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Puppy Sales Banned in WeHo

February 24, 2010

Last week, the sale of pet factory dogs and cats was officially banned in the city of West Hollywood. From now on, only the sale of animals from legitimate rescue organizations and municipal shelter systems will be allowed. The ban was a huge victory for animal rights groups, including Social Compassion in Legislation, the Humane Society of the United States, and the Companion Animal Protection Society, which aims to prevent the mistreatment of animals in pet stores and puppy mills.

The West Coast division of CAPS, one of the many divisions that exist nationwide, has been holding protests regularly for the past three years outside of pet shops that sell puppy mill dogs, which they discover through investigations that trace the link from dog suppliers to the sellers. Their peaceful protests aim to educate both the public and the pet store owners.

“I want to educate people about, not purchasing a dog, but adopting,” said Perri Lomax, a private animal rescuer who participated in a recent CAPS protest. “Places that we protest sell dogs that come from puppy mills, and so we’re just trying to spread awareness.”

Lomax said that even the storeowners themselves often don’t know where the dogs they sell are coming from, and would like to alert them to the fact that they are often bred under deplorable conditions. “We really don’t want to alienate local business owners,” she said. “We would like them to have a business, but we would like them to either go humane or if that’s not possible, to cease business all together.”

CAPS recently staged a protest in front of Barkworks, a chain of seven Southern California stores, at the Westside Pavilion location. Members of CAPS donned shirts that exclaimed, “Barkworks Sells Cruelty” and “Save a Life, Adopt” as they circled around the store, inviting people to join the movement.

Protest like these have resulted in the shutting down of sales of puppy mill dogs throughout the Los Angeles Area.

But members of CAPS realized that preventing sales of pet factory animals one store at a time was a tedious process.

“The ban is important because we can only do so much,” said Ed Buck of Social Compassion in Legislation. “There’s always going to be a Lancaster county, Amish Pennsylvania, cranking out these puppies and shipping them all over the States. But if we begin to shut down their outlets, if we don’t buy them, they won’t breed them. And if we attack this problem from the demand side we’re going to be successful.”

Buck, a West Hollywood resident and also a member of CAPS, helped push for legislation, along with CAPS, the Animal Legal Defense Fund, and the Humane Society of the United States. He worked closely with the West Hollywood City Council, and in particular Councilman Jeffery Prang, to craft a law that would prevent cats and dogs from being sold in stores.

“We originally got together with the City Council to propose a law that would limit their ability to sell just puppy mill dogs,” said Buck. “And as we began that process of writing that legislation, we realized that there was no way to define a puppy mill legally, and it also puts a huge burden on a municipality to check where every single dog sold came from.”

So a more simple law was proposed that banned the sale of these types of dogs and cats altogether. “Everybody loved it,” said Buck. “We got more letters in support registered with the city clerk than any issue in West Hollywood history, and we got no letters of opposition. That alone says that this is an idea whose time has come.”

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Carole Davis, West Coast Director of CAPS, hopes more people will choose to adopt. “We’re killing 5 million companion animals in our nation’s shelter system every year,” she said. “One of the main reasons we protest pet stores is that they ruin chances for animals that could be getting adopted from the shelter system.”

Some pet owners are already making the decision to take home a shelter animal rather than buying one. “I chose to adopt both of my dogs,” said pet owner and Los Angeles resident Elissa Lorber. “When it came the time to choose to buy one or adopt, it was a no-brainer. There are so many desperate dogs who need a home, it’s a tragic to have them euthanized or worse, have them lingering in a shelter for days or weeks on end, miserable.”

Davis wants the ban in West Hollywood to serve as a model that will spread throughout Los Angeles, throughout the state of California, and eventually throughout the country and beyond. “We think that that’s enough now, we’ve got to put a stop to this cruelty.”

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