Anti-puppy mill protesters were shot at with an air rifle at Aquarium & Pet Center in Santa Monica on Saturday, October 10th. The Santa Monica Police are treating this case as an assualt with a deadly weapon, a felony. BB guns can be extremely dangerous and can kill if the bullets hit a vital area of the body.
There is a $5000 reward for any information leading to the arrest and conviction of the shooter.
See full story in WEHO NEWS here.
Approximately thirty-five activists were holding a peaceful anti-puppy mill demonstration when violence erupted. Three animal welfare advocates were hit, including West Hollywood community organizer Ed Buck. There were minor injuries. Police arrived on the scene within minutes and retrieved several two millimeter brass bullets on the sidewalk where the protesters were shot.
This group of activists, who are members of several large animal welfare organizations, have been protesting stores in Los Angeles for two years. The Aquarium & Pet Center is supplied by commercial breeding facilities in the Midwest and also uses a local breeder in Southern California that houses its dogs in substandard conditions.
Dogs in commercial breeding operations are sometimes called puppy mills, or puppy farms. Though they are often licensed by the USDA, they are considered inhumane by the animal protection movement. The minimum standards of care for USDA licensed facilities typically allow only enough room for a dog to stand up and turn around. The dogs are kept in cages for their entire breeding lives and are often exposed to the elements. Most dogs suffering in commercial breeding operations do not get veterinary care or socialization. They are often sick, injured, diseased and have malformations.
After the shooting, an employee of the store was seen laughing at the animal welfare activists.
On Monday, a volunteer in Pennsylvania called the store, posing as a buyer and asked the owner what he planned to do about the protesters, to which he replied, "I'll shoot them all."
The verbal threat was immediately reported to the police, who have added this information to the investigation. Mr. Lee, the owner of Aquarium & Pet Center, was visited by police detectives on Thursday. He denied making the threats. He also denied having anything to do with the shooting.
"We will not be intimidated by violence nor by threats of further violence," said Carole Sax, volunteer coordinator for the Companion Animal Protection Society. "We will stand firm for these animals who have no voice but ours. This despicable behavior will only strengthen our resolve to end puppy mills period, " Ms. Sax continued.
"This is un-American, " said Carole Raphaelle Davis, the West Coast Director of the Companion Animal Protection Society. "We were boycotting a known puppy mill dealer and they decided to use violence against us for speaking the truth. We have a right to speak out against the cruel practices of the pet trade industry. It's called the first amendment. The public, which is routinely defrauded by pet stores, deserves to know what's really going on so that they can make better choices when bringing a companion animal into their lives. It is very un-American to resort to violence against an idea. We live in a democracy and if consumers knew the ugly truth behind the pretty storefront, they would run the other way."
"Furthermore," said Ms. Davis, "we ask that consumers give the $1000 or more that they would have spent on buying an animal in a pet store and give that money to a family in need. We are experiencing the worst economic crisis of our time and there are families who need to put food on the table. Give the money to the truly needy instead and save an animal's life at your local shelter. This is a new era of social responsibility and this is not a time to buy into cruelty. This is a time to roll up our sleeves to help the community by relieving our municipal shelters. There are five million pets killed in our nation's shelter system every year because there are not enough homes for them. This costs taxpayers $2 billion per year to house and euthanize all these unwanted animals. It makes sense, fiscally and morally, to adopt from a shelter. And for breed snobs, 25% of the dogs in the shelter system are purebred, adoptable dogs. "
Since the shooting, an anti-animal welfare email circulated on a breeder meet-up Internet group. The e-mail states that the animal welfare advocates protesting Aqaurium & Pet Center might have staged the shooting in order to gain publicity. There is no evidence to support that and the investigation is on-going.
See the immediate aftermath of the shooting incident below:
See full story in Santa Monica Daily Press here
See KTLA's coverage of the story below: