I’m Pete, the lead investigator for the Companion Animal Protection Society. Since 2003, I’ve been undercover to many hundreds of puppy mills and pet shops for CAPS. This work has helped shut down many notorious puppy mills, including the large-scale breeding and brokering facility of Kathy Bauck in Minnesota. My undercover employment at The Hunte Corporation in Missouri—then the largest brokerage facility in the country—and at a Petland buying puppies from Hunte also shed light on the inner workings of the cruel and lucrative brokering industry, illuminating its link between puppy mills and pet shops.

While I’m encouraged to see that the number of commercial dog breeding and brokering facilities has been decreasing, my work as of late has become more challenging. Due to CAPS’ legislative accomplishments, puppy mills have been going to greater lengths to hide their operations. In addition, USDA APHIS, which was forced by Congress to restore inspection reports to its website, has so drastically relaxed its enforcement efforts that current licensees are now rarely being cited for violations of the Animal Welfare Act (AWA).

When CAPS helps to pass laws that ban the retail sale of animals, pet shops and puppy mills will usually suffer economically; some go out of business. Because of this, pet shops and USDA-licensed brokers have found creative ways to circumvent these bans. Large broker J.A.K.’s Puppies in Iowa created two fraudulent rescues—Hobo K-9 Rescue and Rescue Pets Iowa—to keep selling puppies to California and Chicago pet shops, despite bans in those areas. In our last letter, we told you how CAPS and the Iowa Attorney General worked together for nearly two years to shut down Hobo K-9 Rescue and Rescue Pets Iowa.

Other fraudulent rescues are still operating. The Missouri Attorney General has not yet taken action against Pet Connect Rescue, which has also been selling mill-bred puppies to pet shops in California and Chicago. Ray Rothman, a sales manager for Select Puppies (formerly Hunte), and his wife run this fraudulent rescue. I have been investigating breeders who sell to Select Puppies, to prove that Pet Connect’s “rescues” are really from puppy mills. During a recent investigation, I uncovered a deplorable, unlicensed puppy mill that sells to Select Puppies.

Mrs. Billie Alford has a dilapidated kennel in Atoka, Oklahoma. Her business is not licensed by the USDA or the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture. She admits that she has too many dogs to be unlicensed but continues to operate regardless. Her dogs live in shabby cages and pens filled with feces. They drink brown water from metal buckets. Many have matted fur and crusty, teary eyes, signs of infections. Alford says she sells to Select Puppies as a “hobby breeder,” so there is no official documentation of her horrific facility. CAPS has reported her to the USDA and the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, but until people stop buying puppies from pet stores, kennels like hers will continue to operate.

A Shi Tzu in an elevated cage at Billie Alford’s kennel
Dogs with infected eyes at Billie Alford’s kennel

For years, CAPS has been the only nonprofit creating undercover puppy mill videos with this high degree of detail and access. However, as I mentioned above, our investigations have recently become more difficult. I now have to rely upon more specialized, expensive equipment and use more time-consuming techniques. But there is one benefit to this change: the extra time required has allowed me to document the psychological impacts of puppy mills. I’ve seen how often the dogs pace in their cages, relentlessly trying to relieve stress, anxiety, and boredom. Unfortunately, the Animal Welfare Act has no standard for the psychological well-being of dogs.

A good example is the pacing dog at AJ’s Angels in Minnesota, a huge facility that sells to both J.A.K.’s Puppies and Select Puppies.

I want to update you on our compelling work in California, which is ground zero for the fight against pet shops selling puppies from fraudulent rescues. Assembly Bill 2152 passed the assembly and is in the Senate Committee on Business, Professions, and Economic Development. CAPS is part of a coalition of nonprofits that drafted AB 2152 to close the loophole in The Pet Rescue and Adoption Act that is allowing pet shops to sell fraudulent rescue puppies.

CAPS and San Diego animal lawyer Bryan Pease are also working together to sue California pet shops for violations of state and federal laws. The defendants include pet shops, the fraudulent rescues supplying them, and the individuals involved in those entities. Customers who filed complaints on the CAPS website are plaintiffs to the lawsuits.

Temecula Puppies in Temecula, CA
Pet Connect Rescue puppy for sale at Temecula Puppies

Pease has succeeded in obtaining preliminary injunctions against the David Salinas-owned stores National City Puppy, Pups & Pets, and Broadway Puppies, as well as against Amilcar Chavez-owned Bark Avenue. Chavez is behind Bark Adoptions, the fraudulent rescue through which Rescue Pets Iowa sold its puppies. Due to these injunctions, all of these pet shops are now closed pending final decisions. Pet Connect Rescue is also under a preliminary injunction: they are banned from doing business in California. In addition, Salinas voluntarily closed his two pet shops in Riverside County, as did the owners of three more pet shops based there.

Temecula Puppies has been threatening to reopen, so CAPS is filing legal documents to make sure this does not happen. As a result of our legal efforts, there are currently NO pet shops selling fraudulent rescue puppies in California.

If you purchased a puppy from a Southern California pet shop since January 1, 2019 and are interested in being a plaintiff in our lawsuits, please fill out our pet shop complaint form.