Los Angeles Pet Store Reopens With a Compassionate Approach To Finding Companion Animals
Enthralled by its happy atmosphere, Clark DuVal bought the Melrose Avenue shop The Puppy Store (now Orange Bone), in late August, 2008. So when Last Chance for Animals (LCA) supporters stood outside his door protesting two months later, his curiosity was heightened.
“I thought boy, this is such a great store and we work so hard at making sure it stays clean and the puppies are healthy,” says DuVal. “I was really curious about what the problem was and why they would be protesting.”
Since the airing of a segment of The Oprah Show on puppy mills in May, 2008, advocate Kim Sills has lead LCA’s campaign, protesting outside pet stores known to receive their puppies from breeders exploiting dogs. DuVal was the first business owner to step outside and engage Sills in a conversation.
Puppy mills are facilities that mass-produce puppies for wholesale, notorious for deplorable breeding situations. Over-crowded and filthy, puppies and their parents (known as brood bitches) suffer from malnutrition, constant exposure to harsh environmental conditions and inbreeding. According to LCA, 97% of all dogs sold in US pet stores are generated from puppy mills across the nation.
Although DuVal was aware puppy mills existed, he believed his breeders “took extra precautions to make sure that their pups were well taken care of and their facilities clean.”
Based on Sills’ influence, DuVal decided to investigate his puppy suppliers’ assertions that they were clean reputable breeders and not the puppy mills accused by LCA’s. DuVal’s plan: visit the breeding facilities himself.
“I felt confident I could go back and take pictures and show [LCA] that we’re very careful with where we’re sourcing these puppies from, that they don’t come from bad situations,” says DuVal. But the conversations with breeders ended. “Then I knew I had to make a change.”
Together DuVal and Sills created a new business model to support their commitments to companion animals. “I knew I couldn’t continue with purebred dogs, they’re gorgeous animals and I loved having them in here, but just knowing what might be going on before they got here was just too disturbing,” explains DuVal. His concern was how to find enough puppies to stay in business.
Sills informed him of the overpopulation problem facing Los Angeles County shelters. (According to the LA Animal Service Department, 30,813 dogs were taken into the city shelters in 2008. Of these, 7,518 were euthanized making plenty of puppies to fill the store.) Relationships between Orange Bone and the city’s shelter system struck up, and DuVal spent December selling the store’s remaining purebreds, while Sills visited shelters around the city daily. By January, 2009, Orange Bone was strictly selling rescues. In the month of January alone, they found homes for thirty-six puppies and six adult dogs (some of whom were just days away from being euthanized).
“We feel that this is the biggest way to show the public that shelter dogs are beautiful, loving, sweet companions,” says Sills, who pointed out that it may take hours to adopt a dog from the shelter, which is often a sad place. “These are dogs from that same environment put into a clean, loving space.”
Part of the clean, loving space is found in the countless hours of careful attention from a team of store employees, volunteers and veterinary professionals. The rescued pups at Orange Bone have been rehabilitated physically and emotionally, have a clean bill of health, are spayed or neutered and outfitted with microchips. Customers are falling in love. “We’re absolutely touched by the reception we’ve gotten from the community. It surprises me how moved people are by what we are doing,” says DuVal. And buying one of these puppies, even after the attention they’ve received, is hundreds of dollars less expensive than buying a puppy mill sourced purebred.
Considered by some to be a puppy messiah, DuVal was just doing what seemed like a good thing to do as a concerned business owner. Without realizing it, or wanting recognition for it, he is living the yogic ideal of ahimsa – compassion or nonviolence – by choosing to rescue animals rather than support an industry that exploits our companions for profit. Sills has dedicated her life to upholding these ideals through her commitment to the humane treatment of animals.
“Our goal is to put out of business anyone mistreating animals,” says Sills, noting that overcrowding and sometimes even abuse take place even within the shelter system. “If we can change the way America gets their companion animals then we’ve done our job.”
Orange Bone offers puppies, and the occasional dog, of all breeds as well as doggie fashion and accessories. orangebone.com.
Last Chance for Animals is a national nonprofit organization dedicated to eliminating animal exploitation. LCAnimal.org.
Meagan McCrary is a Yoga teacher and freelance writer with a masters degree in writing from USC when she’s not playing with puppies. She is the author of Pick Your Yoga Practice.