The puppies slept, played and sat in their display cases as usual at National City Puppy on Friday, a day before the store was scheduled to close in accordance with a court order.
The order, a preliminary injunction, was issued Monday at the request of animal rights groups who have filed a lawsuit that seeks what it describes as the ‘laundering’ of commercially bred puppies advertised as “rescues”. National City Puppy and a self-proclaimed rescue group he gets dogs from, Missouri-based Pet Connect Rescue Inc., rejected the claims in court.
Defense attorney George Najjar confirmed that National City Puppy, located in a mall on East Plaza Boulevard, plans to be closed from Saturday to comply with the court order, at least for now. He said he planned to appeal the order.
Najjar said he did not know more details about the planned closure. The store manager declined to comment on the case, while owner David Salinas made only a brief comment.
“Puppies always come first,” Salinas said. “We will make sure they are well cared for and loved.”
National City Puppy has ties to other pet stores in Escondido, Santee, Temecula and Corona where dogs could be taken.
At National City Puppy on Friday morning, more than a dozen puppies were in display cases as interested shoppers stopped by. Among the puppies were Zeus, a 16-week-old Boston Terrier with sleepy eyes; a pair of brown Labrador Retrievers, 9 and 11 weeks old; and a restless 12-week-old Australian Cattle Dog.
Outside, a sign held a poster that read: “Puppies for Sale.”
Filed Dec. 6, the lawsuit against National City Puppy alleges the company violated a state law that requires stores to obtain dogs from shelters or rescue groups that partner with shelters in accordance with food code and state agriculture. Additionally, the lawsuit alleges that Pet Connect is “laundering” dogs raised in “puppy mills” at stores such as National City Puppy.
In response, Pet Connect representatives said in court documents that the nonprofit does not breed dogs or foster dogs from “puppy mills.”
In issuing the preliminary injunction, Superior Court Judge Eddie Sturgeon sided with attorney Bryan Pease, who had argued that the facility between National City Puppy and Pet Connect violated state law. because the rescue group had an agreement with a refuge in Mexico, outside the jurisdiction of the Food and Agriculture Code.
National City Puppy, which has long resisted accusations that it offers dogs raised in ‘puppy mills’, has been embroiled in a series of events since the city considered banning the retail sale of dogs , cats and rabbits in May.
Salinas and National City Puppy supporters argued that the store could not stay open without being able to sell dogs, which would result in the loss of approximately 20 jobs. They also said that the public should have the right to buy a dog.
Animal rights activists and others who pushed for the ban saw it as a way to ultimately crack down on the animal factories.
The city council voted 4-1 to pass the ban in September, but Salinas filed a pair of lawsuits against the city and succeeded in asking a judge for a court order that blocked the ban’s enforcement. He also proposed a referendum, garnering enough signatures to force the city council to overturn the ordinance or put the question on the ballot in March. The council opted for the second option.