would ban the sale of puppy mill animals.
“The public loves dogs and hates puppy mills and it is time for an ordinance in Newport Beach,” she said.
Protests and pressure from animal rights groups were not the reason for closing the shop, but rather high overhead and economic factors, owner Suzanne Bradford said today in an email.
“We are closing our store front and just doing Internet sales, with our same quality puppies,” she said. “We are planning a breeder tour to visit our breeders and look for some larger breed breeders. We are revamping our website (iheartpuppiesca.com) will have videos of available puppies, parents, the breeder and their kennels.”
All puppies have been sold, she added.
A sign in the shop’s window says the final days will be Saturday and Sunday, when all merchandise will be 75 percent off. The shop was closed earlier today, and no puppies were in the cages in the window. The shop also has a Craigslist listing that says beds, toys, harnesses shampoo and other items will be discounted because the shop is closing.

11 Responses to “CdM I Heart Puppies Store To Close”

February 24th, 2012
easy come easy go I guess well thanks for bringing in the very first protest I've ever seen in 30 years good luck to you all (both sides of the coin)
February 24th, 2012
I am happy to see the drama will end this weekend. I hope the leasing agent will not make another unscrupulous choice in selecting a new tenant. I think consideration of a LIQUOR STORE there at the crosswalk to the ELEMENTARY SCHOOL will not be on the table this time, but one cannot be certain.
carole s
February 24th, 2012
This is the best news I got in a long time!! One less puppy mill front to support cruelty. Great job everyone, educating and informing people about the evil pet trade business. Support your local shelter and adopt/rescue, SAVE A LIFE!!
Dina K
February 24th, 2012
Too bad IHP is going to "continue to provide the same quality puppies for sale on our website." Puppy mill puppies aren't the quality most consumers would want. "Kennel" is just another fancy term for puppy mill and IHPs is counting that trusting consumers won't. Informed, progressive people know to adopt from a shelter or rescue, NOT purchase an animal from a "reputable breeder." If dogs are bred while others die in shelters, what's reputable about that? Seems more despicable to me. Shame on you - Brooke Bradford, Suzanne Bradford, and Summer Gorjian for your greed at the expense of animals and ignorant consumers.
Barbara Davilman
February 24th, 2012
If anyone ever needed any more proof that these women are just in this for the money then the decision for them to close their store and 'start selling dogs over the internet' is the proof anyone needs that they're greedy, inhumane assholes. Online dogs can go right to dog fighting rings or used as bait. No reputable breeder sells online without interviewing the home and doing a homecheck to make sure their puppy is going into a 'good, safe, loving' home. I'm so disgusted by these women...here's hoping karma's a bitch.
February 24th, 2012
Bittersweet. I agree wholeheartedly with Ms. Davis' comments within this article. These women had an opportunity to convert this business to something that truly put animals first. Instead, they proved what so many of us saw from the start: a revenue-generating venture to be established through the forced procreation and sale of puppies slapped with thousand-dollar price tags. Now they'll continue their disgusting activity amidst the shadows of the Internet...unconcerned from where puppies come, with the places they end up, or the thousands upon thousands that die simply for having no home. The world would be a better place with fewer callous, soulless people as these three. Congratulations to CDM and all those who opposed IHP. Where there are animals, there will always be compassionate, caring humans fighting as their voice of reason and understanding.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Westminster Dog Show is a Sham

While Winners Celebrate, Dogs Are Dying by the Millions

By Carole Raphaelle Davis

Not everyone jumped for joy on Valentine’s Day when Malachy, the Pekingese, was named Best in Show at the Westminster Dog Show. Real dog lovers raged. Why? Because a Peke won a beauty contest and consequently tens of thousands of Pekes will suffer a horrible fate. Because it means rough years ahead for Pekinese breeding dogs who are abused in puppy mills and backyard breeding operations. Because thousands of Pekinese will be dumped at the pound when the novelty wears off. The Westminster Dog Show and its parent, the American Kennel Club, the most established of the breed registries, has blood on its hands.

