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CAPS' Peaceful Protest at Bark Works Reminds Us to Adopt From Shelters



Note: My discussion of climate change will continue in January. This week, I take a detour to a protest that took place outside of Bark Works at the Westside Pavilion mall.

If you’ve been to Westside Pavilion, chances are you’ve seen them. Cute little balls of fur frolicking in the storefront displays or snoozing peacefully in their cages, priced at hundreds of dollars. Puppies! But the Companion Animal Protection Society, an organization devoted to investigating pet shops and puppy mills, wants you to know something about Bark Works: These puppies come from puppy mills in the Midwest, where puppies are mass-produced in conditions that deny their parents freedom of movement, comfort, good health, and even life.

CAPS isn’t the only group to target Bark Works, whose employees will tell you that the puppies come from private family breeders or small breeders (that’s what I was told the first time I ever entered the store.) The Best Friends Animal Society has also been waging a campaign to put pressure on Bark Works and inform the public that there are more humane pet adoption alternatives available. But on Saturday, Dec. 19, CAPS tested a 2007 Supreme Court ruling that shopping malls cannot prevent protesters from advocating a boycott of stores, even when on private property, on grounds of free speech rights. About 70 or so volunteers wearing red shirts and carrying signs marched in front of Bark Works, urging shoppers to recognize the value of adopting pets from local shelters instead of supporting the cruelty of puppy mill-supplied pet stores. In speaking with Carole Raphaelle Davis, the West Coast director of CAPS, I learned about the extensive preparations that went into ensuring the protest’s peaceful conduct. LAPD was notified and reassured of peaceful intentions, mall security was made aware of the parameters of the protest – in brief, all the legalities and fire safety issues were clarified and understood. Defying expectations that protesters would be arrested within 5 minutes, everything went smoothly for all parties as the 2:30 action began.

CAPS Protest at Bark Works, Westside Pavilion, on December 19, 2009

Most interesting was watching the few people who went through the protest lines to enter the store. Did they not see the signs? Did they not care about the welfare of the puppies on display…and the countless more at the puppy mills that bred them? Even while giving Bark Works the benefit of the doubt, shouldn’t people at least learn more about a very serious situation before lending marketing support to the store by ooing and aaaaing the puppies? The Best Friends Animal Society has collected evidence, such as this video documentation, of the conditions breeding dogs are made to live in.

The Bark Works statement regarding the provenance of their puppies, as stated on their website, is a denial.

What is especially upsetting about the situation, beyond the cruelty inflicted on animals that are supposed to be under our care and protection instead of commoditized and exploited, is that the solution isn’t a difficult one. Yet people routinely ignore it. It’s a bit like taking a canvas bag with you to the grocery store (anywhere, for that matter) instead of using the store’s own plastic bags – it requires little effort but can make a huge difference. Adopting an animal from an overwhelmed local shelter not only saves it from being killed – the ASPCA reports that five out of ten dogs in shelters and seven out of ten cats in shelters are destroyed – but is also easier on the pocketbook. As Carole Davis points out in a video on the CAPS website, why not get a dog or cat from a rescue organization or County shelter and spend that $1000 on a family in need instead of a pet store puppy?

This holiday season, then, I’d like to join my voice with that of organizations such as the Best Friends Animal Society and the Companion Animal Protection Society in urging you to stand against cruelty. If you’re considering taking in a dog, cat, or other animal in your home, please visit your local shelter or contact one of the many rescue organizations working to find loving homes for animals in need. My wife and I adopted two cats, each from a rescue organization, and we honestly can’t imagine our home without them. The same holds true for everyone we know who have adopted wonderful animals instead of purchased them from breeders and pet stores like Bark Works. While it is incredibly pretentious to quote myself from a past column, it’s worth repeating what I once wrote: “Our morality is only as strong as its weakest link, and our compassion as meaningful as its consistent practice.” While the season reminds us of the value of compassion, let’s remember that compassion should extend not just to our fellow humans, but also to the animals whose service and companionship enrich our lives.

Frédérik invites you to discuss this week's column at his blog, www.inkandashes.net.

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