Pet stores pressured to nix 'puppy mills'

MELROSE DISTRICT, Calif. Pure-bred puppies have become fashion accessories to the stars, and those who sell the puppies have become targets for demonstrators. Clark Duval purchased The Puppy Store on Melrose Ave. three months ago, unaware he was venturing into an animal-rights minefield.

When asked if he was alarmed at first seeing a protest in front of his new business, Duval said, "It was new."

Last Chance For Animals (LCA) shot video of alleged puppy mills in the Midwest. Although the establishments are legal, LCA says they engage in inbreeding and over-breeding.

LCA and Best Friends Animal Society have passed out pamphlets and protested shops that sell the pups. The result: seven L.A.-area stores have shut down in one year.

"I think a lot of business did get detoured," said Robert Cabra, Last Chance For Animals. "I think people were listening to us and hearing what we were saying."

Under pressure, the owner of Pet Headquarters in Malibu now says he will only sell pet supplies. In exchange, LCA promotes him.

"Honor this man because what he's doing is a big deal and he didn't have to do it," said Kim Sill, Last Chance For Animals. "He was not doing anything that was illegal."

At The Puppy Store, the LCA persuaded another change: Instead of pricey pure-breds, it will only sell shelter animals.

"We really wanted to be part of a solution," said The Puppy Store owner Clark Duval. "There's just such a terrible overpopulation of these pets."

It is uncharted territory for the pet store. They make 80 percent of their profits from the sale of puppies -- for instance, an English bulldog that sells for $1,900.

Shelter dogs will not fetch anything close to that price. Duval hopes that positive PR will draw customers, and that he can sell more pet supplies.

"It's a brand new model," said Duval. "Nobody's ever done anything, to our knowledge, like this before."

Duval pledges to have new, more affordable, healthier doggies in his window by New Year's Day.

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