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.