Protests at the Animal Kingdom pet shop in Santa Maria continued on Feb. 11, even after the City Council decided at its Feb. 7 meeting not to agendize an ordinance banning retail pet sales in the city.
A local pet advocacy group proposed the ordinance idea at a City Council meeting in late 2016, claiming Animal Kingdom has historically sourced its pets from puppy mills. But when City Manager Rick Haydon asked the City Council on Feb. 7 if it was interested in putting the ban on the city agenda, no one spoke up.
Haydon said he had sent Deputy City Manager Jason Stilwell to Animal Kingdom, and Stilwell had found no issues with the store’s pet sources.
“They get their pets, primarily their dogs and cats, from commercial breeders that are within the state of California,” Haydon said at the meeting. “The files we actually looked at were with reputable breeders out of the Fresno area.”
But the pet advocacy group, No More Pet Store Puppies 805, believes otherwise.
The group has partnered with the Companion Animal Protection Society (CAPS), which investigated Animal Kingdom’s Santa Maria location in 2015. The investigation spotted state violations at the store and yielded documents revealing that Animal Kingdom had previously sourced pets from breeders in the Midwest with U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) violations.
Cristine Collier, founder of No More Pet Store Puppies 805, told the Sun in a previous interview that USDA approval doesn’t necessarily mean much when it comes to breeder quality.
Under USDA regulations, breeders can still keep hundreds of dogs, breed them each heat cycle, and confine them to cages at all times.
“The regulations are so woefully inadequate,” Collier said. “It’s just really sad looking at it. Dogs aren’t meant to be confined 24/7 in a small cage in groups of two or three, constantly breeding. Dogs are companion animals. They’re meant to be in a home, meant to be played with.”
No More Pet Store Puppies 805 has protested at Animal Kingdom locations almost monthly since last summer, according to member Genete Bowen. The group most recently gathered outside the Santa Maria location at the Santa Maria Town Center mall on Feb. 10, handing out fliers and speaking with passersby about the dangers of puppy mills.
“I think it’s extremely important to get this education out there to the public on where these animals are possibly coming from and also to educate more about rescue, and being aware, and what is a responsible breeder,” Bowen told the Sun during the protest.
According to Bowen, 32 municipalities in California have banned the retail sale of pets, redirecting customers to animal rescues. Though Santa Maria’s City Council has decided against pursuing such a ban, Bowen said the group would continue advocating for one.
“I think it’s very important to continue this forward motion of these pet retail sale bans,” she said.
Animal Kingdom co-owner Adam Tipton said he wasn’t worried, and that his store traffic consistently picks up when the pet advocacy group is protesting out front.
“We’ve been crazy busy because they’re here,” Tipton told the Sun. “It’s weird. I don’t think it works for them.”
He said that he respects the group’s right to protest but doesn’t plan on interacting with the group or their cause.
“We just don’t deal with them,” Tipton said. “It’s just one of those situations that’s better left alone.”