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Closing the pet shop loophole

Posted: 6:24 PM, Feb 28, 2019
Updated: 2019-03-05 14:45:41-05

UPDATE (3/4/19) – San Luis Obispo County Animal Services says it has received documentation regarding Bark Adoption’s 501 C-3 status as it required from Animal Kingdom.

However, it’s expected to take a few days to fully vet all of those documents, meaning Animal Services isn’t taking any action against Animal Kingdom at this time.

Animal Kingdom, which has stores in Pismo Beach, Grover Beach and Santa Maria, was asked to provide documentation showing that it’s working with a legitimate non-profit rescue or shelter.

Under a new California law, pet stores that can’t provide that proof could be fined $500 per dog.


 

In January, KSBY reported on a new California law that allows pet stores to sell cats, dogs, and rabbits only if they’re from a rescue organization or shelter.

Since then, we’ve received complaints from viewers who say several local pet shops are still selling purebred puppies for thousands of dollars.

Animal Kingdom, which operates in Santa Maria, Pismo Beach, and Grover Beach, sells a variety of animals including dogs. San Luis Obispo County Animal Services says the business caught their attention during a recent annual inspection.

“We do require every pet store to annually resubmit an application and that involves an inspection and evaluation of the facility,” said Dr. Eric Anderson, San Luis Obispo County Animal Services Manager.

Dr. Anderson says Animal Kingdom has been given a deadline of March 1 to prove their dogs come from a legitimate rescue or shelter. If they are not able to provide proof, they could face fines of $500 per dog.

According to pet dealer disclosure documents obtained by KSBY News, some of the puppies come from an organization called Bark Adoptions in Menifee, California.

Bark Adoptions registered as a domestic non-profit in California in November 2018, but it has not received 501 C-3 status with the IRS.

The state franchise tax board confirmed Bark Adoptions is not currently tax exempt in California. San Luis Obispo County officials say that means Animal Kingdom may have been in violation of the law for nearly two months.

Over the course of several weeks, KSBY News has made several attempts to call and visit the owner of Animal Kingdom.

After leaving several messages, we still have not heard back.

Veterinary inspection forms from Iowa’s Department of Agriculture show some of the purebred dogs that go through Bark Adoptions come from a group called Rescue Pets Iowa.

If those documents are accurate, that means dogs are traveling at least 2,000 miles from Ottumwa, Iowa, to Menifee, California, eventually ending up in San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara counties.

“Why are they doing this? These rescues were formed to circumvent these laws. Whether it’s on a municipal ordinance or state law, that’s why these were formed,” said Deborah Howard, president of the Companion Animal Protection Society.

Howard says dozens of pet stores across California get their dogs from Bark Adoptions and at least two other businesses.

“Already, Animal Friends of the Valley in Riverside County has issued 60 citations to the pet shops, which is mostly in Temecula,” Howard added.

Experts are calling the shelters a ‘loophole’ in the new law.

“Commercial operations, which are working with puppy mills and this factory breeding industry, have the potential of filling documentation and getting themselves registered as a non-profit organization. Then, that organization essentially becomes a pass-through, shell non-profit,” Dr. Anderson said.

It’s something Howard is determined to change.

“The next step is we’re going to call on the legislature to amend this law. There was a loophole in the law that allowed these rescues to form,” Howard added.