Whole Dog Journal's Blog December 18, 2012

Illegal Roadside Puppy Selling, Part 2

Posted at 01:56PM - Comments: (26)

So, a couple of weeks ago I wrote about going to the grocery store late one Sunday evening and being completely bummed about a couple who was selling puppies (who looked too young, and not well cared for) in front of the market. I thought about all the things I should do and say at that time – though at the time, I did nothing. I was too tired and hungry and it was rainy and late . . . But the memory of those chilled puppies, numbed by the intake of too much stimulation, has stayed with me.

Last Saturday I had a redemption round. Every month I present an orientation to prospective volunteers at my local shelter. In the middle of my talk, an elderly woman knocked on the glass door of the shelter. I opened it to tell her that the shelter wasn’t actually open yet, and she said, “I just wanted to let you know that some fool is selling puppies in the parking lot of Tractor Supply.” I thanked her – and then had about two hours, while busy with the volunteers, to wonder if the guy would still be there in a couple of hours, and what (and how!) I would say to him it if he was still there.

On weekends in my small town, the animal control officer is called out only for life-threatening emergencies. It’s a two-hour minimum overtime call, and a costly part of the city’s animal control budget. No one considers an illegal puppy sale an emergency worthy of two hours of officer overtime, and the police don’t do this kind of call, either. On a weekday, they would notify the animal control officer instead. If the puppies’ lives were immediately endangered, it might constitute an emergency. As it was, though, it was just the kind of situation that called for an assertive citizen interaction. Which I both hoped to be capable of, given so much mental preparation, and hoped that I wouldn’t HAVE to do; I hoped he’d be gone if I went there when I was done at the shelter.

Well, dang, he was still there hours later when I pulled into the Tractor Supply parking lot, just half a mile from the shelter. Thanks to my preparation, as well as the comments from the blog a few weeks ago, this is what I did:

  • I pulled up the text of the California state law, 597.4, on my smart phone, while I was sitting in the car.
  • The seller was talking to a couple, showing them a puppy when I walked up. So, since he was busy, I took the opportunity to openly take a picture of his license plate, then the sign advertising the “German Shpard” pups, then the pups in the back of the truck (in a drizzling rain! with no cover!), and finally one of him, holding a pup. That seemed to get his attention.
  •  I smiled, and said, “Hi! I just wanted to let you know that what you are doing is illegal. Selling, or giving puppies away in a parking lot or a roadside is against the law in California.”

To this, he replied, fairly calm, “I have the manager’s permission. I don’t see what the problem is.”

  • I said, trying to smile and appear friendly (but my hands were shaking – I am NOT a confrontational person!), “The big problem is that you have an accidental litter of puppies here – they are accidents, right?” (He nodded, yes. It was obvious!) “So the mom is neither fixed nor under proper supervision, and now all of these puppies are about to be sold to people who very probably won’t get them fixed, either. And I volunteer enough time at the local shelter to know that we have far too many unwanted dogs in this community as it is!”

He replied, getting annoyed now, “I don’t see how that’s my problem. I have permission.”

