Pet Headquarters agrees to stop selling dogs

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Chris DeRose, founder of animal advocacy group LCA, with LCA members Kim Sill, Mark Goff, Robert Cabral and Bryan Stevens in front of Pet Headquarters. The group negaotiated with storeowner Kevin Madden, who agreed to stop selling dogs at the store because the group believes the animals came from puppy mills where they are inhumanely treated.

The store’s owner says his dogs came from quality breeders, but because protests were hurting his business, he said he agreed to terms with an animal advocacy group to stop selling puppies from the store.

By Nora Fleming / Special to The Malibu Times

After 15 years in the business, Pet Headquarters, located in Malibu Country Mart, will no longer sell puppies. The decision came after a series of negotiations with an animal advocacy group that claimed the store sold dogs that came from puppy mills.

Since June, several local residents teamed with animal rights organization Last Chance for Animals to protest the sale of Pet Headquarters’ dogs, which they said came from breeders who treated the dogs inhumanely. In November, the group began to discuss a solution with Kevin Madden, Pet Headquarters owner, about discontinuing the puppy sales.

Madden, who has been in the business for 17 years, stands by his conviction that the dogs he has purchased and sold in Malibu have come from quality breeders. He said he decided to stop selling dogs at the store because protestors were making it harder for his business to survive, not because he believed the animals came from puppy mills.

“They were making it harder and harder for me to sell puppies,” Madden said. “I have always done everything by the book. They weren’t telling the truth: I don’t buy my puppies from puppy mills, but it economically just became too tough [to compete].”

LCA advocate Kim Sill, who facilitated discussions with Madden, said Madden was at no point breaking the law, but she is convinced Pet Headquarters’ dogs were from puppy mills due to the locations the store’s dogs were coming from, states like Arkansas that have high numbers of puppy mills, in addition to the fact that Madden purchased dogs from the puppy broker company Lambriar, which she said obtains dogs from puppy mills.

Madden said he did purchase his dogs from Lambriar, but that the company is licensed by the USDA and inspected by the state. All dogs from Lambriar, he said, come from quality breeders.

“There’s a lot of money behind them,” Madden said of LCA. “I knew I had my hands full and it would just keep getting worse. You give these people an inch, and they take a mile.”

However, Sill said LCA had sent investigators to breeders that Lambriar purchases puppies from and have found almost all to be puppy mills with inhumane conditions.

Madden signed a statement with LCA that he would never sell dogs again, in addition to accepting $10,000 from the organization for his puppy containers that held the dogs that were for sale in the store.

“At LCA it is our goal to change the way the pet trade does business, not put them out of business,” said Sills, who added that LCA plans to support Pet Headquarters in whatever way possible and hopes to use his store as a model for other pet stores to change their business practices.

Kathleen Sommers, a deputy director at The Humane Society, in an earlier interview with The Malibu Times, said 98 percent to 99 percent of all pet store dogs come from puppy mills, which are legal in the United States.

In many puppy mills, over breeding, inbreeding, overcrowded cages, lack of medical care and inhumane treatment are typical, she said. Puppy mill dogs are often purchased from middlemen brokers who sell them to pet stores in bulk. While the USDA licenses many puppy mill breeders, it does not mean they are a quality breeding facility, she said.

“It’s legal to farm dogs as if they were cows and chickens, though we regard them as companion pets,” Sommers said. “We’ve continually found facilities violating the animal welfare act that are licensed and relicensed by the USDA again and again.”

Madden said puppy sales in general have deteriorated due to the current economic crisis, but his sales declined much more substantially because of the protests. He said he is now receiving criticism from people who are complaining that he is continuing to sell cats and other pets and is unclear if his business will survive, with high Malibu rents and the lack of puppy sales.

Pet Headquarters typically housed 20 puppies at a time in the store, which sold for an average of $1,000 to $1,500 each. All puppies that were in the store prior to the agreement have since found homes.

While Pet Headquarters had been the main target of protests, LCA and protestors were also looking into Millionaire Mutts, formally located in Malibu Colony Plaza, which they also believed purchased dogs from puppy mills. Suzanne Cargill, owner of Millionaire Mutts, denied the accusations, and has since moved her business from the plaza.

Pet Headquarters’ store manager, Paul Dalton, will be moving into the old Millionaire Mutts site to operate a new store selling pet supplies alone.

Meanwhile, protestors celebrate their achievement.

“As a pet lover, I couldn’t just stand by and know that animals were being subjected to horrific conditions and idly do nothing,” said local resident Pam Van Ierland, who participated in the protests.

“After eight months of candlelight vigils for slain puppy mill dogs, booths set up at the Malibu Chili Cook-Off to raise badly needed funds, after being assaulted and losing each and every Saturday with my kids, I was paid off in spades,” she added.