PUPPY WARS: Secret Tapes and a Federal Probe

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Activists targeting the I Heart Puppies pet store in Corona del Mar have employed undercover methods to secretly record their conversations with the store’s owners during a recent visit.

The owners allege those conversations were threatening and harassing and are seeking a restraining order against activist Carole Davis, West Coast director of Companion Animal Protection Society (CAPS). A court hearing on that request is scheduled for Aug. 10.

In addition to Davis, Carole Sax, listed as CAPS’s  Los Angeles volunteer coordinator on the group’s website, was present at the time the secret recordings were made.  A source familiar with the recordings told the Newport Beach Independent that they were made without the knowledge of the owners of the pet store.

California wiretapping law requires the consent of both parties when the recording of conversations takes place in a situation where there is a reasonable expectation of privacy. The definition of what is reasonable is to be decided by a weighing of the factual circumstances on a case-by-case basis.  The law can be enforced through either criminal or civil prosecution.

When asked to comment about the secret recordings, Davis referred the Independent to San Diego-based lawyer and animal-rights activist Bryan Pease, who provided this statement:

“As Carole’s attorney, I’m advising her not to answer these questions, as the answers could affect how truthful the pet store owner is in her testimony seeking a restraining order. That said, you can expect that all of these facts will come out at the hearing August 10.”

Brooke Bradford, one of the owners of the CdM pet store, could not be reached for comment as of presstime.

Meanwhile, Cricks Kennels, a Nebraska dog breeder at the center of CAPS’s allegations about the CdM pet store, is the focus an investigation begun in late June by the US Department of Agriculture’s Animal Health and Plant Inspection Service.

The investigation was prompted by repeated violations of the Animal Welfare Act since 2008, according to USDA spokesman David Sacks. According to Sacks, the investigation stems from a letter of warning issued by the USDA to the breeder in March of 2008, not from any outside complaint made to the agency.  That USDA letter of warning was obtained by the NB Independent.

Cricks Kennels has been licensed by the USDA for more than a decade. According to records reviewed by the NB Independent and to Sacks, the Nebraska dog breeder’s failure to comply with the 2008 letter of warning prompted the current follow-up investigation.

Although Sacks confirmed the investigation, he added that “nothing would be released until the case has been completed.”

Pet store owner Bradford has previously said her store had obtained only one puppy from Crick’s Kennels and has since stopped doing business with them.


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  1. Thank you for finally admitting the truth that Bradford is in business with inhumane commercial breeders, aka puppy mills. She never admitted her wrong doing, still has not admitted her wrong doing and continues to do business with puppy mills.

  2. Wow, those activists sure have a lot of time on their hands to make all this fuzz over a legal business trying to provide what people want. (you&me people, not activist people)
    If that puppy store was selling fur coats made from endangered species I’d understand the outrage, but this seems like a case of “I’ll do anything to get in the spotlight”.
    I am all for animal rights, and people fighting for them, but at one point you have to realize when you’re barking up the wrong tree.

  3. This is ridiculous. These activists are way out of line! This store is a welcome addition to the neighborhood. I saw them close down their business for two days to install sprinklers.
    If the activists do not like the way they sell puppies, they do not need to shop there. But they have no right to go to these extremes to disrupt a business like this and slander them. If I were the puppy store I would sue them . Why don’t they go after people who are actually harming animals? This is a case of doing bad deeds under the guise of a good cause.

  4. They did not install sprinklers they put in a fire alarm, sprinklers too expensive for them. Gee does that tell you how much they care about animals. What is wrong with a store going humane? Holly, please go to the O.C. animal shelter and look into the eyes of poodles, chihuahuas, spaniels that are about to die, we don’t need another puppy mill front in our community. Please google puppy mills, this is who this store does business with, animal cruelty. W. Hollywood, Lake Tahoe, Glendale, Austin, Palm Beach and soon L.A. will all be banning the sale of animals from mass breeding facilities. Santa Monica is rescue only, 3 pet stores selling shelter dogs, 2 in glendale, 1 in W. Hollywood they are all successful, CDM get with the program and go humane. Thank goodness for animal activists who else will speak up for the voiceless.

  5. Holly, they ARE harming animals. They are harming the millions of breeding mothers that spend their entire lives in wire cages. They are harming the 500,000 healthy animals that California shelters kill each year. They are harming the 3,700 dogs that the Orange County shelter killed in 2010. The people speaking out against this store realize it’s not acceptable to breed and sell animals when each year 5,000,000 of them wallow and die in shelters across our nation. I Heart Puppies had an opportunity to do something unique and innovative by partnering with local shelters and rescue groups. Instead they choose to participate in the commercial breeding trade, a trade wrought with neglect, cruelty, and despair. This is not a case of “doing bad deeds under the guise of a good cause.” It’s a case of people who understand the situation having the passion and conviction to stand up and do something about it.

  6. There is a difference between animal lovers and animal extremists. These people with CAPS and APRl’s Bryan Pease have very twisted priorities. You people are wrong in the head. If it were up to them we would all be vegan. They try and chisel away our rights every day for their extremist cause. DO NOT GIVE ANY GROUND TO THEM! People like Bryan Pease and Carole Davis are complete whackos!

    Pam and Mark… they are just animals. Get over it.

  7. Carole, you get it! “make up your own mind” you said. Ok, then let people make up their own minds without harassing people trying to do business and consumers that buy from them. You are against puppy mills. I suppose you are also against chicken farming, foie gras, veal, etc. That is your deal. Stop trying to impose your animal rights agenda upon others.

    And Jane Velez Mitchell is such a joke. Seriously that show infuriates me, such a crock of BS and she is the most biased person on TV. I just had to see Dorota from APRL’s Seal Watch interviewed by her to make up my mind. Now this puppy mill segment. Sorry, your CNN link demonstrates 0 credibility.

  8. Ryan,
    We are not “trying to impose an AR agenda” as you claim. Animals deserve humane treatment. The overwhelming majority of Americans agree with that. People are especially saddened by the way companion animals are mistreated in pet factories. Americans love dogs and hate to see them cruelly treated. That is why responsible breeders do not deal with mass volume brokers and pet stores. They do not ship 8 week old puppies thousands of miles away to anyone with a credit card.

    No offense, you absolutely have your right to believe anything you wish. But CNN is very mainstream and Jane Velez Mitchel’s show is a huge ratings hit. Millions of people watch her show. She is an excellent journalist with international credibility. And our investigation footage doesn’t lie. Those poor dogs are living in a hell hole. I think you are just very much against protecting animals from mistreatment. You seem to despise people who protect animals and also seem to have some anger management issues.

    I think most people are smart enough to make up their own minds when they have all the facts. It’s understandable that the pet industry would like to hide the facts so they can make 84 Billion dollars a year. No jobs, by the way. Your typical mill is 300 miserable sick dogs and one toothless drunk with a hose.

  9. Oh boy. Where to begin… there simply is no convincing people with a mindset that considers this issue insignificant. But for the record, please be informed that there are hundreds of thousands of adult breeding dogs living in wire cages too small for them to sit, stand or lie in a normal position, many are denied vet care, denied adequate nutrition and water and denied shelter from the elements. Most of them live in the Midwest where they endure scorching summers and frigid winters. And when they’re no longer useful, many are destroyed in ways you don’t want to hear about. They are subjected to all of this just so someone can make a buck. This simply should not be condoned nor supported. I Heart Puppies and anyone who supports them will eventually find that they were on the wrong side in this argument.