I wasn’t always this angry about dog shows. As a teenager I was a total dog geek. I would run every year to Madison Square Garden, the dog lover’s Mecca, to buy the three-day, all-access pass to The Westminster Dog Show. Since then, during twenty plus years in the animal protection movement, I have learned the truth. The Westminster Dog Show is a sham. Behind the flashing lights and the trophies are the American Kennel Club’s dirty little secrets:

1. Annually, the AKC, a “non-profit” animal enterprise, profits over 40 million tax-exempt dollars promoting the business of dealing dogs; many of them inbred with genetic malformations that are painful for the dogs and expensive for the owners. See the BBC’s special, Pedigree Dogs Exposed: 

2. They routinely register puppies from inhumane dog factories (puppy mills).

3. AKC reps are a constant presence at dog auctions, making deals not to promote the wellbeing of dogs, but to ensure registration fees from unscrupulous breeders. At these auctions, commercial breeders buy and sell breeding dogs,  their “product,” for as low as a dollar. The “product,” which should be a family pet in a loving home is instead sold to live out her sad life reproducing in a cage.

4. The AKC denies and covers up its responsibility for contributing to the millions of  dogs housed in our nation’s shelter system at our expense until they are tragically killed.

5. The AKC spends millions of dollars fighting animal protection legislation in every state in order to continue to profit from the dog dealing business.

And here are the dots it took me twenty years to connect: The Best-In-Show trophy awarded every year at the Westminster Dog Show fuels intense desire for purebred dogs. It promulgates the purebred fetish—the elitist idea that some dogs are better than others because of absurd criteria like the length of their hocks, the shortness of their snout, the texture of their fur or the protrusion of their eyeballs.  Many of the genetic traits that garner prizes at dog shows are congenital malformations that cause suffering to dogs and can eventually kill them. And by the way, none of those standards are the qualities that make us love our dogs and that make our dogs love us.

This year, because of the Westminster Dog Show, millions of people will covet the latest fashion accessory, a Pekinese dog, and commercial breeders will happily cash in on the bonanza. Pet stores will order them by the truck-load from brokers, who will buy them in bulk from commercial breeders. The word on the puppy pipe line will be: “Churn out those Pekinese puppies, they’re selling like hotcakes!”

You can order your Peke on-line at nextdaypets.com. All you need is a credit card and your Peke will come in the mail in twenty-four hours, just like a pair of shoes—if he survives the trip; many don’t. And when Peke fashion passes its peak, you can unload your used Peke at any shelter, where unless a socially conscious person shows up to adopts him, he will be killed.

While dogs are bought on a whim by selfish people who want what they want when they want it, over five million companion animals are killed in our nation’s shelter system for lack of adopters. It’s a national scandal that we are paying over $2.5 billion a year to house and kill these innocent animals. Twenty-five percent of those dogs are purebred dogs.

The Westminster Dog Show is a televised convention to promote the multi-billion dollar business of dealing purebred dogs. Behind the scenes is a sinister web of handshakes and deal-making with the long term plan of fighting any legislative measures the animal protection movement attempts to pass. Any talk of regulation that hinders the bottom line of commercial breeders in order to alleviate the suffering of breeding dogs is met with fierce opposition and deep pockets.

The commercial breeders and the clubs that enable them, like the AKC,  are stubborn in their insistence that animal rights activists back off . The breeders stick together, lobby Washington and take out ads in national newspapers to portray the animal protection activists as “fringe,” “extremist,”  “anti-business” and “fanatics.”

The animal protection movement is not going to back off. We will continue to expose the truth about the dog dealing industry and the shows that promote them. The Westminster Dog Show and the American Kennel Club need to come clean about their shameless disregard for the welfare of dogs. Instead, they congratulate themselves with trophies while we go broke cleaning up their mess, rescuing broken dogs, nursing them back to health, soothing their fear and finding them loving homes.

While the Westminster Dog Show winners celebrate, we cry over our dead—the millions and millions of dead dogs, our supposed best friends.

Carole Raphaelle Davis is the author of "The Diary of Jinky, Dog of a Hollywood Wife" and the West Coast Director of The Companion Animal Protection Society

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Glendale, California Passes Ban on Dog and Cat Sales

8/16/11 10:22 PM
For Immediate Release

WHO:  CAPS, The Companion Animal Protection Society (www.CAPS-web.org)
West Coast Director, Carole Davis 310-990-5758

WHAT: Glendale, California City Council passes ban on sale of dogs and cats in pet stores.