  • So I said, “The thing is, it’s not the manager’s permission to give. Let me read you the text of the law.” And I read the following lines (quickly and shakily, but I got through it): “It shall be unlawful for any person to willfully do either of the following: (1) Sell or give away as part of a commercial transaction, a live animal on any street, highway, public right-of-way, parking lot, carnival, or boardwalk. (2) Display or offer for sale, or display or offer to give away as part of a commercial transaction, a live animal, if the act of selling or giving away the live animal is to occur on any street, highway, public right-of-way, parking lot, carnival, or boardwalk. (b)(1) A person who violates this section for the first time shall be guilty of an infraction punishable by a fine not to exceed two hundred fifty dollars ($250). (2) A person who violates this section for the first time and by that violation either causes or permits any animal to suffer or be injured, or causes or permits any animal to be placed in a situation in which its life or health may be endangered, shall be guilty of a misdemeanor.”
  • When I finished, without taking much of a breath, I said, “Let me give you a better plan. If you take all these puppies to the shelter right now, they will be taken care of, spayed/neutered, vaccinated, microchipped, and people who are screened will adopt them. Puppies all find homes at our shelter. And if you bring the mom in, we can enroll you in our grant program so that we can get her spayed for no charge. That would be the best thing you could do for all of these dogs. But it’s up to you. Now, I’m going into Tractor Supply. I have some shopping to do [ I kept smiling through all of this], and I’m going to read the law to the manger of the store, too. And when I come out, if you’re still here, I’m going to call the cops.” I smiled one last time, even though he was looking pretty unpleasant now, and walked into the store, fast.
  • I did, then, ask for the manager, and actually had a nice conversation with him and a couple of other store employees, who all agreed that they hadn’t liked the look of the guy and what he was doing (though no one did anything about it). The manager wrote down the California Penal Code number – 597.4, I have it memorized now! – and said, “So, if anyone tried this again, I can just tell them it’s illegal, and to take the pups over to the shelter.” YES! Thanks!

And then I went to buy my chicken scratch, and when I went out to the parking lot, thank goodness, the guy was gone! (Thank goodness because calling the police on a Saturday was a bluff; they wouldn’t have come.)

I’m sad that I had the opportunity to practice “what should I do” so soon, and sadder to learn that the guy did NOT take the pups to the shelter, but glad that I tried to get the guy to do the right thing.

Comments (25)

But I bet all of you so called animal lovers still eat meat. You say you love your dogs and that animal cruelty is wrong but what about the cows, chickens, pigs and other poor animals that get slaughtered so you can eat? Sounds like a bunch of hypocrites to me. Lol Illegal to sell a puppy? What is this country coming to when everything is against the law? Maybe you people were the real accidents and your mothers should of got spayed to not overpopulate this world with hypocrytes. Go take your mothers to the hospital right now so she can get fixed. And get her microchiped too.

Posted by: alexdeeaz | March 20, 2016 1:37 AM    Report this comment

Thank you for doing and saying what you did, Nancy. You, obviously, have the courage of your convictions. As another California resident, I feel inspired by you to obtain "hand-out" copies of California Penal Code 597.4 to begin educating family, friends, merchants and acquaintances so that we all can become more proactive in dealing with this problem. I really like the idea of collecting "evidence": photos, auto, license plates, names, locations,etc, to help the police and animal control. And, yes, a newspaper story is a great idea to help raise public awareness. ASPCA confirms: We are their voice.

Posted by: Karla K | January 2, 2013 12:26 AM    Report this comment

Don't beat yourself up about this. You did the best you could under the circumstances, at least you did something. Most people would just look the other way, not get involved & keep walking. Considering all the intolerance & anger which many people are experiencing today, you really have to "watch" your back. You displayed knowledge, courage & caring about the puppies & suggested viable options to the owner. You can't change some animal owners' bad habits. That's why everyone appreciates a pet's unconditional love.

Posted by: Deborah F | January 1, 2013 7:05 PM    Report this comment

That is so awesome you did that! What a difficult confrontation that would have been! Would have been best if he'd taken the pups to the shelter, but hopefully he learned a bit of a lesson.

Posted by: Cynthia Blue | December 27, 2012 9:46 AM    Report this comment


Thank you for all you do. There is no right or perfect way to handle these kinds of situations, so I do not understand the self-righteous criticism, and hope it does not prevent you from taking action in the future. I do NOT mind confrontation, but would not have done what you did for the same reason most people don't: I DO mind the likely defensive reaction that comes from people who feel entitled to do whatever they want to do without interference or consequence. The fear is of hostile back-lash with unknown results. I'm sure the seller was confused and unsure about the picture taking, but he certainly would not have perceived it as a friendly gesture; more likely he would have felt it to be antagonistic, and might have reacted agressively.

