SOUTH LAKE TAHOE - A new pet store here is causing concern among more than 900 South Shore animal advocates.
People are concerned that the new pet store, called Broc's Puppies, is selling puppy mill dogs - which are pets mass-produced in a factorylike environment. Puppy mills aren't illegal, but animal advocates contend they are physically and emotionally damaging to animals, which cause their owners heartache and expense when the pets develop serious medical problems. The Humane Society of the United States contends all puppy mills should be shut down.
But Broc's Puppies store owner Dennis Franks said his puppies are fine, and that he's following regulations laid out by California state law. He said he approves of all breeders of puppies sold at his store and contends they aren't puppy mills.
Franks also will sell pet supplies at his store at 2291 Lake Tahoe Blvd., next to the car wash by Tahoe Keys Boulevard. He had more than 20 puppies at his store this week.
The issue was spotlighted at Tuesday's South Lake Tahoe City Council meeting, when a handful of citizens aired their concerns during the public comment period.
At the meeting, Lisa Utzig Shafer said a petition against the puppy store garnered more than 900 signatures in five days.
"We are concerned that this store will meet our worst fears," Shafer said. "That they will obtain their puppies from brokers and puppy mills that have not bred and cared for their dogs appropriately."
Jessica Brobst became choked up during the public comment period while asking for a formal investigation of the puppy store to determine fact from fiction.
"I've never done anything like this before," Brobst said. "I didn't think it was going to be so emotional."
Shafer said puppy mills are large breeders or brokers who produce many litters in factorylike settings, such as housing dogs in barren cages and then shipping them all over the country. Other mill conditions could include inadequate shelters, overbreeding, filthy food bowls and leaking waste-disposal systems.
Franks said a lot of pet stores buy from puppy mills, but he doesn't.
Allegations surfaced in a January 2007 Nevada Appeal article that Franks might be involved with a pet store in Carson City called Lil' Pups. That store was owned by Danny Franks; Albert Franks managed the store. Lil' Pups was accused of buying puppies from puppy mills, selling sick puppies and approving pets without a licensed veterinarian.
Protesters, former customers and Dog Town Rescue accused Lil' Pups of shady practices. Formal protests occurred in January 2007 outside the store.
According to a July 2007 Nevada Appeal article, Lil' Pups customer Kristy Fulton filed a report with the Nevada State Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners and Carson City Animal Services because the store allegedly sold her a sick puppy. She accused the store of selling her a sick dog on June 1 that had been given medicine by someone in the store without a license.
Danny Franks - who is Dennis Franks' brother - no longer owns Lil' Pups.
Dennis Franks said he had nothing to do with the previous pet stores. He said he thought his brother Danny owned Lil' Pups for a while but wasn't sure. Dennis Franks invites everyone, petition signers included, to come into his store and talk with him, he said.
Dog retail sellers face stringent requirements in California and Nevada.
According to Nevada Revised Statute 574, dog retailers in that state must have their animals examined by a veterinarian. Seriously ill dogs may not be sold. The California Health and Safety Code stipulates that a statement authorizing the sale of the dog must be signed by a California licensed veterinarian.
Local veterinarian Henry Kostecki examines Dennis Franks' puppies and provides general care before the pups are purchased.
"I don't see a problem," Kostecki said. "It's a good, clean operation."
As of Tuesday, Kostecki had checked 19 puppies and had at least seven more to examine. He said a few had some health issues, but most were in good health.
Franks said a lot of breeders won't sell to him because some dog clubs advise against selling dogs to pet stores. However, 300 breeders all over the country who will sell him animals, he said. Puppies delivered to him spend 12 or fewer hours by truck en route, he said.