Pet store owners under investigation for animal abuse
By Shelli DeRobertis
OCEANSIDE — At least one bird had to be put to sleep after investigators confiscated more than 50 puppies and dozens of other animals March 27 from the owner of three pet stores for possible mistreatment of the animals for sale.Warrants were obtained to search conditions at Naedeen’s Puppies at 1021 S. Coast Highway in Oceanside; Puppy Stars at 6167 Balboa Ave. in San Diego; Pet Place at 6512 El Cajon Blvd. in San Diego; and the owner’s private residence. The animals were primarily seized from the private home and one of the pet stores, according to law enforcement for the humane society.
Authorities took away 57 puppies and other animals such as birds, rabbits, a large tortoise, and a 7-foot python snake.
“So far one animal was euthanized, a dove, due to the condition it was in,” said Kelli Herwehe, spokeswoman for the San Diego Humane Society and SPCA.
“Some were obviously dehydrated and malnourished,” she said.
Several of the seized animals have been medically treated and required surgeries, and all of them received full veterinary exams, according to Randall Lawrence, director of Humane Law Enforcement for the humane society.
He said the animals are being housed at the San Diego Humane Society as potential evidence for the pending investigation.
“Potential charges include California Health and Safety Code violations and potential animal cruelty and neglect,” he said.
The condition of the animals along with evidence collected from the public will help determine the extent of possible charges that the owner of the pet shops may face.
The name of the owner is being withheld due to the pending investigation, Lawrence said.
“We are asking the community to provide additional support for this case,” he said.
If someone purchased an animal from any of the three above named stores, and that animal was ill at the time of purchase or later became ill, Lawrence said the humane society would like them to report the animal’s situation at (619) 243-3466.
For Janice Hatch, the day that the animals were confiscated from Pet Place was one that she won’t likely soon forget. “I stood there and cried when they brought them out,” she said.
Hatch is co-founder of the San Diego Animal Defense Team, a grassroots organization in its fourth year of protesting against pet stores that sell puppies.
The Animal Defense Team filed complaints to the county against Naedeen’s Puppies, Pet Place and Puppy Stars and said the businesses were receiving their puppies from puppy mills.
Hatch said more than 200 volunteers have helped protest. “We protested 20 times at these three stores,” she said.
The website for the Animal Defense Team lists at least six other countywide pet stores that have been targets of protest and have been asked to stop selling puppies.
“We have been contacting pet stores and asking them to sign a pledge to not sell puppies in their pet stores,” she said.
Some of those stores have closed as a result or the owners have signed the pledge and agreed to stop selling the animals, she said.
The Animal Defense Team’s protests involved the typical sign-holding cluster of people and grew to include cheerleading chants and street theater acts where protestors donned costumes.
She said the team has photos of sick puppies from the Oceanside pet store where litters of puppies were kept in children’s swimming pools.
Hatch said that storeowner didn’t respond to a letter that explained the protests.
She said although it’s not illegal to receive puppies from a puppy mill, these stores were telling customers that the puppies came from local family breeders. However, she said she obtained some breeder reports that showed the stores used a broker from out of state. “What makes it in my mind illegal is they’re telling customers they’re not doing it,” Hatch said.
The Coast News attempted to contact all three businesses, and the person who answered the number listed for Puppy Stars said it was the wrong phone number, the number for Pet Place was disconnected and there was no answer or recording at the number for Naedeen’s Puppies.
There are an estimated 10,000 puppy mills in the United States, and many consumers are unaware that they may have purchased a puppy mill puppy. The Humane Society of the United States claims that most puppy mill dogs live in shockingly poor conditions.
They have an ongoing campaign to put an end to puppy mills.
Puppy mills have hundreds, even thousands of dogs used purely for breeding that live in cages without human interactions, toys or proper care.
Many times the dogs are scared, have eye and ear problems and problems with their paw pads due to spending their life in wire cages, according to a video online with Melanie Kahn of the Humane Society of the United States. Contaminated food and algae-filled water are also woeful conditions commonly found at puppy mills.
Hatch said that she decided to help fight against puppy mills after her family rescued a puppy mill breeder dog who had half-an-ear, no teeth and a sliced tongue when they received her. Upon grooming their rescued dog, Bella, a Saint Bernard, they also found enormous cesarean scars on her belly, she said.
For the recently seized local animals, Herwehe said they won’t be released for adoption until the investigation is complete. Meanwhile, however, the San Diego Humane Society is accepting donations to help care for the animals.
Herwehe said that new enclosures need to be purchased, especially with the unique types of animals, including reptiles, that the society received after the March 27 pet store raid.
Donations may be made online at sdhumane.org or by mail at 5500 Gaines Street, San Diego, CA 92110.