December 06, 2006

Fur Flies Over Puppy Sales

Things are getting ugly in Aquebogue.

Despite a bevy of brightly colored balloons, stuffed animals and employees dressed in spotted dog costumes, the scene outside The Puppy Experience, a new pet shop on Route 25 in Aquebogue, is grim.

On a recent Sunday, a group of protestors lined both sides of Route 25, just as they have every weekend since the puppy store opened in October, waving signs and urging drivers to honk if they support a ban on puppy mills and what they claim is the sale of sick puppies to unsuspecting patrons.

Authorities who have inspected the store several times said there are no violations, however.

The red-hot controversy has escalated, with protestors blamed for traffic accidents outside the store — and the owner of the business charged with "exposing his buttocks" to protestors and spraying them with a hose.

The protests were sparked after Laurel resident Kathleen Delaney purchased a basset hound puppy a month ago. Shortly after bringing the dog home the animal fell ill, she claimed. After bringing the dog back, The Puppy Experience owner Scott Kaphan told Delaney he'd put the dog in isolation and send it to a vet, as well as paying for medication.

Instead, Delaney called her own vet. Delaney claimed the veterinarian said the dog most likely came from a "puppy mill." She acknowledged the store gave her a full refund for the dog and supplies she purchased

Dr. Charles Timpone of the Mattituck Laurel Veterinarian Hospital said some dogs apparently bought from the establishment had turned up at his office. Susan Carpenter, a manager at the hospital, said staff has not kept track of the number of sick pets.

Owner Kaphan, however, said the complaints are unfounded. "We have one dog with a runny nose."

Kaphan pointed out that the store has been inspected by both the Suffolk County SPCA and the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets and complied with requests.

"These people are animal activists," he said. Spokespeople from both agencies confirmed the store is in good stead with their agencies.

Greg Levine, an employee at the store, said, "If we were doing anything that those people have accused us of, we'd be shut down in two seconds. They want people to adopt puppies, not buy them."

Gillian Pultz, executive director of the Southold animal shelter, was protesting at the store but said she was there not in an official capacity but as a concerned resident.

Roy Gross, chief of Suffolk County SPCA, said that although they have received approximately five complaints about The Puppy Experience involving a number of sick animals, the organization has sent an investigator to the site numerous times, sometimes without announcing his identity. As for the complaints, said Gross, "Basically, they're unfounded."

Gross added there are no specific allegations about any sick puppies and when an investigator went to the site, Kaphan brought him down to the basement "without hesitation. There's nothing he could see that's improper. Some people just don't like pet stores."

He added that even though some protest "puppy mills, it makes no difference, because there's no law against it. There's no law being violated at this time."

Gross pointed out that the establishment has a vet technician, Terrie Marie Wood, on staff.

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