Puppy Store Sues San Diego


     SAN DIEGO (CN) - A puppy store sued San Diego, claiming the city enacted an unconstitutional law that "blatantly favors" nonprofits over for-profit businesses.
     San Diego Puppy and its married owners, David and Veronica Salinas, sued the city, the Animal Protection and Rescue League, the San Diego Humane Society, et al., in Federal Court.
     The 70-page lawsuit lists 12 causes of action, including violation of due process, equal protection, the Commerce Clause, and state regulations.
     The Salinases say they have run their pet store since 2011, selling puppies "from licensed and regulated breeders throughout the country ... selected for their quality and health."
     The city law took effect on Sept. 5, and the Salinases claim: "An improper collusion between council members and activists was behind the promulgation of the ordinance."
     The City Council sold it as a consumer-protection law aimed at regulating puppy mills, the Salinases say, citing comments from a July 9 City Council meeting.
     But actually, they say, the law regulates only profit-seeking businesses: it "only bans the sale at pet stores with the purpose of encouraging sales at rescue and shelter retail facilities."
     "The ordinance was the result of animus that was fostered by activist organizations and coupled with the pre-existing antipathy on the part of certain City Council members," the Salinases claim in the lawsuit.
     "Activists manipulated the pre-existing animus on the part of the City Council members by providing exaggerated statistics and promoting sham rationales for the ordinance in order to gain a market advantage."
     The Salinases claim that California already regulates sales of pets, that "only a small number of breeders appear to be unethical, and pet stores are not the problem."
     The lawsuit takes some unbridled shots at animal-protection groups: "By 2006, the Humane Society of United States; ('HSUS') lobbyist Wayne Pacelle was so deeply entrenched in governmental affairs that the bulk of HSUS fund - at least 98 percent - raised under the guise of helping homeless pet, were actually retained in the central HSUS office in Washington. Out of the $133,577,658 in total annual revenue reflected on the 2011 HSUS Form 990, HSUS paid salaries and 'other compensation; of $37,788,110, professional fund raising of $4,343,746 and over $11,000,000 on advertising.
     "While the name 'Humane Society' is attached to numerous shelters, upon information and belief, HSUS gave exactly zero ($0.00) to any affiliate." (Citations omitted.)
     To top it off, the Salinases claim, "Many shelters and/or rescues purchase dogs from 'puppy mill auctions.' ... Purchases by retail shelter or retail rescue organizations are made with fund collected from, inter alia, donations and 'rehoming' fees."
     The Salinases claim the ordinance deprives them of "the right to sell dogs from any sources not preferred in the ordinance, thus effectively depriving plaintiffs [of] the right to continue their business, and depriving plaintiffs of their right to be treated equally under the law."
     They say that enforcement of the law will force them to close their business and lay off 12 employees.
     The ordinance is known as Health & Safety Code Section 42.0706.
     The Salinases want its enforcement enjoined as unconstitutional.
     They are represented by Kira Schlesinger and Carolyn Chan.
     Also named as defendants are the San Diego Animal Defense Team, the Companion Animal Protection Society, and Bryan Pease, an attorney.