Pet sales banned at malls nationwide; rescue stores begin to replace pet shops

Westside Pavillion mall in Los Angeles, as the heart of the recent change in policy for Macerich malls.

Even though the story broke in October, it’s still making the rounds on Facebook -  just in time for Christmas: retail developer Macerich announced that it will no longer allow pet stores that sell animals in more than 70 malls nationwide. According to a story from October at, “This new humane policy designed to break the puppy mill business chain is taking effect nationwide within 30 days. Macerich confirmed that they will not renew the leases of existing pet stores that sell animals and in their place, are opening humane stores offering adoptions of rescued pets.”

And Macerich isn’t the only retailer stepping up to the plate. According to Best Friends Animal Society, “Irvine Company, owner of shopping centers throughout central Orange County, California, implemented a policy to not rent to retailers planning to sell dogs and cats in any of its shopping centers a few months ago. The company noted, though, that it would honor its existing contractual commitment with Russo’s Pet Experience until its lease expires in October 2012.”

This wasn’t an overnight success. In October 2008, Best Friends Puppies Aren’t Products Los Angeles (PAPLA) began protesting in front of Barkworks in the Westside Pavillion in Los Angeles. When Macerich restricted the group’s access to protest only in specified areas of the mall, Best Friends sued for the right to protest in other areas of the mall. Best Friends lost that lawsuit, but in 2010 the California Courts of Appeals ruled in favor of Best Friends.

In September 2011, the Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) filed suit in California Superior Court in Los Angeles County against Barkworks, a Southern California pet store chain, claiming the stores repeatedly engage in fraud and false advertising in an effort to conceal from customers that they source their puppies from abusive “puppy mills.”

Boycott Barkworks protesters from Sept. 2010 protest (Boycott Barkworks Facebook)

Part of the success for the ban at Macerich goes to LA filmaker and animal activist Jennifer Peterson. She started a Facebook page campaign called “Boycott Barkworks Pet Stores” in 2010 after a friend purchased a puppy from Barkworks pet store in Westside Pavillion mall in LA. When the puppy got sick and the store refused to take responsibility, Peterson suspected the dog had come from a puppy mill. She started a crusade to shut down Barkworks stores, mobilizing protests and then working directly with Macerich to ban the sale of bred pets.

According to, “Jennifer reached out to her friend Randy Brant, who is Macerich’s VP of Leasing. Brant and others at Macerich knew little about puppy mills and were appalled by what Jennifer Peterson had shared … Jennifer Peterson, Randy Brant and his wife, Dahli, worked for a year to help Macerich develop the companywide pet sale ban in their malls.”

This news is a major coup for animal activists and a wonderful opportunity for rescue organizations, who have now begun to replace the bred puppies with rescues and adoption events. Westside Pavillion has now opened the LA Love and Leashes adoption store,  operated by Friends of LA Animal Shelters, in the mall.

LA Love and Leashes in the Westside Pavillion mall, Los Angeles

As you shop this Christmas season, avoid the temptation to take home that cute little puppy in the window of your local pet store. Chances are he’s from a puppy mill, and while it’s tempting to think you’re saving the little critter, know that as soon as he’s gone another inbred, mistreated pup will take his place. Instead, visit your local animal shelter or go to an adoption event.

And by all means, don’t buy a dog or cat as a gift for someone for Christmas. Puppies are not products.

Learn more about Best Friends Animal Society on their website. Learn more about puppy mills on the Best Friends puppy mill initiative website.

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  • dmwelch02

    Well, this is welcome news, and just in time!

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  • Janice Wilson

    We just spent over a year (and it is not over yet) keeping a huge CAFO cattle feeding facility and slaughterhouse (PLUS) out of out township. It has been and is a very long and involved process to stop these atrocities, bu it can be done. It you can put me in touch with anyone or any group from the county or the town who is considering putting up an opposition front for this dog factory, please let me know. I think we would be able to offer them a lot of the same information that we had to use in our quest. We know all the state and federal contacts for such things and can give them a number of issues that need to be considered and rectified before anything such as this is approved. The people CAN stop this from happening if they are willing to keep at it, and go to meetings, get video and audio of meetings, and work with the media. If there is an environmental school or something close to it in the district, one can also find a student to earn credit by doing an expose’ and a film/report of the process, etc. We can put a person in touch with the person who did that for our issue. THere is a lot involved and you need a good core group of intelligent people who will be tenacious enough to stay with it. I have put out the alert via the groups with whom I work (re: mills, CAFOs, environmental issues, animal rescue and shelter issues, etc.) to see who thinks they would be best suited to help these people. BUT, if there is not a group from the township or county who has voting rights and local contacts willing to take this on, we cannot do much from here. Please advise via my email to start. Thanks. This is imperative and time sensitive. It has to be stopped before the approvals are all in place for the town/county to slip the approval through without public comment. Also, the planning boards involved should be the first ones to have received this proposal, not the town or county boards. That was a major mistake that we were able to use against our town up here. Just a little FYI. Thanks for the alert.

