Bogus Nonprofits Sell Puppy Mill Dogs to California Pet Stores

Things weren’t looking so good for puppy mill operators earlier this year when California became the first U.S. state to enact a law (Assembly Bill 485) requiring pet stores to only sell dogs, cats and rabbits obtained from partnered animal shelters and rescue organizations.

However, those in the puppy mill business aren’t known for being especially scrupulous, so it probably shouldn’t be too surprising that some have found an egregious way to get around California’s new law.

How egregious? Before the law went into effect on January 1, some bogus rescue organizations were created so that puppy mills could continue selling dogs to pet stores in the state — apparently in cahoots with store owners. The victims of this disgusting scheme aren’t only the puppies but the customers who’ve been hoodwinked into believing they’re doing the right thing by buying a rescued animal.

How many puppy mill dogs are still being sold in California’s pet stores? In San Diego County alone, more than 100 citations for AB 485 violations were issued during a one-day sweep June 12 by the San Diego Humane Society’s (SDHS) Humane Law Enforcement. The citations were given to these three stores:

  • Broadway Puppies in Escondido: 39 citations for failing to prove valid cooperative agreement with a public or private shelter.
  • Bark Avenue in Escondido: 38 citations, also for failing to prove valid cooperative agreement.
  • Pups & Pets in Santee: 25 citations for improper signage on kennel fronts (the signs are required to indicate where the puppies came from). In a statement to NBC 7, the store said it had been in complete compliance with AB 485 and was preparing to put up the signs when SDHS officers arrived.

Three months prior to the SDHS sweep, the Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) filed a lawsuit against the Animal Kingdom pet store in central California and purported rescue organizations Bark Adoptions and Rescue Pets Iowa for participating in what the ALDF called a “puppy-laundering scheme.”

Animal Kingdom — which stopped selling puppies soon after it was sued — obtained its dogs from Bark Adoptions, according to the lawsuit. Bark Adoptions incorporated in November 2018, just two months before AB 485 went into effect. It is not a federally registered 501(c)(3) nonprofit.

A CBS Los Angeles undercover investigation in April found no animals visible at the Riverside County address for Bark Adoptions, which is actually a single-family home. “This is nothing more than a front so they can have a name and an address,” Monique Middleton, chief animal control officer at the Animal Friends of the Valleys shelter in Riverside County, told a reporter.

According to the ALDF lawsuit, Bark Adoptions gets its puppies from Rescue Pets Iowa, which seemed to “pop out of nowhere” late last December, according to Bailing Out Benji, a (legitimate) nonprofit that raises awareness about puppy mills. As of March, Rescue Pets Iowa still wasn’t federally registered as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, nor was it even licensed as an animal rescue in Iowa. Tellingly, when the Des Moines Register contacted Russell Kirk, the owner of Rescue Pets Iowa, he hung up the phone instead of defending his “nonprofit.”

The CBS Los Angeles investigation discovered “designer puppies” being sold for thousands of dollars at three pet stores in Santa Ana, Temecula and San Diego. Those dogs were also from Bark Adoptions, as well as from Pet Connect in Joplin, Mo. Pet Connect became a federally registered nonprofit organization only five months ago, according to Bailing Out Benji. It may be getting its dogs from some of the worst puppy mills in the country and has sold them to California pet stores — including Broadway Puppies and Bark Avenue.

After the SDHS sweep this month, Broadway Puppies released a statement to NBC 7 insisting it was “faithfully following the letter of the law” and said it would be exonerated of the citations. The store’s owner, David Salinas, had worked with lobbyists to prevent the passage of AB 485, NBC 7 reported in May 2017.

The SDHS warns that buyers should be aware that some animals in California pet stores still come from out-of-state puppy (or kitten) mills. “They’re born from overbred mothers kept in intolerably inhumane conditions,” the organization says. “As a result, the animals are often unhealthy, leading to heartbreaking discoveries once in the home.”

While it’s true that there are reputable breeders who don’t mass-produce dogs inside filthy facilities, you’re very unlikely to find any of their puppies in a pet store. If you want a “designer dog,” contact a breeder, not a pet store. Better yet, go online and find a (non-bogus) rescue organization specializing in the breed you want — or, even better, head on over to your local shelter.

If you suspect that the dogs, cats and rabbits in a San Diego County pet store may not be from a shelter or rescue organization, call the SDHS at 619-299-7012. Elsewhere around California, report suspected violations of AB 485 to the local humane society or police department.

Take Action

California and Maryland may have outlawed puppy mills, but 48 other states have failed to follow suit. Please sign and share the petition asking those other states to outlaw puppy mills.

If you want to make a difference on an issue you find deeply troubling, you too can create a Care2 petition, and use this handy guide to get started. You’ll find Care2’s vibrant community of activists ready to step up and help you.

 

Photo credit: San Diego Humane Society

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danii p
danii p33 minutes ago

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danii p
danii p33 minutes ago

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danii p33 minutes ago

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Donna T2 hours ago

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Dr. Jan H
Dr. Jan Hill3 hours ago

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Sandra V19 hours ago

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Sandra V19 hours ago

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Alea C
Alea C20 hours ago

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Alea C20 hours ago

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Lorraine A
Lorraine Ayesterday

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