More than 100 protesters showed up in front of the I Heart Puppies shop in CdM last weekend, waving signs, chanting and singing, and cheering at cars that drove by and honked in support.
The group, led by the Companion Animal Protection Society’s West Coast director, Carole Davis, was protesting the sale of puppies at the store, urging the store owners to “go humane” and adopt out pets from local animal shelters instead.
Protesters displayed signs and t-shirts with a variety of messages like “Puppy Mill Misery Sold Here” and “Don’t Shop, Adopt!”
CAPS claims the shop sells puppies that come from a “puppy mill,” and many of their signs showed pictures of sick and injured dogs and dogs in small cages.
The store’s owners vehemently deny that the puppies they sell come from any such conditions, which are illegal, and that any breeders they use have clean, healthy and humane operations.
“I think it’s absolute slander,” said Summer Gorjian, one of the store’s owners. “They’re just making false allegations. … This is a legimate business. We do things by the book. … It’s not their place to tell us what to do with our business.”
The group stood along Pacific Coast Highway in Corona del Mar from 1 to 3 p.m., waving signs at vehicles driving by. The LA-based organizers said about half of the protesters were from Orange County.
“We do not want to put them out of business,” Davis said, although she and several protesters carried signs urging that the store be closed if it didn’t change.
“They can do really well and have all of our support, if they go humane, and we will support them in that, absolutely,” Davis said. “The day that they go humane we will no longer be protesting, we will be shopping.”
Suzanne Bradford, another of the store’s owners, sounded a defiant note, saying, “I’m not going to quit. I have no intention of quitting … We’ll just keep going, doing things the best way we know how, taking care of our puppies, getting puppies from reputable breeders and sending beautiful puppies home with happy people.”
Davis spoke to the crowd and promised to be there every single week until something changes. The protest was the launching of a sustained campaign, she said.
This drew a retort from Bradford.
“I don’t think this community will tolerate that kind of disruption,” she said, “nor should they.”
Protesters marched in front and yelled into the shop while chanting, “Shame, shame, shame! It’s time to go humane!” At one point the crowd broke into a song with a familiar tune but with swapped lyrics, crooning “How sick is that puppy in the window?” toward the shop.
I Heart Puppies stayed open during the event and had a few customers and a number of supporters drop by. They adopted out one kitten during the two-hour period.
Employees passed out fliers and put signs in the window stating that the store did not support puppy mills.
Most of the pet store’s employees and supporters stayed indoors with a watchful eye on the crowd. A hired security guard stood near the entrance.
Employees occasionally stepped out to visit neighboring stores, take photos of the protesters and their signs, talk to police and later in the day placing a bicycle in front of their shop.
A few employees from neighboring stores also complained to police, and shops on the block reported a sharp drop in business.
Police maintained crowd control during the protest, even writing a few citations for jaywalking, according to one ticketed protester. No arrests were reported.
Eric Longabardi and Roger Bloom contributed to this report.
Columnist Jack Woo’s take on the protest is here.