After months of protesters gathering outside The Puppy Experience on Route 25 in Aquebogue, the matter could soon be before a judge.
Scott Kaphan, owner of the Puppy Experience, said Wednesday that information has been gathered, and is still being collected, and a "suit is coming."
For weeks, representatives of the Companion Animal Protection Society have been demonstrating outside the Puppy Experience in an effort to raise awareness about puppy mills. One week, police were called after demonstrators parked at the nearby Aquebogue Elementary School parking lot; Kaphan's attorney has sent CAPS and cease and desist letter and said a lawsuit could follow.
Recently, Kaphan broke his silence over the protests and, on Wednesday, he once again spoke to Patch about the ongoing issue.
Kaphan said he believes his shop is being individually "targeted" and asks why the protesters and not utilizing their resources to fly to the sites of puppy mills across the country. "They're not going to other puppy stores, they're not going to animal shelters, where the conditions are disgusting. They're only 'educating' in front of my store, so it's a target."
Kaphan added, "If their goal is to educate, they should be going to other puppy stores -- those same 10 or 15 people should be spreading out and going to other regions to apply their knowledge to other areas of the community, but they're not in front of anyone else's business. This is a discriminatory thing against the Puppy Experience."
Deborah Howard, CAPS president, said the CAPS organization has regularly weekly protests, that are listed on their website, in a numerous locations, including San Diego, Long Island, outside of Chicago, in Los Angeles, and in other areas of California.
"There is actually nothing wrong with targeting a store," Howard said. "Our First Amendment rights are protected. We can target a store, if we want to. We can ask customers to boycott a store. We are not trying to shut the store down. We are just trying to get it to go humane."
Another question Kaphan has is why protesters aren't congregating outside jails, protesting why alleged drug dealers who distribute crack aren't given more time; why they are not in front of fast food food restaurants questioning how cows are slaughtered; why they are not demonstrating outside of marinas where gasoline enters and pollutes Long Island's waterways; about soldiers being killed overseas; or why they are not raising their voices about cancer-causing chemicals in the environment.
"There are a million things more important in the world than this," Kaphan said.
He added that for all the time demonstrators spend standing outside his shop, he would "pay them" to stand in front of shelters, protesting conditions, and donate funds toward improving those shelters.
"Why aren't they at the puppy mills?" Kaphan asked. "Why isn't CAPS at these puppy mills, shutting them down? Forget about Mr. Kaphan -- why aren't you taking a plane and camping out in front of these so called deplorable puppy farms and getting the feds to do their jobs and stop these puppy mills?"
Kaphan also said the protests have not hurt business. "I"m not going out of business," he said. "The Puppy Experience has always been one of the best kennels in the country."
Of the suit, he said, "I have the proper counsel. It just takes time because it involves questioning First Amendment rights. This is the type of suit that takes time, but when all the dust has settled, at the end of the day, the goal is for justice to be had."
Howard added that the goal is to have The Puppy Experience offer animals for adoption, "not animals they haven't sold or rejects from puppy mills. They have to start offering dogs that really need them, from rescue organizations and shelters. They have to stop obtaining dogs from puppy mills."
If the USDA licenses a breeder, Kaphan said, then "the federal government is saying it's okay for all dealers to buy and sell the dogs to the public."
The USDA has been to his store on unexpected visits, Kaphan said, and found his license to be "in good standing."
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. "We all get violations in life," Kaphan said. "We're all guilty of different things, that, if we are morally good people, we fix and move on, and make life better."
CAPS' plan, Kaphan said, has "backfired;" business is brisk at the puppy store, even during protests, he added.
"All that has happened is that my name -- I, as an individual and a child of God, have been slandered," Kaphan said. "If they want to educate people, they should get right to the farms and get on the phone with the United States Department of Agriculture and put pressure on them to make sure they are doing their jobs."
Kaphan points out that he is a hardworking businessman who is at his store at 6 a.m. to care for the puppies and works till 8 p.m.
He added that the protests do not bother him. "I am not affected by it," he said. "They're only bringing me more business. Last time, I was outside, waxing my car in the sun with my shirt off. They are doing it in vain -- they're not going about it the right way."
Protesters, Kaphan said, should be demonstrating outside the puppy mills and contacting the USDA to work toward "shutting down" the puppy mills.
He added that while he will not allow protesters to "come in my own store and harass me," any individual genuinely interested in purchasing will be shown all the dog's papers and breeder information; all his dogs, Kaphan said, come from USDA certified breeders.