The City Council of Glendale, California, has unanimously passed a ban on the sale of cats and dogs in pet stores. In June, 2011, CAPS filed an investigation report with Glendale’s City Attorney Scott Howard.  The report included evidence of violations that were occurring in Glendale’s Pets R Us, which  obtains its puppies from The Hunte Corporation in Goodman, MO..  CAPS conducted an undercover investigation at Hunte, the largest dog brokering facility in the country. CAPS investigated over 50 puppy mills, mostly USDA licensed, that were selling puppies to Hunte.  Approximately 50 percent of these mills had serious enough violations to warrant an investigation report to the USDA.  The CAPS investigation of The Hunte Corporation revealed  inhumane and substandard breeding facilities with multiple and repeat violations of the Animal Welfare Act.  The dogs (and in some instances, cats) are not given even the USDA minimum standards of care. Some of the Hunte breeders have had their licenses cancelled.  In the CAPS undercover footage provided to the city of Glendale, a Hunte commercial breeder was videotaped talking about shooting his dogs when they are no longer of use to him.  

“The information provided to our office by CAPS representatives was fact based  and assisted us with the preparation of a report and ordinance. Their efforts to address the problems associated with substandard breeding facilities is to be applauded and their assistance to our office is  greatly appreciated.” --Scott H. Howard, City Attorney

“We congratulate the Glendale City Council and especially City Attorney Scott Howard, for their progressive leadership,” said CAPS West Coast Director, Carole Davis. “This ordinance will break the puppy mill cycle by cancelling long-standing contracts with brokers and commercial breeders that are routinely violating the Animal Welfare Act. Consequently, local companion animals in the shelter system will benefit. People don’t want a pet born in an inhumane breeding factory and this ordinance saves lives and protects consumers on a local level.”
Media Contact: Carole Davis, West Coast Director, CAPS tel: 310-990-5758

Founded by President Deborah Howard in 1992, the Companion Animal Protection Society (CAPS) is the only national nonprofit organization dedicated exclusively to protecting companion animals from cruelty in pet shops, puppy mills and pet factories.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

OC Activists Inform Neighbors of I Heart Puppies of Impending Protests

         Why we are Boycotting I Heart Puppies
CAPS undercover investigation of  a USDA licensed “I Heart Puppies” supplier.  This Cocker Spaniel mother is confined 24/7 and has no bedding or shelter from the elements.

This message is for neighbors of ‘I Heart Puppies’ and for businesses in the vicinity of the pet store.

We are a group of concerned citizens in CDM, NB and Orange County who will be engaged in a sustained campaign to protest I Heart Puppies and to educate consumers and neighbors about the cruelty of the pet industry. We wish to bring public awareness to the issue of pet factories, puppy mills and to the pet overpopulation crisis that is affecting our overburdened shelters.

I Heart Puppies has been investigated by The Companion Animal Protection Society, a national, non-profit organization that investigates animal cruelty in the pet industry. For more information about this organization and its findings, please visit their website at www.caps-web.org.

Investigations into the puppy mills that supply I Heart Puppies have revealed that the store is in business with inhumane, substandard breeding operations in the Midwest where dogs are confined for life in wire cages in freezing temperatures with no bedding, no shelter from cold, extreme heat, rain, wind or snow. These dogs are injured, sick and distressed. The USDA is also investigating. Though their suppliers are USDA licensed, it has been found that I Heart Puppies has been doing business with a breeder who tied up a Golden Retriever and shot her in the head. Several breeding operations they are still in business with are egregious violators of the Animal Welfare Act—Federal law. 

Brooke Bradford, the owner of I Heart Puppies, has issued a statement that is misleading. She continues to do business with puppy mills and we have evidence of that. She does not “hand-pick” her breeders as she claims. She buys from a broker who is also being investigated.  We do not want to put her out of business. We would like her to convert to a humane business model and become successful like so many other pet supply/rescue only stores throughout California.

California kills ½ million companion animals in the shelter system every year. We feel that selling dogs from puppy mills is highly unethical given that there are so many OC dogs and cats who are literally dying for homes. Please understand that because these desperate animals cannot speak for themselves, we will be speaking for them. They deserve to be heard.