It is possible that he did not know his activities are illegal. If he has seen roadside selling in the past, he would conclude that "that's what we do around here." Also don't see how assessing more tax dollars for more government programs would be helpful. Our government doesn't have the money it needs to cover it's current obligations; adding to that would just increase the burden. We have a lot more pressing concerns than animal control.

Too bad he didn't drop off the animals at the shelter, but he couldn't. That would have been admitting that he was doing something wrong. He didn't have enough time to think rationally about what he was doing to admit to himself that he was wrong; I'm sure he was working off adrenaline and just thinking about the immediate necessity of getting outta there. Maybe the animals will wind up in shelter shortly. We can only hope.

Christine - Mpls

Posted by: Christine H | December 20, 2012 8:54 AM    Report this comment

Hazel is my 9 year old german shepherd laying by my feet that we adopted from a shelter who had received a brother and sister from a young couple who had taken two puppies off the hands of someone who had sold all of the puppies he needed and intended to cull the rest. "Baby Girl" was Hazel's name at the shelter, because she was malnourished and near death. Ranger was her brother and was in better shape. Ranger got adopted out right away. I spotted "Baby Girl" on Petfinders and when I inquired about her, I learned that I had to wait because they weren't sure she was going to make it. They got her doctored up and we were able to adopt her. We brought her home, wormy, skinny and cute as a button. Hazel grew up into a beautiful, sweet, loving girl. I wonder about those two angels that took the puppies off of the hands of the roadside puppy seller. I hope they have received many blessings.

Posted by: Paula B | December 19, 2012 8:50 PM    Report this comment

I, for one, am very proud of you, Nancy! Very few of us are courageous enough to stand up for our convictions and for a law that was hard fought and won. You have inspired me to check the law in my state (Nevada) and work up a strategy for the "parking lot puppy mill." What a good idea to encourage the seller to bring the puppies to the shelter and suggest a grant to spay the mother. Thanks for being so honest!

Posted by: Robin Chaffey | December 19, 2012 4:50 PM    Report this comment

Wow, your armchair critics are tough!!! For somebody who does not like confrontations, and I totally empathize with you, I think you did really well. It will never be enough for some people but you gave the guy something to think about it. Unfortunately you will never convince these guys that what they are doing is wrong, they have a product and they are marketing it to the public. Now if we could only convince the public not to buy what he is selling the problem would be solved. It really is a double edged sword.

Posted by: Solveig K | December 19, 2012 1:05 PM    Report this comment

I can sypathize with your situation. Practice makes perfect and for all who critized your actions, please take a moment and think about what YOU would do.
This brings to light the fact that I do not know what our laws are regarding this situation. I have also volunteered at animal shelters and have assisted in abuse investigations, yet I still don't know what I would do faced with that situation. What I appreciate is that you shared the story and now I have some experience to draw upon. Thanks so much for sharing.

Posted by: Remysmom | December 19, 2012 9:56 AM    Report this comment

Thank you for all you do! I have a similar fear of confrontation, and I know how hard it is to face your fear even though you care so much.

Posted by: Amy R | December 19, 2012 7:56 AM    Report this comment

Good for you! At first, it is quite difficult to confront people on ethical issues, especially issues on irresponsible breedings and the effect it has on our homeless situation. Depending on how profit DRIVEN a byb, casual, or miller is, it can be a dangerous situation. I would like to believe that everyone who is playing "Monday Morning Quarterback" with you is siezing every opportunity to detour their lives to advocate! All of us should be an advocate to educate our friends, parents, sisters, coworkers, neighbors to use their consumer power and NOT buy from pet stores, shady online listings, or in the parking lots of Walmarts or Tractor Supply! If you don't want to educate the people in your lives, how can you judge someone that mustered the nerve to approach a stranger?? YOU GO NANCY!!!

