A $3.9 Million Jury Verdict in San Diego Federal Case Aims to End ‘Inhumane Puppy Mill’ Industry

By The Vanguard Staff

SAN DIEGO, CA – In an unusual case involving what is called abusive “puppy mills,” a federal jury here last week awarded $3.9 million in wrongful profits against Cedar (Utah) Pet Supply owner David Salinas and puppy mill brokers Ray and Alysia Rothman to an animal rescue group whose name was used to sell puppies fraudulently labeled “rescues,” according to a statement by a San Diego law firm.

“Rather than comply with a 2019 law banning the sale of non-rescue dogs in pet stores, David Salinas kept on selling puppies from puppy mills, falsely claiming they were from PetConnect Rescue, a well-known and respected charity,” stated San Diego Attorney Bryan Pease, lead trial counsel on the case.

“This verdict should put the puppy mill industry on notice of more litigation in the works against all of their other fraudulent claims,” added Pease, referring to the case: PetConnect Rescue v. David Salinas, Case No. 3:20-cv-00527-RSH-DEB),

Pease, in a statement, said he has already “shut down the Salinas stores in California with injunctions in 2020 in separate state court cases brought on behalf of Companion Animal Protection Society (CAPS) and Animal Protection and Rescue League (APRL), as well as defrauded customers.

Pease said David Salinas has “moved to Utah where he has several more puppy stores and in Nevada, under the name Cedar Pet Supply, and Ray Rothman, the other main defendant in the case, continues to supply puppies to Salinas through Select Puppies, a notorious puppy mill broker in Iowa owned by Brian Mohrfeld which used to be called the Hunte Corporation.

Pease said that “puppy millers” fraudulently labeled puppies “rescues” to sell in pet stores in San Diego, “after a 2019-2020 law required only rescues be sold in pet stores.”

Pease said the multi-million wrongful profits judgment reflected “the rescue name they misappropriated (PetConnect Rescue) and false advertising.”

The federal jury heard trial testimony, said Pease, from investigator Pete Paxton, co-author of the book Rescue Dogs, which chronicles his undercover investigations into the puppy mill industry.

“Records produced in the case show that Paxton had investigated many of the squalid mass breeding operations where Salinas and Rothman source puppies from for sale in pet stores across the United States,” added Pease.

Bella’s Act (AB 2152), which completely prohibits the retail sale of dogs, cats and rabbits in California, took effect in 2021. The measure, according to the San Diego Humane Society, “aims to end the practice of selling animals who have been bred and raised in unhealthy, inhumane conditions in out-of-state puppy mills.”

The legislation was intended to “crack down on the illicit and inhumane puppy mill industry that supplies pet animals (which) are raised in deplorable conditions and are often unhealthy, leading to heartbreaking discoveries once in homes,” said the San Diego Humane Society.

“Bella’s Act was named for Bella, a corgi who was bred in one of these puppy mills. Bella was advertised as a rescue dog in a San Diego pet store and sold for thousands of dollars – this was billed as her ‘adoption fee.’ During this experience, Bella was declawed and developed a severe case of bronchitis. It cost her owner thousands of dollars in prolonged veterinary care to get her healthy,” charged the humane group.

“With Bella’s Act going into effect, we’ll be able to end the inhumane retail sales of dogs, cats and rabbits in California once and for all,” said San Diego Humane Society Chief of Humane Law Enforcement Bill Ganley.

“Pet stores will still be allowed to provide space for shelter or rescue animals and adopt them out, as long as they are sterilized and the adoption fee does not exceed $500. It is a win-win. We’ll help animals in shelters who need homes, while stopping the inhumane supply of mill-bred animals,” added Ganley.

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