Tensions are escalating between a group of protesters who rally outside in Aquebogue and the owner of the business.
For weeks, protesters have been the puppy store on Route 25, carrying signs stating that many pet stores purchase dogs from puppy mills; the most recent protest was this weekend.
And now, Scott Kaphan, the owner of the store, is fighting back: A letter was sent to the Companion Animal Protection Society, the group that organizes the protests and similar efforts nationwide, by Ronald T. Alber, Jr. of the Commack-based Alber & Loglisci, LLP, ordering the protesters to cease and desist, or else risk the filing of legal action, including a restraining order "enjoining any further injurious conduct."
The letter states that protestors stand outside The Puppy Experience, holding signs with photos of "emaciated, sickly looking" dogs, conduct Alber said is "libelous."
Protestors hold signs, the letter states, that portray the business as a "puppy mill," or "an extension of a puppy mill," conduct that is "libelous," and "constitutes torturous interference with a business practice and must be stopped immediately as it implies that my client's business sells dogs in violation of applicable law," according to the letter, which is dated August 7, 2012.
Should the cease and desist letter be ignored, Alber said the intent is to seek injunctive relief as well as punitive and compensatory damages.
The letter also states that Alber and representatives of The Puppy Experience would be happy to meet with CAPS members to discuss "improving the quality of life for pets and standards in the pet industry."
Deborah Howard, president of CAPS, said her group is represented by New York attorney John Maher.
The protests are organized, she said, "to raise awareness about the connection between pet shops and puppy mills. And because we want people to adopt from shelters and rescues. Millions of dogs are dying in shelters every year. There's no excuse to buy an animal anymore."
Howard said the intent is not to shut down any store. "We want stores to go humane — we have a history of helping stores to become humane adoption centers," she said.
In addition, Howard has questions about a new puppy rescue adoption division that is advertised on the The Puppy Experience website; Howard says she believes collection jars are set up at the shop to collect donations for the effort. "Where do they obtain their rescue dogs? That's what I want to know," she said. "Are they dogs the owner has turned in to shelters? Or are these puppies they merely didn't sell?"
In past weeks, protesters waving signs that read "Puppy Mills Breed Cruelty," "Adopt From A Shelter," and "Prisoners of Greed," have become familiar sights on route 25; similar efforts were staged and in June.
"We are educating consumers about puppy mills and the parent dogs left behind to suffer," said Barbara Dennihy of (CAPS); the organization has been working to expose pet shops that allegedly use puppy mills to supply their stores.
"Many, many New York State stores use these mills or brokers who use puppy mills to stock their stores," she said. "Logic tells you that puppies don't fall out of the sky--they have to come from somewhere."
Although Scott Kaphan, owner of The Puppy Experience, was not available for immediate comment back in June, a manager at the store, John, who asked that his last name not be given, said at the time that CAPS demonstrators make stops outside many area pet stores.
"They didn't ask where our dogs come from," he said. "Our dogs come from breeders. I'd be glad to provide them with information if they would just come in and ask."
The protesters, he added, carried "horrible signs" and did not bother to give the store a chance to respond to their allegations. "They just lumped us in with everyone else — that's what they do," he said. "We don't do anything wrong or illegal — we just do business. I sleep at night because I get my dogs from a good place."
Neither Kaphan nor Alber immediately returned calls for comment on recent developments, including the cease and desist letter and the new puppy rescue and adoption division of The Puppy Experience, on Tuesday.