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CA 'Rescued-Pet Shop' Sham Helps Puppy Mills Thrive through Legal Loopholes  


ANIMAL WATCH-Councilman Paul Koretz basked in the adoration of “pet rescuers” -- and especially a few large and affluent animal charities -- after he introduced the Puppy-Mill Pet Shop Ban in 2012, making zoning changes to permit citywide kennels known as “rescued-pet shops."

He predicted that this first-in-the-nation law would signal the end of horrific conditions in Midwestern puppy mills by destroying their consumer market and would reduce Los Angeles' Animal Services' shelter population to "No Kill." 

A CBS 2-On-Your-Side Investigation on May 2, reveals in face-to-face interviews that some of the retail "rescued-pet shops" have become a sham that not only allows, but legalizes, puppy sales by unscrupulous tax-exempt "rescuers" who purchase directly from puppy-mill distributors that have obtained 501(c)(3) status. 

"You’re being conned, it’s blatant consumer and charity fraud,” Deborah Howard of Companion Animal Protection Society, one of the supporters of AB 485, the statewide Bill, told CBS. 

Koretz was fully aware he was removing stringent State consumer protection in purebred puppy purchases when he passed the Los Angeles ordinance because he served as a CA Assemblyman from 2000-2006. 

He was also aware he was destroying the public health and safety zoning ordinances citywide that protected communities and animals because he wanted to increase dog and cat limits per household -- another acquiescence to the "rescue" community which now claims that the "rescue-pet shops" and puppy-mill ban were not enough to empty the shelters. 


On May 2, Los Angeles' CBS News’ consumer protection reporter David Goldstein's 2-on-Your-Side team unequivocally revealed in face-to-face interviews the truth of the sham of "rescued-pet shops" in several nearby locations. The team showed that the puppies which are being offered for up to $6,000 did not come from shelters, but were obtained (as allowed under both the city and state law) from local 501(c)3 non-profit organizations, which have been developed by Midwestern puppy mills as "puppy rescues." 

This well-documented exposé, Undercover Investigation Reveals Loophole in 'Puppy-Mill Ban' Law, confirms what Koretz was advised repeatedly in testimony and written communication in numerous files prior to passage of these laws -- that some animal "rescues" have become a sham and (sadly) a scam perpetrated by unethical individuals and corporations which benefit from the loopholes that allow tax-exempt "sale" of purpose-bred dogs and exotic cats and rabbits for huge profits -- and it is legal under the new laws. 


What needs to be investigated now is the close relationship between politicians like Koretz and Long Beach Assemblyman Patrick O'Donnell (who introduced AB 485 -- Statewide prohibition of stores selling other than "rescued" dogs, cats and rabbits) and the very wealthy and powerful animal groups which continually solicit donations and influence legislation which boosts their public image but is proving detrimental to the animals they claim to protect. 

As the NY Times points out, "The bill, AB 485, had strong support from several animal welfare organizations, which cheered it as a blow to “puppy mills” and “kitten factories” that mass produce animals for sale, often in inhumane conditions." 

Violators will face a fine of $500. However, with the profit margin from the “rescued” pets discovered in stores by CBS selling from $3,000 to $6,000 and with the no prior offense clause in the bill to increase that penalty for subsequent violations, getting caught could just be part of the cost of doing business. 


While Koretz and the City of LA were still immersed in the legal and practical implications of revising dog-kennel laws so that the new-business-model pet shops could operate freely in commercial and residential-adjacent zoning, Los Angeles Lucky Puppy Rescue, had already opened a store in a prominent Valley location, reportedly taken in over $500,000 in donations, and was facing animal-abuse charges in 2017. The two owners were convicted of animal abuse and neglect and the store was closed. 

In June 2018, we looked at a Chicago Tribune in-depth investigation and posed the question, "Puppy Mill' Breeders Become 'Rescues'- Are Pet Shop Bans a Political Hoax? "

The Tribune investigation revealed that several large-scale commercial breeders have also been operating as "rescues" which offer puppies in restricted cities from the same litter as those supplied to pet shops where bans do not exist.  