Posted by: JUNE S | December 18, 2012 11:50 PM    Report this comment


Posted by: masso1 | December 18, 2012 10:50 PM    Report this comment

You would have to do that every weekend in front of the Walmart in Dickson, TN...not sure there's a law against doing that there :-(

Posted by: LESLEY B | December 18, 2012 8:19 PM    Report this comment

I don't know who you are but I am proud of you! If we as a community do not stand up for the voiceless these pets will lead dismal, disadvantaged, unhealthy lives. It is about time the public stood up to these ignoramuses and you were more than diplomatic about the situation. You showed great courage. Keep up the great work I'm glad it was you and not me, I would not have been so "cordial" Russell Hartstein CPDT

Posted by: Russell Hartstein CPDT | December 18, 2012 7:19 PM    Report this comment

Good work. It may not have been perfect, but you did something difficult and you did it well. I hope you don't have an "opportunity" to do this again, but I suspect you will and you'll probably be a bit smoother with it next time. It's great that you explained that he could take the puppies to the shelter, and even if he didn't do it right away maybe next time he'll consider it, or he'll do it after Christmas with the puppies he can't sell. Maybe he'll learn that this isn't a good way to supplement his income. I wouldn't worry that he'd destroy the pups -- it would be easier to take them to a shelter and if he doesn't it's probably because he wants the money. If only the buyers could get an education -- they are the ones that encourage this problem.

Posted by: ELAINE K | December 18, 2012 6:03 PM    Report this comment

I can imagine what it was like for you, a non-confrontational person, to make up your mind and then make a plan to speak with this man. Good for you! So many people simply walked past without saying or doing anything at all. You were right to be nervous. People like this are not pleasant people. He might have just said nasty, offensive, ugly things in response to your comments and that would have been bad enough. I've been in a similar situation and the adrenalin rush I got from the encounter left me feeling sick and shaky. But he might have done worse things--threatened you or followed you or even grabbed you. So thanks for taking a stand and making a plan. I appreciate your resolve and your courage! Sure, now that people have given you more ideas, you may do something different next time. But you can't always win in situations like these, no matter what you do. You and I both know that AC and the police are really not there for citizens when something like this happens--it's a budget crunch for municipal government, for goodness sakes! YOU were the one who was on the spot this time and who had to courage to act. Thank you! You have given me the courage to believe I can be equally brave the next time I see something like this happening in my area. Bravo, Nancy!

Posted by: EllenM | December 18, 2012 5:41 PM    Report this comment

I think you did very well (especially for someone who isn't comfortable forcing confrontations!) and am so grateful to you for sharing your experience and outlining the steps you took.

Yes, it's unfortunate that the man didn't take his puppies to the shelter or get the mom fixed; yes, it's more unfortunate to contemplate what might have happened to the pups. But given the constraints of the situation as you've outlined them -- particularly that calling the police would have been a bluff -- I think you acted sensibly and diplomatically, and did the best you could with the leverage you had.

Posted by: Jennifer A | December 18, 2012 5:32 PM    Report this comment

Soooo....You were too tired and hungry to do anything about it initially.Who's best interest did you have in mind at that time.While your intentions are paved with gold your actions leave something to be desired.I must agree with Rochelle on this.And who made you lrd and master anyway?Maybe the pups would have gone to better places than the current owner could provide and maybe he was trying to do that.You acting as cop, judge and jury is surely not the way to go.Next time try and help instead of trying to litigate.But thats the way things are done in america.shame

Posted by: trento | December 18, 2012 5:28 PM    Report this comment

I think you were nicer than you had to be, in this situation - but whatever works for you, at least you spoke up (this time). However, I think you ought to have said, "BRING the puppies to the shelter and bring mom in for a free (grant-funded) spay - & I won't report you to Animal Control, for breaking the state law."

