by Carole Raphaelle Davis, http://www.hollywoodjinky.com (reprinted with permission)Â
Watch the video at the end of this article!Â
The Los Angeles animal welfare activists who are responsible for the closing of Posh Puppy in Beverly Hills have now set their focus on Puppies and Babies, the sister store to Pets of Bel Air in an effort to force the store to go humane and stop selling puppy mill dogs and other pet factory pets, such as cats and rabbits.
Pets of Bel Air, which was investigated last year by the Humane Society of the United States, was found to have been selling dogs from inhumane puppy mills. Since the closing of Posh Puppy in Beverly Hills and Tarzana, this group of activists had previously been assembling at Pets of Bel Air but decided this weekend to fan out and stage an educational outreach post on West 3rd street, near the Beverly Center.
Â "This will be an opportunity for us to educate a larger number of shoppers here about the horrors of puppy mills, cat factories and the more ethical choice to adopt, rather than buy," said Carol Winston, a regular protester from the Posh Puppy movement.
With animal rights groups targeting pet stores all over the city, including Pet stores in the Beverly Center and in Malibu, the added pressure on Puppies and Babies has driven the owners of Pets of Bel Air to hire security guards to cover both stores.
Karen Snook, executive director of In Defense of Animals, was staked out in front of the store in Bel Air. "We are definitely making a difference. They are running scared and angry," she said. "They hired two off-duty cops to stand and guard the door of Pets of Bel Air to hand out ‘rules and regulations’ that stated that we could not carry our signs or hand out leaflets. They stood there with their best tough guy cop stance wearing their super dark sunglasses, but we persisted. The store owner even had his friends coming out and pleading with us to ‘give the store a break.’ We responded that as soon as he can prove that he is not selling puppy mill puppies, we will let off the pressure."
Employees of the store have become edgy with all of the bad publicity and in some instances, they have been accused of using bully tactics. Several weeks ago, a Pets of Bel Air employee attempted to knock a camera out of protester Chris Nye’s hand, pushing him backwards. In another instance, a friend of the store owner came out and accused protesters of being "prostitutes," yelling, "why don’t you get a life?" But the animal welfare activists insist on standing firm on behalf of the animals suffering in pet factories despite the intimidation as well as the soaring summer temperatures.
The store has attempted to force the protesters to leave by calling the police but to no avail–this group of experienced activists has had consultations with attorneys about their legal rights to assemble for the purposes of boycotting a store. And they’ve seen it before, when the owners of Posh Puppy would routinely call the police to try to force them to stop protesting their stores in Beverly Hills and Tarzana. But they didn’t leave until the store closed five and a half months after they started protesting on December 22, 2007. The Los Angeles Police Department is aware that their responsibility is to uphold the law and that includes making sure the protesters do not block the entrance as well as enforcing the first amendment right to free speech.
Posh Puppy was unable to refute to the facts that they sold sick dogs and that their dogs were supplied by cruel and inhumane puppy mills, once it hit the Los Angeles Times KTLA, NBC and CBS News. Pets of Bel Air is also being sued by distraught buyers of sick dogs.
The investigative and protest movement that was started by a few women in Beverly Hills has spread throughout the city, with large animal rights organizations jumping on board in an effort to educate shoppers that 20% of the dogs in the shelter system are purebred dogs who need homes. Close to five million companion animals are killed in our nation’s shelters every year and it costs tax payers two billion dollars a year to house and euthanize these animals.
This reporter investigated Puppies and Babies in April. Several puppies were ill with diarrhea and showed symptoms of ear mites and kennel cough. Also, sickly dogs had been placed in the same pens with healthy looking puppies, exposing the healthy ones to potential infection. There was no water in the pens on one afternoon and when this reporter asked why, the manager responded, "Because they dance in it and I don’t feel like cleaning it up."
During our investigation of Los Angeles pet stores, we found that there is a calculated effort to distract buyers and an unwritten policy to obfuscate reality. No one who works in these stores is willing to discuss what is really going on behind the scenes. It’s obvious that most employees have been trained to avoid scrutiny. Pet retailers evade probing questions with misinformation like, "we only get our dogs from small, local breeders."
This description is misleading because the words "small" and "local" make it sound as if the dogs are being well treated. They’re not. Or, they claim that the breeding facilities are "privately owned" or "family owned." Again, telling you nothing about the conditions and suggesting that the facility is swank, exclusive or that the dogs are members of the family.
These adjectives, "local" and "small" or "private" are euphemisms being used to falsely describe a business that abuses hundreds of animals nearby. So they are kind of telling the truth about size and proximity, but they are omitting the truth about maltreatment of the breeding dogs inside.
We found that some employees genuinely don’t know the answers to our questions, which is unacceptable, and others who do know, which is reprehensible.
Another typical misinformation ploy used by pet retailers is to say, "We only sell puppies from USDA licensed breeders." They use the USDA license as an unimpeachable source, and because the United States Department of Agriculture is a government agency, it serves as an unquestionable reference to erase any doubt that the breeding operation is humane. But it’s not.
The USDA lists over five thousand dealers and brokers. Some are small operations of dilapidated outdoor hutches and some are large facilities that look like high-tech canine supermax prisons. According to Deborah Howard, president of the Companion Animal Protection Society, the USDA, which is supposed to govern livestock enterprises, "has been extremely negligent over the years in its enforcement of the Animal Welfare Act (AWA)." Deborah finds that the USDA’s implementation of AWA has been "grievously insufficient."
If you want to believe that our government is actually making sure dogs aren’t being abused in facilities bearing their stamp of approval, go to the USDA web site and read the minimum standard of care. Mill dogs are allowed six inches in front of them in their cages-for life. Don’t gloss over that just yet. Take the puppy mill test. Go stand six inches in front of a wall. Now stay there for the rest of your life. Puppy millers aren’t required to give their dogs more than an artificial light and a fan. There is nothing on the books that requires millers to exercise or socialize the dogs.
Until Puppies and Babies and their sister store, Pets of Bel Air stop selling live animals, the activists claim they will continue their siege in the hopes that this chain will succumb to public pressure to go humane and only adopt out animals from shelters with the help of local rescue organizations.
(California’s puppy lemon law as applied to pet retailers can be found at Cal Health & Saf Code Â§Â§122125-122315)
Carole Raphaelle Davis is an actress, animal welfare advocate and author of "The Diary of Jinky, Dog of a Hollywood Wife."Â Her website: http://www.hollywoodjinky.com/