American pet store comes under fire from anti-puppy farm protestors: Elite Animals of West Hollywood has been besieged by protesters from the animal welfare movement for two weekends in a row. Animal rights activists claim Elite Animals is selling pet factory animals and defrauding consumers.
On May 12 there was an extraordinary meeting between Isabella Stroshnoy, the owner of Elite Animals and members of the animal protection movement at West Hollywood’s City Hall.
Carole Raphaelle Davis, West Coast Director of The Companion Animal Protection Society presented evidence of a puppy mill in Minnesota that supplies Elite Animals. A mediator provided by the City of West Hollywood oversaw the civil discussion. The organizations that participated were The Companion Animal Protection Society, The Animal Legal Defense Fund, In Defense of Animals, Best Friends Animal Society, The Amanda Foundation and Strangest Angels Rescue.
The evidence presented was from a CAPS investigation of a particularly cruel puppy mill in Melrose MN that supplies pet shops around the country. The evidence included graphic photographs of dogs suffering in runs and cages filled with urine and feces, subject to rusted wire flooring, injured with wounds and infections. The dogs had attempted to chew their way out of the wooden whelping boxes. Many of the dogs were exposed to the elements and water containers had a thick layer of slime (algae).
In addition to the gruesome photographs from the mill, evidence of repeated incidents of non-compliance from USDA inspection reports were presented and read aloud. Also disclosed were reports gathered by Pet Shop Puppies, an organization that collects consumer complaints about sick and dying dogs bought in pet stores around the nation. The reports presented at the meeting were linked exclusively to the mill that supplies Elite Animals. The consumer reports regarding dogs from the mill in MN stated dogs had congenital malformations, severe illnesses and some of the cases claimed that several dogs were so sick they had to be euthanized.
Pet Store owner Isabella Stroshnoy appeared shocked to discover that she was violating a federal law from the Farm Bill which was passed in 2008–a law forbidding the importation of live dogs into the United States from overseas if the dogs are under the age of six months. Elite Animals has repeatedly offered eight week-old puppies imported from Russia to CAPS undercover investigators posing as customers.
Elite Animals also lied to CAPS investigators, claiming the dogs they sell in the store were “raised in a house” and “not from a puppy mill.” The evidence proves that the dogs were raised in overcrowded, substandard and very harsh conditions that affect the health and well being of the animals.
The meeting ended with a verbal agreement that Elite Animals would cease and desist from buying dogs for the time being while they considered the idea of converting to a humane business model. In exchange for this temporary agreement, CAPS has offered to act in good faith and pull back the protesting of the store this coming weekend. Elite Animals must now provide CAPS and the Animal Legal Defense Fund with the entire list of breeders supplying the store for the ongoing investigation. This information should have been posted on the outside of the enclosures of the puppies in the store according to CA law. Elite Animals was in non-compliance of the CA puppy lemon law.
The City of West Hollywood passed a resolution banning the sale of puppy mills last year and the Animal Legal Defense Fund has offered to help the city draft an enforceable anti-puppy mill ordinance. The ordinance is expected to be put on the agenda in coming months.
Teri Austin, president of the Amanda Foundation, an established rescue organization in Los Angeles, agreed to meet with owners of Elite Animals next week to discuss the possibility of an arrangement to hold adoptions at the store. At that meeting, once Elite Animals has ceased importing animals or buying animals from factories, discussions might evolve on creating a humane business model for the store. The details for such an arrangement would be based on a binding legal agreement between Elite Animals and CAPS to stop buying, breeding or importing animals.
Leaders of the animal protection movement as well as the dozens of activists who support the anti-puppy mill campaign are hopeful such a deal can be reached.