Are the heart-tugging 'puppy-mill' bans merely a political ploy to gain recognition and a self-aggrandizing hoax for re-election!   

We also pointed out that five years after the passage of Councilman Paul Koretz’ LA puppy-mill ban, Los Angeles city shelters were still overflowing.   

Animal Rescue Masks CA Tax-Fraud Scheme –Are Scams a Growing Trend? ... 

Brandy, a winsome Pit Bull needing a home and donations was the mask for fraud, according to 17Fox News. According to the investigative report by The Franchise Tax Board, 17Fox (KGET) reported on October 30, 2018, that "Oliver Rescue Mission" is a non-existent organization used to get a tax break on hundreds of thousands of dollars. 

And between 2010 and 2013, NO dogs were reported rescued or rehomed. 

'Rescuers' Buying Puppy-Mill Dogs for Resale -- Federal Investigation Urged’  

Washington Post article, "Dog rescuers, flush with donations, buy animals from the breeders they scorn," which prompted a call by the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council (PIJAC) for federal investigation and regulation. 

Kim Kavin, author of "The Dog Merchants: Inside the Big Business of Breeders, Pet Stores, and Rescuers,” explained that a practice of  animal rescuers buying discarded dogs for as little as $5 or $10 each from the commercial breeders they disparage as "puppy mills" has  grown into what she calls, "a nationwide shadow market," fueled by the rescuers' ability to raise enormous funding over the Internet, and the practice no longer applies to over-bred, injured or sick dogs, but extends to pregnant purebreds and litters of puppies. She writes that unending streams of Internet crowdfunding donations to "save" these dogs now allow some "rescuers" to pay breeders $5,000, or more, for a single dog. 


Koretz and Council-colleague Bob Blumenfield joined to remove the kennel provisions in the Los Angeles zoning code (See: CF 17-1237-S1 - Kennels and CF 17-0079 Adoption facilities) which curtailed  keeping more than three adult animals on properties with commercial and residential zoning (and within 500 feet of homes). 

Thus, LA's own officials, willfully and knowingly destroyed the protection from the odor, airborne particles and daily removal of animal waste (which also cannot be washed across sidewalks or into storm drains), 24-hour barking and exposure of families, owned pets, homes, communities and businesses to disease and other potential dangers from dogs escaping from a "rescued-pet store" with unlimited adult dogs (or puppies) of unknown origin and health next door to a restaurant, beauty salon, child-care center, medical/dental office -- or adjacent to a school. 


On April 10, Koretz and Blumenfield backtracked and introduced a motion asking for a "tandem ordinance" regarding the Negative Declaration of impact caused by removing zoning limitations on kennels: It reads: 

Before granting a permit for a pet shop, the General Manager shall consider the pet shop's location, size, operations and other significant features, including, but not limited to the number and type of animals present and that the dogs, cats or rabbits have been or will be obtained from one of the City or County of Los Angeles animal shelters. 

If Koretz is asking the General Manager of Animal Services to evaluate the major public health and  safety risks associated with permitting each "quasi animal shelters" in residential-adjacent/commercial zones, that is the job of the environmental experts in the Planning and Zoning Department. Neither the General Manager nor the Animal Control Officers of LA Animal Services have the required qualifications to evaluate nor the authority to cite and/or enforce violations of environmental laws and the impact on communities. 

Local news sources recently reported that Paul Koretz is the leader in opposition to SB 50, a state proposal to override local zoning laws. Yet, he found no problem in the removal of restrictions and changing zoning ordinances so that lucrative "rescued-pet shops" -- which have proven their intent is not always altruistic and can have known toxic effects on surrounding properties – can open anywhere in the City. 

What is the determiner for Councilman Koretz' apparent double standard and intent to go forward before the legal loopholes in this ordinance are completely closed? 

List of Files Involved in this law: 


Kennel / Delete Definition


Definition of Kennel / Business Purposes / 


Animal Rescue / Animal Adoption Facility / 


Daugherty v. City of Los Angeles / 


Mill-Bred Animals Commercial Sales /Ban


Definition of Kennel and Pet Shop  


(Phyllis M. Daugherty is a former City of Los Angeles employee and a contributor to CityWatch.) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.