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Corona del Mar Today: I Heart Puppies target of animal rights group investigation

July 09, 2011|By Amy Senk

A national animal rights group has launched an investigation into the newly opened I Heart Puppies shop in Corona del Mar.

The store, which opened Friday, may have puppies for sale that come from "an egregious violator of the Animal Welfare Act," said Carole Davis, West Coast director for the Companion Animal Protection Society (CAPS).

She declined to say how she obtained her evidence, but she said it includes undercover video footage of the breeder's facility and "is not hearsay."

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"I have evidence this breeder supplies the Corona del Mar store," she said.

The shop's owners said they stand by their stated mission to get puppies from reputable breeders.

Co-owner Suzanne Bradford said the shop's puppies come from breeders who are in compliance with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, "which, as we all know, is the agency that inspects the country's food supply. So I think it makes sense that if we trust the USDA to make sure our food is safe for us and our families, we would also trust them with their responsibility of regulating commercial dog breeders."

Davis said she launched the investigation Tuesday after receiving 30 complaints about the store in one weekend.

Typically, she sees that many complaints in a month, she said.

According to Davis, the shop has puppies from at least six breeders, one of which has been investigated by the USDA and by the CAPS group since 2006.

Davis declined to name the breeder, but said she had reports from her internal investigations and from the USDA that described dogs living in broken wire cages with no bedding, and were outdoors in sub-zero temperatures. Water bowls were missing, frozen over, or contaminated with feces and urine, Davis said.

"The reports are really disturbing," she said. One report said the dogs were in cages three feet off the ground, "and underneath is so much fecal matter that you would have to wear a mask," she said. Any pet shop owner who visited this particular breeder "would leave in tears," she said.

The breeder is located in the Midwest, she said.

The violations and terrible conditions occurred in that location, not in Corona del Mar, she alleged.

"We are not accusing stores of abusing animals," Davis said.

A complete CAPS investigation could take up to six months, she said. "We inspect, we talk, we get inside, we observe, we talk to people who've bought animals, we talk to veterinarians," she said.

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