Dozens crowd curb at Pups4Love protest

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Protestors outside of Pups4Love in Albertson Saturday. (Photo by Jed Hendrixson)

Animal advocates stood shoulder to shoulder outside Pups4Love in Albertson Saturday, holding up signs and protesting the puppy store following a recent incident involving another animal activist.

“What’s being done here is wrong,” protester Keri Michel said. According to Michel, Pups4Love, like other puppy stores in the region, receives dogs from puppy mills that mistreat the animals.

Dozens of people chanting for animals’ rights and honking from passing cars apparently showing support for the protest turned the Willis Avenue storefront into a loud call for attention to be paid to where the puppies are coming from.

Michel, a member of the animal advocacy group Puppy Mill Free Long Island, said Pups4Love’s dogs are brought in from puppy mill breeders in states like Missouri that are infamous for keeping the dogs in deplorable conditions and putting profits ahead of the welfare of the animal.

A puppy mill is a commercial farming operation in which purebred dogs are raised in large numbers and often in substandard or poor conditions.

The Humane Society of the United States’ Horrible Hundred list details cruel conditions at 100 breeders across the country. The 2018 list named 23 locations in Missouri and six in New York, all of which are upstate.

There is no legal definition of a puppy mill, according to store owner Barry Forrest, and the misperceptions of cruelty that surround the puppies in his store are “something that’s made up.”

Forrest said he has always followed all the laws and regulations at the national, state and county levels.

“Everyone has a right to their own opinion,” Forrest said of the protesters. “Everyone is protected by the First Amendment.”

Earlier this month, pizza shop owner Rino DiMaria was assaulted outside the pet store following a confrontation with Forrest and the drivers of two delivery vans packed with puppies, with license plates from Missouri and Arkansas. DiMaria was recording the delivery of the dogs to the puppy store. Christopher Hyde, 40, of Springfield, Mo., was arrested in connection with the incident.

The Saturday protest was directly spurred by DiMaria’s actions, which Michel described as brave, but also was a part of the larger conversation about puppy mill dogs on Long Island, she said.

Breeder dogs in puppy mills rarely see the light of day or leave their cages, Michel said.

“There is no sympathy, no remorse for the conditions these animals are raised in,” Michel said.

Some 300 municipalities nationwide have banned the sale of commercial-bred puppies, including the state of California in 2017, Michel said, but Long Island is falling behind.

Forrest said he does not receive animals from breeders that abuse their dogs and that he ultimately relies on the U.S. Department of Agriculture to ensure breeders are legitimate.

In 2014, Nassau County passed a bill that prohibited the sale of dogs and cats younger than eight weeks or supplied by breeders with outstanding issues with the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

According to advocate Diane Madden, a former legislator, current County Executive Laura Curran stood with her in opposition of the bill, which she said did not go far enough to protect animals, but has not taken additional action since taking the helm of the county’s top office.

“My question is where is she?” Madden said about Curran. “To me, she has the power to promote legislation to stop the flow of these dogs.”

Efforts to reach Curran for comment were unavailing.

Madden is currently involved in an active federal lawsuit against the Town of Hempstead for issues relating to the operation of the town’s animal shelter. Madden previously settled a lawsuit against the town in 2010 for $150,000 for speaking out against the alleged mistreatment of shelter animals.

The county’s laws are ineffective and rarely enforced as they are written now, according to Madden, and animal advocates like herself voted for Curran hoping for stricter legislation on the sale of puppy mill dogs.

“They can fix this,” Madden said.

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