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By Miriam Raftery

July 9, 2015 (Santee) – At last night’s Santee City Council meeting, 24 people came to show support for asking that dogs from puppy  mills be outlawed for sale in Santee.   The group is waiting to see if Council will agree to add the item to its agenda.

Sydney Cicourel, west coast director for The Puppy Mill Project, told Council members that her organization has gathered 3,000 signatures on a petition in support of the ban.  The group has been protesting at Pups and Pets, a Santee store that Cicourel says purchases dogs in from puppy mills where the animals are kept in “deplorable” conditions that are unsafe and unsanitary, often in stacked wire cages.

“This store profits off egregious animal cruelty,” she said, adding that pets at the store are kept in small cages for sometimes months at a time.  She accused the store of also selling “sick puppies” that are winding up at the local animal shelter in El Cajon because owners cannot afford costly treatments or surgeries.

Pups & Pets co-owner Sharon Franco spoke with ECM news partner 10 News.  She says her store used to have problems getting ill dogs from local breeders but insists that since switching to large commercial breeders, “puppies are healthy that come in.” The facilities are USDA approved, she said, adding, “If there are bad breeders out there, they should shut them down. We are doing everything right.  We follow every state and local regulation. We are inspected by animal control and the Humane Society on a regular basis.”

But Cicourel insists that responsible breeders don’t sell to pet stores.  “We’re not removing anyone’s freedom,” she says of the proposed ban, adding that people would still be free to buy dogs from breeders or get pets from local shelters.

The Puppy Mill Project has led successful drives to get retail pet ordinances banning pet store sales of puppy mill dogs enacted in San Diego, Oceanside and Encinitas locally, as well as other cities.

Kaitlyn Finney (photo, top left) also testified, showing her purebred cocker spaniel, Mattie, as evidence of the harm done by puppy mills. Mattie was rescued from a puppy mill in Mexico, where due to her rare coloration she had been inbred and has numerous medical problems.  Finney said she has spent over $5,000 on surgery “because we love her,” but that many other pet owners saddled with a pet store dog that is unhealthy are unable to afford such costly care.

Council heard testimony during public comment, but no motion was made to put the retail pet ordinance issue on a future agenda.

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