    • Joanne Brokaw

      Janice, are you talking about the Gorham, NY puppy mill? The comment ended up on a different post so I just want to make sure. ;)

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  • Clint

    IF no one buys puppies from responsible AKC breeders, dogs as we know them will become extinct and soon there will be no more dogs because the only ones left will be sterilized. Many rescue dogs are puppy mill dogs, the rescue organizations don’t want you to make that connection, it’s okay to get a sickly, poorly socialized dog from THEM because THEY make the money. Pet rescue has become big business.

    • Jeremy

      Clint, it is a far cry from “reputable” breeder to puppy mill. The tone of your statement would have us believe that puppy mills are reputable breeders and that rescues are in it for the money. You couldn’t be more wrong. Puppy mills only care about the money and view dogs as property and a means of making money. Reputable breeders love their pets and the breed. They don’t keep them in cages with no medical attention or proper care. Most rescues are largely run by volunteers that donate their time, energy and resources to provide a better life for the dogs. Does a rescue have a right to request an adoption fee to cover costs? Certainly. But a nominal fee to cover expenses is nothing compared to the hundreds of dollars retail pet stores charge for mill dogs while taking no responsibilty for the care or condition of the dog, not to mention many lie about where they came from. Retail pet stores want you to believe they get the dogs from “reputable” breeders. Check your facts before making such ridiculous claims in the future.

    • VG

      @ Clint…What? There will never be a shortage of dogs. Do you honestly think that AKC breeders and backyard breeders will stop? Some rescue groups take in puppy mill dogs. But some save dogs from the “kill list” at shelters. A reputable rescue would not adopt out sick dogs. But would actually spend the $ to get them healthy….unlike puppy mill pet stores.

  • Gail

    OH i see. Let’s get rid of pet stores so rescues can take their place. Now they get to “sell” pets instead of pet stores. There’s a racket!
    YES, most pet stores bought substandard pups from unscrupulous breeders and it’s a trend that must stop. But let’s face it: far too many rescues are nothing but dog brokers in disguise who “rescue” dogs only to turn around and sell them for top dollar. Not to mention the “rescue” organizations who steal dogs and then offer them for “adoption” for an exorbitant fee. And how about those “rescue” organizations who fly dogs in from other countries? Thousands of dogs are brought in from Taiwan, Mexico, and Puerto Rico to name a few, and most of them are diseased. How is that a good thing?
    After all the recent headlines about shady rescues and shelters people think THIS is on the level? Who regulates the rescues? Food for thought.

    • JL

      Hey there, need to reply to your post since it’s way off. Yes, there are some bad rescues out there for sure, but the mall adoption centers are either run by local Humane Societies or local shelters. I fail to see where the “racket” comes in. Loves and Leashes for example adopts dogs out for less than 100.00 / the shelter adoption fee, and that includes shots and spay and neuter. This is a wonderful thing so let’s support it! If every mall in the country had an adoption center imagine all the lives saved!!!

      • GF

        I very much agree with you JL, what a great thing for the community, give a loving, tossed aside animal another chance. I have seen so many in the shelter that are great animals who just need love and care.

    • VG

      @ Gail….WOW, really? Pet stores charge a ton more than rescues. That’s why they provide financing. People finance everthing else, why not a dog? So stupid…. Any reputable rescue will get the medical attention the dog needs, shots and spay/neutering before they adopt out. Alot of rescues save dogs from shelters that are going to kill them. Yes, if anyone decides to adopt from a rescue, they should do their research. So since there are some bad rescues out there, then surely we should label them all bad. What kind of thinking is that? Do you even know the conditions that puppy mill dogs live in? I think you need to open your eyes to their reality. Do you really think they get what they need? I would never spend thousands of dollars for a dog or buy from a pet store. Dogs ( and cats) are dying everyday in shelters.

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  • Christine

    I’m confused – - There is a pet store in a mall here in Flint, MI where I live. In fact, it’s relatively new. How can this be if it’s supposed to be illegal?

    • Joanne Brokaw

      Hi Christine – hopefully I can clear up the confusion. It’s not illegal to have a pet shop in a mall. One company, Macerich, has decided to phase out pet stores in their malls but not all malls (who are owned by various commercial companies) have decided to do the same thing. Also, some pet shops offer animals through local rescue groups, so a pet show offering dogs or cats doesn’t mean they’re necessarily from commercial breeders.

      More important if you’re looking to add a pet to your family that you make sure you’re getting the right pet for you, and that you get it from a reputable source – not all rescues are on the ball, and not all pet shops are bad. So do your homework, ask A LOT of questions, ask to see paperwork, meet the dogs parents if you can, ask about guarantees, and most importantly, make sure you have the time, space and resources (and I mean money) to properly care for a living animal.

      Hope that helps!

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