GROVER BEACH, Calif. - A Central Coast pet store is being sued after accusations of breaking a 2019 California law requiring pet shops to only sell dogs, cats and rabbits obtained from rescue shelters or nonprofit organizations.
On Monday, Volar Society for the Prevention of Animal Cruelty and Bailing Out Benji filed a lawsuit with the San Luis Obispo Superior Court against Animal Kingdom. The store, which has locations in Santa Maria, Pismo Beach and Grover Beach, is accused of getting its pets from a fake nonprofit called Bark Adoptions.
“Animal Kingdom is selling illegal purebred and designer puppies for over a thousand dollars," said lead attorney Christopher Berry of the Animal Legal Defense Fund. "We strongly believe these puppies are coming from puppy mills and breeders being sold for profit.”
The suit claims Iowa-based organization Bark Adoptions is a "sham non-profit illegally doing business as a puppy mill".
In a statement to KCOY via Facebook, Bark Adoptions said "We haven't been served with any paperwork, so we have no comment at this moment."
When a reporter stopped by the Animal Kingdom location in Grover Beach on Wednesday, employees would not comment on the cost or age of their puppies. A sign on their window stated the shop was compliant with 2019 state laws, but management would not comment when further asked about the allegations.
Berry says the store had raised flags because of high prices.
“Typically, the adoption fee for a dog from a legitimate rescue organization is approximately $250 or less. We're confident that we'll be able to prove [they're breaking the law] and at the end of the day, obtain a court order that will prohibit further violations of California law,” Berry said.
Prior to this lawsuit, SLO County Animal Services had asked Animal Kingdom to provide evidence that they were complying with the 2019 California law. Animal Services said they received documentation from the pet store on March 1, but are still evaluating it.
If Animal Kingdom is found to be non-complaint, the store will have to pay $500 in fines per pet sold.
To read the complete lawsuit filed on Monday, click here.