The only way to make head-way AT ALL in this, is to catch & fine anyone not doing the right thing. You had his license plate number & a picture of him - in the act... of BREAKING THE LAW. (Not reporting a law breaker, could actually get YOU in trouble.) Aren't you aiding and abetting? Certainly you are "enabling" him to get away with it...

In my opinion, you should report the guy to AC, during working hours. Let them make an "impression" on him, about why his actions aren't legal, by writing him up - allowing him to either pay a fine or go to court -and maybe he WON'T do it again. If you stop allowing people to profit from selling puppies (esp done in an illegal manner) they are more likely NOT to do it again. (Cut the head of the snake OFF, as it were.) AC might be able to apply enough pressure - if they can "cut a deal" with the guy - to get mom spayed. It is like it is in dog training - you don't threaten to correct a dog - you simply make a correction, or the dog learns you just bluster, there are no TEETH in your fussing & YOU can be IGNORED.

Somebody (city council) needs to revisit this deal on Animal Control's budget and not coming out for anything BUT emergencies - on weekends or after hours (night-time.) It ought NOT to be over-time & there ought to be more money in the budget, or this will continue and likely INCREASE - because any lawbreaker may figure out, AC isn't available on the weekends - THE most common time to sell roadside or store-front puppies.
Dogs run loose on weekends & get hit by cars, & get put in dog-fights (around the clock). Somebody needs to be on call, if not actually working, additional hours. Pet-ownership & animal problems, are not 8-5 Mon thru Friday... only.

PS If I were you, I'd make a few printed copies of the 597.4 law, to hand people.

Posted by: Betsy | December 18, 2012 4:24 PM    Report this comment

I agree with Ann S. You have the photos proving the illegal activity, as well as the identifying information. You should provide the information to both Animal Control and the Police, if you haven't already. That's the appropriate follow-up given he didn't bring the puppies to the shelter.

Posted by: 376NYC | December 18, 2012 4:22 PM    Report this comment

Well Nancy Your heart was in the right place but your head wasn't tinking straight.He may have destroyed those poor pups. We'll never know. Turning your information over to the Animal Control Officer for possible follow up would be the smart thing to do. That might get th man thinking about getting the female "Mom" spayed. That story is very sad. Telling this story to the local newspaper might not be a bad idea, either. People should know there are consequences for their actions.

Posted by: Rochelle | December 18, 2012 3:54 PM    Report this comment

I am truly disheartened by this story. I believe an animal shelter and police dept could work better together. It's a job that holds them both responsible. It was pretty clear the guy did not have a conscience, so all the smiling and leaving it up to him to make a good choice didn't pan out so well, especially for the pups. Good info was spread, but I am still disappointed that the ending did not end better.

Posted by: petstacular | December 18, 2012 2:34 PM    Report this comment

Thank you for taking such positive action. Not only spelling out the problem to the man, but offering an easy out to him. If the puppies were an accident, surrendering them to the shelter would be much simpler for him to do than stand in the rain trying to sell them. Plus, your shelter has a low cost spay/neuter option for his adult dog of which he could've taken advantage.
Shame on the man for not taking the puppies to the shelter.

Since you took a picture of the man and his truck/license plate, could you provide the information to the animal control officer to follow up during normal business hours?

Even if nothing further happened to the man, a followup interview with animal control might make him think twice about what he was doing and his options.

Posted by: ANN S | December 18, 2012 2:22 PM    Report this comment

The only problem I have with what you did is the follow up. According to you, the guy did NOT take the puppies to the shelter, so what did he do with them? Sell them privately or (yikes) destroy them? THAT'S what concerns me about this episode.

Please don't take this too much to heart - but actions have consequences and we have to be careful what we do and say.

Elaine Grae

Posted by: Elaine G | December 18, 2012 2:07 PM    Report this comment

Good for you! I hope I can be as proactive as you if I come upon a similar situation.

Posted by: ALISON U | December 18, 2012 1:53 PM    Report this comment

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