After weeks of silence, the owner of the in Aquebogue has come forward to blast the protestors who have been picketing outside his store for months -- and to set the record straight.
"I'm all about the truth," said Scott Kaphan, who owns The Puppy Experience.
Kaphan said the demonstrators, members of the Companion Animal Protection Society, who , will soon find themselves
To start, Kaphan points out that there is no legal definition for the words "puppy mill" set forth in United States law; it is Kaphan's hope to set a legal precedent regarding that definition. Kaphan, who said he attended law school, said there is no definition for "puppy mill" on the books -- just a definition offered by members of the CAPS organizaton.
The protestors, Kaphan said, are "extremists. They are like al-Qaeda."
Moreover, Kaphan said the protestors, who have been congregating outside his store for months to raise awareness about puppy mills, are on a mission to target his business.
Kaphan compared the demonstrations to internet bullying and said any negative rumors being spread about his store are untrue. "It's all lies," he said. "If any of it were true, I would have been shut down."
Instead, Kaphan said, the New York State Department of Agricultrue and Markets "loves" his shop. "I have the best puppy store in the country," Kaphan said. "It's also the busiest. The foot traffic -- people love to come here. I get busier than the aquarium. Sometimes I have lines outside my store."
While it is true that Kaphan's establishment has been cited for violations, including one in 2007 for puppies that were not vaccinated, Kaphan said he paid a fine. "You have a violation, you pay the fine," Kaphan said.
Kaphan, who is a born again Christian, said he believes the demonstrators are being paid hourly to picket.
Last week, an attorney for Kaphan, Ronald T. Alber, Jr. of the Commack-based Alber & Loglisci, LLP, who sent a letter recently asking the protesters , or else risk the filing of legal action, including a restraining order "enjoining any further injurious conduct," said as this week.
over in to raise awareness about puppy mills.
Kaphan said the plan is to seek an injunction and to gather information -- surveillance cameras have been set up to monitor the protests -- before filing the suit.
"We're taking our time," Kaphan said. "We're not affected by this at all." Kaphan said the protestors actually bring his business publicity and draw customers into the store.
Kaphan said in the age of digital technology, detractors can anonymously spread untrue rumors about a business without fear of repercussion.
He added that many who honk their horns at the protestors are tired of the picketing. "They don't want American businesses taken down," he said.
Kaphan noted that some of the demonstrators' signs have been changed since the threat of litigation was mentioned. "They're scared," he said. "They're all getting sued."
Kaphan, who has two attorneys, said his intent is to name each protestor individually in the legal action.
"They're not going to win. They can't shut me down. They can't wear me out," he said.
Kaphan asked why protestors have chosen only his store to demonstrate outside locally, and not other shops that sell tropical fish, which he alleges are mistreated before sale, or other types of businesses. "They're just targeting my business," he said.
Kaphan said he also has added a pet rescue and adoption component to his business. "My whole plan was to revolutionize this entire business," he said. "It's in my heart and in my head."
To those who question where the dogs are coming from, Kaphan said, "It's none of their business."
He added that while he is not a not-for-profit organization, he is setting up an adoption center; the puppies for adoption, he said, are puppies that would have been used to breed new litters and become parents themselves. "They're giving them to me at a low price so that I am able to give them to people who, in this bad economy, can't enjoy a dog."
Other shelters, he said, "should be ashamed," and are often unclean, with "deplorable" conditions. "You can eat spaghetti and meatballs off my floor," he said. If other private shelters can't afford to operate properly, Kaphan said they should be turned over to him so that he can run a "great shelter."
Kaphan said he also worked with the Riverhead Town municipal animal shelter to train dogs on his own time and out of his own pocket so that the animals could find homes.
With an eye toward addressing the rumors, Kaphan said he only buys from USDA certified breeders. Regarding the rumor that he has bought dogs from Kathy Bauck, the owner of the Minnesota-based alleged "Pick of the Litter," -- Bauck was arrested in 2008 and charged with several counts of felony animal cruelty, torture and practicing veterinary medicine without a license; Bauck was later acquittted on the felony charges but found guilty on four misdemeanors, including animal cruelty and torture charges -- Kaphan said he received a phone call from a friend.
The friend suggested he buy dogs from a breeder; Kaphan said he knew nothing about Bauck and when he saw a video of how animals were treated at her establishment, he never bought from her again. "That's the federal government's problem, for not shutting her down," he said. "I had no idea."
Although he had purchased approximately four or five dogs, Kaphan said he never bought dogs from her establishment again, once he learned about Bauck. "I made a mistake," he said. "I never ordered from her again."
Of rumors that a family member of Kaphan's is still working with Bauck's breeders, Kaphan said he and that family member are not in business and that he is the sole owner of the Puppy Experience.
Kaphan is confident that the truth will prevail in court. CAPS protestors, he said, "are suffering under their own sabotage. They are targeting my store with their sick, al-Qaeda views."