Even though pet-store operator David Salinas's legal bills are mounting, cities are outlawing his puppy-supply pipeline, and animal-welfare activists continue to bite into him, he plans to continue selling puppies.
"If you run a small business and you love what you do, then you just keep working," Salinas says. "The proof is in the puppy: we give ten-year- guarantees because we care about our puppies."
Animal-welfare activists don't see Salinas as a man who loves puppies. They see him as a man who loves profits and sues people who disagree with him.
"He's straight-up selling puppies from a puppy mill in the Midwest," says Bryan Pease — whom Salinas sued in federal court. "It's a cheap, effective, legal business model — Hunte [Corporation] ships them cheap and Salinas sells them for a thousand dollars each."
So-called puppy mills have been on animal-welfare activists’ targets for more than a decade. They cite cruel and inhumane kenneling — cages where pups have their size plus six inches of spare room — terrible care, the use of breeding techniques where females have one litter after another, genetic problems from inbreeding, and a tendency for inspectors to find dead animals when they inspect the breeding operations.
Puppies are his business; business is good and bad
Salinas has four puppy stores in Southern California — National City Puppy, Beach Buddy Puppies in Oceanside, Mini Toy Puppies in San Marcos, and the Fancy Puppy in Corona. The Oceanside store — known as Oceanside Puppy until recently — was the target of a city-council ordinance passed in January that bans selling pets from sources that breed and sell more than 20 dogs a year; that ordinance gave Oceanside Puppy until September 1 to cut ties to Hunte Corporation, a Goodman, Missouri-based breeder that delivers dogs by truck.
A group of animal-welfare activists, including Leslie Davies, have followed and video-recorded the Hunte trucks' stops at San Diego area stores. They've picketed Salinas’s stores and gone inside to confront him. One such confrontation left a woman activist facing vandalism and battery charges after she slapped a sticker reading "Adopt Don't Shop" on the San Marcos store window. Her trial is scheduled for the first week of October.
"The poor, unsuspecting consumers who purchase a dog at an exceptional price [think] it is a wonderful dog and then are confronted with terrible health problems and personality problems associated with puppy-mill dogs," Davies said. "Many of these dogs end up being euthanized because of the problems that started at the puppy mill."
Hunte Corporation not as bad as reputation?
Three weeks ago, activists say they captured images of puppies being pulled out of a Hunte truck and carried into Salinas's Oceanside store, which is now named Beach Buddy Puppies. Salinas says he does sell Hunte puppies. He acknowledges that Hunte has had its share of problems and investigations — including failing to comply with U.S. Department of Agriculture guidelines for housing and care of dogs. But, he says, they've cleaned up their act.
”I’ve been to their facilities several times; they are top-notch. There's no expense spared to have healthy, happy pups — the facility is open to the public for inspection," Salinas said. "We only work with breeders that are in compliance with state and federal regulations — and if they weren't in compliance before, they are now."
Last year, the Humane Society of the United States again identified Hunte as one of the "Horrible Hundred" of bad facilities. At the same time, the American Kennel Club continued to certify and register Hunte's purebred dogs — and to argue against breeder-ban ordinances, saying they infringe on people's rights to buy the dog of their choice and that such bans endanger the supply of purebred dogs.
About 83 localities have enacted bans related to puppy sales, including Oceanside, Encinitas, Chula Vista, San Diego, and San Marcos (a temporary ban), but also El Paso and Austin, Texas; Albuquerque, New Mexico; and many Florida cities.
Council and court
On Tuesday, August 25, the Vista City Council delayed a vote on a similar ordinance that is expected to come back during the September meeting.
In 2013, after San Diego passed its ban on selling puppies from puppy mills, Salinas sued the city and the activists that brought the ordinance forward. Defendants included Pease, the city, the Humane Society, and several animal-welfare groups.
Deputy, city attorney George Schaefer did not return calls for comment on the suit.
Pease, an attorney as well as an animal-welfare activist, hired two attorneys to defend him and, in late 2014, U.S. district judge Barry Ted Moskowitz dismissed Salinas's suit in response to the defendants' argument that they were sued as a way of punishing them for advocating to the city council — what's called an anti-SLAPP motion. SLAPP stands for strategic litigation against public participation. They've asked for a court order that Salinas must pay their lawyer bills of more than $100,000, which are promised in a successful anti-SLAPP matter.
For reasons that aren't clear, Moskowitz hasn't ruled on their request, although the motions are almost two months old.