Activists who care deeply about these facts will be demonstrating in your neighborhood. We want you to know that this will not bring unwanted attention to you or your business. In fact, we will be promoting your businesses and shopping on this  block. Please understand that as soon as I Heart Puppies agrees to convert to a humane business model, the campaign will cease. Until then, we plan to demonstrate exposing the truth about this store.  Some of our campaigns have lasted 3 weeks with a successful humane store conversion. Other campaigns have lasted 6 months. We have a 100% success rate. 

We hear their cries, we are their voice.

Friday, February 4, 2011

State Department Tells Americans to Evacuate Egypt...Without Their Pets

State Department Refuses to Allow Pets in Emergency Evacuation in Cairo

Crowd awaiting evacuation at Cairo's International Airport. No pets allowed on U.S. chartered evac flights.

Los Angeles--Carole Raphaelle Davis
The Sate Department has confirmed on its toll-free emergency consular services number that U.S. citizens being evacuated on U.S. chartered emergency flights out of Egypt will not be allowed to bring pets. Pets will not be permitted on evacuation flights.
The Companion Animal Protection Society is looking into a possible violation of the Pets Evacuation and Transportation Standards Act of 2006 which includes household pets in any U.S. evacuation during a disaster. The law mandates that evacuation plans must take into account the needs of individuals with household pets and service animals prior to, during, and following a major disaster or emergency.
The statute was passed after thousands of pet guardians refused to evacuate without their animals in New Orleans during the Hurricane Katrina disaster. The "no pet" policy was decried by the entire animal welfare community, which rushed to deliver aid to abandoned animals during the emergency.
Today, there are no U.S. chartered flights leaving Cairo and U.S. citizens are on standby for flights which might depart on Saturday. According to the State Department, there are seats available today on commercial flights leaving Cairo for the United States. Current customs regulations, however, require that animals flying in cargo or in cabin must have a valid international health certificate completed within ten days of arrival in the U.S..
According to Joyce Tischler, Animal Legal Defense Fund founder and general council, “The tragedy of Americans in the midst of disaster being forced to choose between leaving their beloved animals and remaining in harm’s way spurred significant legislation in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, designed to ensure that families can evacuate without leaving behind their four-legged members. Americans consider their pets members of their family; they should not have to choose between fleeing the current violence in Egypt and abandoning their animals .”
There are no current provisions for animals belonging to U.S citizens in Egypt at the time of this reporting.
For further information you may e-mail the State Department Egypt Emergency contact at: EgyptEmergencyUSC@state.gov or telephone at 1-888-407-4747 (toll-free in the United States and Canada) or 1-202-501-4444 (outside the United States and Canada).

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Pet City Besieged by Animal rights Group for Selling Puppy Mill Dogs

Open letter to Pet City from a concerned dog lover:

I am the West Coast Director of the Companion Animal Protection Society. We are a national, non-profit organization that specializes in pet factory investigations. A colleague of ours, Lisa Goetz, brought your chain of stores to our attention recently with regards to your selling animals from inhumane breeding factories. I went in myself to take a look around and in order to corroborate what Ms. Goetz alerted us to.

What we discovered is disturbing. Some of the dogs are sick. Many of the dogs are showing signs of extreme stress, demonstrating behaviors that coincide with neglect, lack of exercise and social enrichment. Many of the dogs were close to six months old, indicating that they had been confined for so long that their development is abnormal. The enclosures are far too small for their size. We also determined that these animals are from inhumane breeding factories.

Furthermore, I witnessed one of your employees put a puppy in a garbage can while he was cleaning a cage. The dog was handled roughly by the employee who did not understand that it is detrimental to put a dog in the garbage. A dog is not garbage. 

I am sending you one of my articles on the subject of pet stores converting to the humane business model. I hope you enjoy reading it; it explains, in depth, the new trend in pet stores across the nation. 
Here is the link to the article in American Dog Magazine, the most widely read dog lifestyle magazine in America:

Just so you know, we are the organization that brought forth the anti-puppy mill legislation in West Hollywood. It is now against the law to sell factory -bred dogs and cats there. Hermosa Beach also passed such a law. So did Lake Tahoe. We are in meetings with the LA City Council to ban it city-wide and will go with these ordinances to every county. It is just a matter of time before your current practice of selling dogs from inhumane breeding factories is outlawed.

We urge you to convert to the humane business model before you further ruin your reputation in our community. There is a better way and we are all willing to work with you, to promote you, once you make the change. 

