On December 14 at 4 p.m., La Mesa's City Council will consider an ordinance proposed by San Diego Stop Puppy Mills. The proposed law would prohibit pet stores from buying dogs from puppy mills and other breeders.
Since February 2009, the group has been protesting against Pet Works in Grossmont Center, alleging that the store sells dogs raised in puppy mills with inhumane conditions. Today, East County Magazine contacted Pet Works and learned that the store plans to shut down.
San Diego Stop Puppy Mills organizer Sydney Cicourel expressed shock at the news. "I consider this a success. I believe that we had an impact," she said. "It paid to hang in there and stand in front of that store every Saturday and try to raise awareness."
Woodward denied that protests impacted the store's decision to close its doors. "We had dogs that used to sell for $1,295," she said. "Now we're selling them for $499. These are luxury items that people just can't afford."
Cicourel said her organization will still ask La Mesa to pass the legislation. "Absolutely we will go forward. This prevents anybody else from opening and doing the same thing," she said.
According to the U.S. Humane Society, 9,000 puppies raised in puppy mills in Missouri (dubbed the "puppy mill capitol" in the nation) were sold in California last year, including 763 in San Diego County. Of those, 257 were sold by Pet Works in La Mesa, the group alleges. Pet Works has denied buying puppies from puppy mills, the San Diego Union-Tribune has reported. Puppy mills raise animals in over-crowded conditions and have been accused of inbreeding animals with serious hereditary conditions. Dogs from puppy mills often have serious illnesses or congenital defects such as hip dysplasia.
Cicourel believes the proposed ordinance, which was drafted by the Animal Legal Defense Fund, a "win-win" for the City of La Mesa, consumers and animals. Nationwide, ten cities have passed similar measures, but this will be the first effort to enact such an ordinance n San Diego County, Cicourel said.
"We're hoping that consumers who have had a bad experience at Pet Works will come to the City Council to tell their story," she added.
The proposed bill would prohibit pet stores from selling dogs and puppies except those acquired from municipal shelters or nonprofit organizations devoted to the rescue, care and adoption of stray, abandoned or surrendered animals and which do not breed animals.
"Responsible breeders don't sell to pet stores," Cicourel said, adding that pet stores deceive customers who ask if dogs are acquired from puppy mills. She said reputable breeders can sell their animals for much higher prices than those paid by pet stores. "Pet stores go to a broker. The broker goes to a puppy mill and pays $100, then charges the pet store around $200. Breeders charge a thousand dollars," she said.
The problem isn't limited to pet stores. Ciciourel also warned consumers against buying dogs online. "There is no regulation of dogs over the Internet," she said, adding that her family purchased a "very sick dog" online from a breeder after assuming the breeder was reputable because it had supplied a dog to a movie star. But after researching the breeder, she learned, "It turned out to be a puppy mill in Texas."
California currently has a "Puppy Lemon Law" on the books designed to discourage the selling of unhealthy dogs in the state, though many consumers are unaware of the law and fail to seek redress under its provisions. The law applies to pet stores and larger breeding facilities.
Buyers have 15 days to document contagious or infectious disease and one year to document congenital or hereditary defects. If the dog is proven to be ill or to have hereditary defects, the buyer is entitled to a replacement plus reimbursement for veterinary expenses related to certifying the dog's illness, up to the price of the dog including sales tax.
The buyer may also choose a refund plus reimbursement for veterinary expenses related to certifying the dog's illness, up to the price of the dog. If the buyer elects to have the dog treated, such as undergoing surgery to correct a hip problem, the seller is required to cover up to one and a half times (150%) of the dog's purchase price to cover veterinary expenses.
Learn more about puppy mills from the Humane Society at http://www.humanesociety.org/issues/puppy_mills/.
Read more about California's puppy lemon law at: http://www.consumeraffairs.com/pets/lemon_ca.html#ixzz16tHvvN31 and http://www.consumeraffairs.com/pets/lemon_ca.html.