Puppy Store Concerns Citizens

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A new pet store is preparing to open in Hampton Bays, and the possibility has local pet activists straining at the leash, so to speak, to have it shuttered.?There weren’t any doggies in the window on Monday, but the yips and yaps of pups could be heard from the sidewalk through the locked door at Puppy Experience II, located at 1 East Montauk Highway in Hampton Bays. The yet-to-open business, located at the former Meadow Lane Realty office, has already received quite a lot of negative attention since puppies were first spotted in the store on Friday and over the holiday weekend.?In fact, a group of about 25 concerned citizens showed up at Monday night’s Hampton Bays Civic Association meeting, held at the Southampton Town Community Center on Ponquogue Avenue, to voice their outrage about the store they allege will sell mistreated and sick “puppy mill”-bred animals.?The animal activists said they are very upset about the opening of Puppy Experience II because the owner, Scott Kaphan, has a history of peddling sick and mistreated animals. Plus, the puppy store will be in close proximity to the Southampton Town Animal Shelter, which houses adoptable pets already in need of homes.?In March and April 2007, Puppy Experience in Aquebogue—the flagship dog store owned by Mr. Kaphan, who is also the owner of Puppy Experience II—received several unsatisfactory reports from the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets Division of Animal Industry. The reports included critical marks about dirty and unsafe enclosures and sick pets that were not isolated.?During a visit on April 22, 2007, 19 puppies on the sales floor of the Aquebogue store were found to exhibit signs of respiratory infections, according to the report. Of those 19 animals, five were found to be critically ill and were immediately taken by Mr. Kaphan to the Aquebogue Animal Hospital. The business was fined a total of $600 by the state department for not meeting “minimum standards of animal care.”?On Tuesday, Mr. Kaphan said the unsatisfactory reports for Puppy Experience were isolated incidents and that sick dogs are a normal part of the puppy store business. “I had about 200 dogs in the store—those numbers aren’t that bad,” he said.?But those in attendance at Monday night’s civic meeting, including a local veterinarian, do not want to see the pet store open.?”I’ve seen many sick puppies from this man’s [Aquebogue] store,” Shinnecock Animal Hospital Veterinarian Teresa Meekins said on Monday night. “I’d like to see this store not even open.”?”We do not want this in our town,” Hampton Bays resident and animal lover Lorry Werner said to civic members and guest speaker Southampton Town Board member Chris Nuzzi. “This is preying on animals and it’s not a business we want here.”?On Tuesday morning Mr. Kaphan refuted the allegations about the provenance and health of his dogs. He said he does not get his animals from puppy mills, but from “200 USDA licensed breeders.” He also insisted that all paperwork, including American Kennel Club pedigree papers and vaccination information, is given with each dog purchase.?The business owner said that he is an animal lover who gives back to the community and cares about his dogs for sale. “We really love our dogs and we are trying to do the right thing,” Mr. Kaphan said. “We are the good guys. We are not puppy monsters.”?Further addressing the concerns of those who claim he is not running a responsible business, Mr. Kaphan pointed to a satisfactory inspection that he received on Tuesday morning from the New York State Division of Animal Industry that noted that he was in compliance in all areas except for a pending permit from the Town of Southampton. The report states that an inspector will return to the store when it is in operation. It is unclear when the Hampton Bays pet store will open.?A handful of concerned citizens staged a mini-protest in front of the Hampton Bays store on Saturday morning. The turnout was low but a few people ended up handing out Southampton Town Animal Shelter leaflets and walking shelter dogs up for adoption on the sidewalk in front the Montauk Highway building. Some people painted signs that read “Adopt Dogs” and similar sentiments on the windows of their cars which were parked near the pet store.?Mr. Kaphan said he expects protesters and picketing because he has faced similar scenarios at his other store, Puppy Experience in Aquebogue. “They didn’t want us to be in Aquebogue either, but after a few months of picketing, things calmed down,” he said of those who had protested his first puppy store venture.?Other hamlet residents said they do not want the store to open.?”I feel like a drug dealer has moved into town,” animal activist and Hampton Bays resident Belinda Lanphear said. “Morally, that place should not be here … it’s a blight on the community.”?”It isn’t a bar, strip club or adult movie theater,” Mr. Kaphan said in response to the protesters’ outcry. He also alluded that the animal activists were off the mark in targeting his store.?”This isn’t your normal person,” he said of the protesters. “If they had something better to do, they’d be trying to raise money for starving children or something.”?Puppy Experience II dogs will be mostly of the “boutique dog” variety, Mr. Kaphan said. He added that he expects to keep about 30 to 40 dogs at the Hampton Bays location in white cribs, not cages as other pet stores house their animals, and that all of the dogs are socialized and cared for appropriately.?Mr. Kaphan continued: “Everything the picketers said is false, and it’s only because they want you to adopt instead of buy.” He insisted that he is running one of the “cleanest and nicest puppy stores around.”?Meanwhile, residents in attendance at Monday night’s meeting urged Mr. Nuzzi to get the town to investigate the allegations. “This should be addressed in the town code,” said Flanders resident Therese McGuinness.?”I’ll look into it,” Mr. Nuzzi responded.?Southampton Town Public Safety Administrator Cheryl Kraft reported on Monday afternoon that Mr. Kaphan had just applied for the appropriate town permits earlier that day. She said he did have a certificate of occupancy for the building, but that he was not in strict compliance with some other permits in the town code regarding the housing of animals for commercial enterprises. ?”It was unfortunate that he came in today without contacting us before he put the dogs in there,” Ms. Kraft said. “I know it’s an extremely emotional issue … we just need to make sure the animals are kept as humanely as possible.”

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