Please note that the public does not want puppy mill dogs born out of cruelty and that the average person understands that dogs deserve better than to live out a sad life in a cage breeding until death. In order to thrive in this difficult economy, one needs to be the best. 

Right now, you are falling short financially, and more importantly, you are falling short morally. Make that change and we will help you.

Carole Raphaelle Davis
West Coast Director, Companion Animal Protection Society

"If you save just one life, it is as if you saved the entire world."

For more information on the Pet City Boycott, please visit: http://boycottpetcity.blogspot.com/

See Article published in American Dog Magazine below and click on their logo to subscribe today.


Inside the 'Rescue Revolution'

Victory for Dogs as Pet Stores Go Humane

By Carole Raphaelle Davis
Sadly, millions of dogs are suffering in shelters and puppy mills. This year, a record number of dogs are being dumped and euthanized at shelters because of the current economic crisis. Commercial breeders and pet stores are also feeling the pinch. "People just aren’'t buying puppies right now,” says pet store manager Justin Vanert.
Growing numbers of commercial dog breeders in the Midwest are selling their homes for a pittance - advertising them as "turnkey investments," which often include kennels with hundreds of breeding dogs "free with the property." As bleak as it all sounds, this recession just might have a silver lining for the dogs who are wasting away in puppy mills and shelters.  Perhaps this economic downturn might be a dog's chance to get out alive.

The dog trade is showing signs of weakness. Successful business is all about supply and demand and right now the demand side is shrinking as buyers of puppy mill dogs snap their wallets shut. But the reasons aren’t just the economy - it's a combination of decreased spending, public awareness of inhumane breeding practices, legislation that limits and criminalizes dog factory cruelty and effective campaigns led by animal rights activists.

This spring, a group of Los Angeles activists celebrated yet another victory. After five weeks of protests, the owner of Elaine’s Pet Depot signed an agreement to hand over all of her puppy mill dogs to Good Dog Animal Rescue for adoption. The agreement with the lynchpin store of a national chain of pet stores included a statement that reflected the store’s commitment to working with rescue organizations. The store agreed to hold adoptions and end its sale of puppy mill dogs. Reliable sources from within the franchise claimed that the entire Pet Depot chain was considering conversion to a humane business model within a few months. If the large chain stops buying from brokers and mass volume breeders, the strategy to cripple the puppy mill industry by hitting them where it hurts, in the wallet, is working.

The “go humane or go out of business” campaign has been able to gain momentum by combining its ability to exploit the current economic downtown and its skilled use of visual evidence from undercover investigations. The stores that were protested saw as much as 70 percent of their weekend business deterred by activists brandishing signs depicting graphic photos of dogs suffering in mills. An increasing number of stores in the heart of Los Angeles have been closed down or converted - more than a dozen so far in a little over a year.

As I write this, Pets of Wilshire, a store that was targeted, but hadn’t yet been picketed, just announced to me that they will no longer be selling puppy mill dogs and will be holding adoptions of shelter dogs. Asked if the protest movement had anything to do with the turnaround, manager Justin Vanert said, “Everybody’s worried about the puppy mill deal. We didn’t want any bad publicity, so we made the decision before it ever came here.”

The fact that the pet store protests and the conversions to a humane business model have been concentrated in L.A. is an important element of the national strategy, say architects of the movement. National welfare organizations are watching Los Angeles because although New York is the largest market for puppy mill dogs, Los Angeles is the most important. The celebrity culture here in L.A. dictates international consumer trends. What's hot here is copied everywhere. In L.A., blingbling is passe. The ultra-hip are solar-powered and driving their hybrid pound dogs to vegan caf├ęs in hybrid cars. Shelter dogs are the latest in recycled chic for the socially conscious.

Known for being too conservative by some militants in the animal rights world, The Humane Society of the United States is getting more “street cred” now that it has embraced the formula for protesting pet stores. After their investigation revealed that the giant Petland chain sells puppies from inhumane dog factories, HSUS launched a protest campaign that propelled its more active members from their armchairs and onto the streets. This direct action tactic is great news to grassroots activists in Los ngeles. For the combatants, it's like waging a guerrilla war against a powerful enemy and suddenly, you get a backup surge of a million soldiers. "The rallies are going very well," says Stephanie Shain, Senior Director of HSUS’s puppy mill campaign. "We've been so moved by the incredible response from people. We remind people of how horrid life is for dogs who live in puppy mills for years on end."

