The Escondido Fire Department is being sued for restricting protesters' efforts against Escondido Pets (formerly known as California Pets), a commercial dog-breeder operating at the Westfield Shopping Mall in Escondido.
According to an August 3 complaint filed in San Diego Superior Court by the Animal Protection and Rescue League, a group that has long fought the retail sale of commercially bred animals, security personnel at the mall relegated protesters to a small area behind an escalator across from the store's entrance.
Bryan Pease, the group's attorney, contacted Escondido fire marshal Marlene Donner to complain about the location and inform her that the league and mall staff had already litigated the matter and agreed on protest locations.
Despite the agreement, says the complaint, Donner refused to reconsider. In a July 7 public records request to Donner, Pease asked to see correspondence between mall security and other staff members and Donner. Donner did not respond. Then, on August 1, Donner replied to Pease without mentioning the request and informed him that she “will attend your next protest with [the police department] if necessary to ensure you are in compliance."
In response, Pease and the league are suing the city and the fire department for failing to follow through on a public records request and for limiting their rights to protest.
Retail-store dog-breeders such as Escondido Pets have been on the run during the course of the past few years. Cities across the county have adopted bans on similar shops due to their link to puppy mills. The shops, according to advocates, are usually the last stop for dogs who were bred in crowded breeding facilities typically located in Midwestern states such as Missouri and Kansas. Because of the conditions at the breeding facilities, many of the dogs for sale at the pet stores are prone to behavioral and physical ailments and often have shorter life spans.
Solana Beach, Vista, San Diego, Encinitas, San Marcos, Oceanside, and Carlsbad have banned commercial breeders and the shops that sell the puppies and other animals. Escondido has not yet considered a similar ban.