Jessica Cejnar Andrews / Friday, Aug. 4, 2023 @ 4:16 p.m. / Animals, Community, Local Government

Owner of Curry County's Only Pet Store Says New Law Aiming to Curtail Puppy Mills Could Shut Her Down

Wednesday's meeting

The owner of Curry County’s only pet store says a new ordinance banning retailers from selling puppies, kittens and rabbits acquired through a commercial breeder could force her to close once it goes into effect.

Tracy Snyder, who owns Carson’s Critters in Brookings, sells puppies she acquires from Iowa broker JAKS Puppies. JAKS Puppies is licensed through the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Snyder says, and their puppies come dual registered, microchipped, current on their shots and quarantined to make sure they’re free from Parvo, kennel cough and other diseases.

Snyder, who has been in business for 12 years, argues that the county’s new ordinance mirrors California law, not Oregon House Bill 2915, which was signed into law on Tuesday. She also argues that the county ordinance benefits the South Coast Humane Society, whose executive director, Jenifer Alcorn, is married to Commissioner Brad Alcorn.

Brad Alcorn should have recused himself from Wednesday’s discussion, Snyder told the Wild Rivers Outpost on Friday.

“I think this is highly illegal,” Snyder said, adding that she has contacted a lawyer and has reached out to Oregon Governor Tina Kotek regarding the ordinance. “I think she’s using his power to close my doors.”

Alcorn addressed this situation just before he and his colleagues approved the ordinance. Alcorn acknowledged that his wife is the Humane Society’s executive director, but said a pet store’s success doesn’t impact them financially. Legally, Alcorn said, he can vote on the issue.

“The other question is should I vote,” he said. “There’s been a ton of social media propaganda and, you know what, I read that criticism. I think criticism can be a component of learning and what I read was, basically according to social media, the evil South Coast Humane Society and Jenifer Alcorn are shutting down the competition, a local pet store, and they’re weaponizing me to do it. That is so far from the truth and it’s completely unfair.”

Fitzgerald had been on the Humane Society's Board of Directors in 2019, according to Cause IQ, though he didn't mention that at Wednesday's meeting. It's unclear if he's still on the Board.

According to the county’s staff report, the ordinance restricting the retail sale of pets is “designed to support existing Curry County pet shops and ensure that future businesses adhere to a humane business model.”

The ordinance aims to prevent fraud due to misinformation or lack of misinformation regarding the animal’s health.

“Commercially bred puppies and kittens are often kept in deplorable, inhumane conditions, often contributing ot physical, physiological as well as psychological issues, disease and abnormalities,” the county’s ordinance states.

During the second reading Wednesday, Fitzgerald suggested modifying the definitions of the ordinance to add the term commercial breeder as “a person or organization that provides dogs, cats or rabbits for sale to commercial retail outlets through the facilities of a broker.”

Fitzgerald also said the ordinance does not prohibit pet stores from selling dogs, cats or rabbits obtained from non commercial breeders “as long as those dogs, cats or rabbits have not been procured through a commercial broker.”

It was South Coast Humane Society board secretary Mary Wood who mentioned Carson’s Critters by name at Wednesday’s meeting as one of the five pet stores remaining in Oregon now that HB 2915 is law. Wood said the Brookings establishment purchases “a great majority if not all their puppies” from JAKS Puppies.

The Animal Legal Defense Fund is suing JAKS Puppies, alleging that it funneled dogs to pet stores through fake animal rescue organizations to “circumvent state law,” Wood said. The lawsuit also claims that JAKS Puppies violated federal anti-racketeering statutes and California consumer protection laws to plaintiffs who bought puppies thinking they were rescues, according to the organization, which filed its lawsuit in 2021.

“I have documents that I have provided to you from the U.S. Department of Agriculture who regulates the breeders in the United States. These documents show the purchase of puppies from Carson’s Critters from JAKS Puppies,” Wood told commissioners. “(The county’s) ordinance, like the Oregon state law, is not intended to target pet store businesses to put them out of business, but to stop the sale of puppies, kittens and bunnies that come from commercial operations who suffer needlessly and without consideration of the lives involved.”

Commissioner Jay Trost said he also went down the rabbit hole to research JAKS Puppies. He said he has printed copies of several articles from the Des Moines Register regarding JAKS. Trost also mentioned a nonprofit JAKS started called Hobo K9, which he called a front to move puppy mill dogs into places where they were prohibited.

“They were held accountable for fraud,” he said. “They were fined and had to shut that down. But they just continue to pop up. The point I’m trying to make, is I don’t know how we craft language that tries to prevent that practice as well.”

Trost said he also received emails and have read statements on social media alleging that he and his colleagues were targeting Carson’s Critters.

Board Chairman John Herzog also emphasized that “this is not a Carson’s Critters against the Humane Society.”

“In fact, if I had my way I would try to meld those two together and throw an olive branch somehow,” he said. “If I can be any assistance, I sure would as a mediator. It’s not about closing down a business. It’s about having businesses do the right thing and do it the right way.”

But for Snyder — who pointed out that Oregon HB 2915 doesn’t mention rabbits, the California law does — the ordinance could shut her down. She pointed out that restricting the sale of dogs and cats unless they’re sourced from legitimate animal welfare organizations benefits the Humane Society.

Snyder also mentioned Leif Allmendinger, an Ophir-based breeder of kai kens who raised concerns Wednesday about how the ordinance could affect him. Allmendinger asked commissioners for some clarification.

“We’re kind of like ice cream parlors and microbrews,” he said. “We produce what we sell and, as far as I can tell, in some cases we’re a retail establishment and in some cases we’re not. For legal purposes, we urge you to define retail establishment in a way that excludes breeders.”

Trost, Fitzgerald and Herzog were quick to assure Allmendinger that the ordinance wouldn’t force him to cease operating.

Snyder, however, said she has more confidence in JAKS’ credentials than she does in Allmendinger’s. JAKS has had problems in the past, but “things evolve and people evolve,” Snyder said.

Snyder said people have been buying puppies — mostly small breeds like cocker spaniels, Shih tzus and French bulldogs — for seven years with no issues.

“Multiple people have talked about how much they have changed their lives and how much they love their dogs and how much they’ve never had an issue,” Snyder told the Outpost. “If they take my puppies, I will shut down. I won’t be able to pay my bills.”


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