Jennifer Fearing, chief economist for the HSUS, has been watching the L.A. movement develop. “What you all are doing is an essential component of a national effort to rid the market of puppy mills,” she said. “We have to pull on both the supply and the demand levers ... Everything from passing legislation to improving standards of care to foreclosing retail channels. PetSmart and PETCO have already shown that this business model works. They are lucrative.”

Some pet boutiques in L.A. closed down rather than negotiate with animal welfare advocates they viewed as extremists. The stores didn’t want to have "rescue crazies" take over their businesses and to split puny adoption fees after years of benefiting from the high profit margins from puppy mill dogs (dogs were typically bought by retailers for less than $300 and sold for up to $3,500). To make matters even more complicated for the stores, rescue organizations want all dogs to be spayed or neutered before they leave the store and some insist on "home checks" to make sure the pet will be going to a responsible home.

Leaders of the movement are trying hard to convince pet store owners that the idea of humane conversion is a better choice than a ‘For Lease’ sign in their window. “People can’t afford a $3,000 dog right now, so adopting one for $300 not only makes sense financially, but they can feel good about themselves for saving a life,” says Elle Wittelsbach, Director of Strangest Angels Rescue. “Plus, they come back to buy the supplies for the life of that dog. These stores are giving back to the community.”
The business model that seems to be emerging is a fullservice operation, which includes trainers, groomers, day care and a large selection of supplies. These services ferment a
community atmosphere and a milieu of hope. Full of rescued dogs, the stores become a site of burgeoning camaraderie between former adversaries. The thinking among converts is, if your ship was sinking anyway, you may as well look like a good guy by saving some shelter dogs and cats.

Humane stores provide a convenient alternative to shelters for those who want a fun shopping experience and are intimidated by a trip to the pound. "Inviting puppy store owners to become part of the solution is a creative, practical and people smart strategy,” said Dawn Armstrong, executive director of the Lake Tahoe Humane Society. “‘Out of the cage’ thinking is the beginning of the end of puppy mills. The public is ready.”

Recently, I assisted a rescue of 62 abused Miniature Pinschers from a puppy mill in Riverside, Calif. It was gratifying to see these dogs recovering after only a few weeks of rehab in foster care, ready to be adopted out of stores we once protested.

Bill Smith, president of Mainline Rescue in Pennsylvania, is waging a war against puppy mills. Thanks to his appearances on Oprah, forty million people, mostly middle-aged women, are educated about the horrors of puppy mills. When I told him of the Min Pins we rescued who are now in the converted stores, he told me, “These places have been selling puppy mill dogs for ages and now it’s ending with the adoption of the mothers themselves. It’s ironic. These people have benefited off these dogs for years and you basically forced them into a redemption process. For years they’ve been abusing the mothers and now they have to find them homes, accepting an adoption fee.”

Lewis Turner, owner of the Petcare Company in Hermosa Beach, Calif., was dissatisfied doing business with America’s largest brokers of puppy mill dogs, Lambriar and Hunte. He told me that four out of 10 dogs that were trucked in were ill.

“They had green liquid coming from their eyes or nose,” he said. “They’d have to be sent back because they were sick.” After six months researching how to make a humane store profitable, Turner is putting together a business plan to share with other retailers around the country.

“What’s in it for a retailer? They get the recognition from the community,” Turner said. “Customers are going to feel more comfortable supporting a store that rescues. It’s the same mentality as going green. It’s win-win for the retailer, the shelters, for the rescues and for the orphans. No one loses.” Asked why he went humane, he said, “It was the right thing to do.”

Bark N' Bitches, a retail pet boutique in the Fairfax district of L.A., has never sold live animals and is thriving despite the shrinking economy. “My business has never been better,” says Shannon von Roemer, the owner. “This business is recessionproof because people aren’t spending on luxury cars but they are spending on a feel-good item for their furry best friend.”

Roemer claims she has rescued over eight hundred dogs in three years. “Retail and rescue works very well for me,” says Roemer. Whether or not this business model is actually recession-proof, the success of Bark N’ Bitches is something to bark about.
Carole Raphaelle Davis is an animal welfare advocate and author of The Diary of Jinky, Dog of a Hollywood Wife. Visit her Web site at: www.hollywoodjinky.com.