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Peggy Woods Pet Emporium To Close After 64 Years In Burbank

Bob Hope stocked his ponds and aquariums with fish from Peggy Woods. Andy Griffith stopped by before each Mother’s Day to buy his mom a canary. Ron Howard picked up a monkey for an old flame, and thousands of others brought puppies, kittens, rabbits, and other pets into their homes with the help of Ira Lippman and his brother, Joel.

(Photo by © Ross A. Benson)

Pictured are brothers Joel and Ira Lippman. (Photo by © Ross A. Benson)

Times have changed. Exposure of abuses at some animal breeders, the need to find homes for rescue animals, public awareness of cities euthanizing large numbers of unwanted pets have all contributed to city laws and codes which prevent pet stores from marketing and selling puppies and other animals.

The Emporium was opened by Peggy Woods, wife of a Lockheed engineer, in 1951. Joel Lippman bought the store in 1974, and the brothers have operated the business since then. In 1976 they added the adjacent candy store to their growing business, which became a favorite of local children and adults, with a taste for jelly beans and chocolate.

(Photo by © Ross A. Benson)

(Photo by © Ross A. Benson)

However in 2013 their run providing pets to the area ran into trouble. National backlash against animal abuse, with a focus on puppy mills in the Midwest and Pennsylvania rallied activists around the country to both expose the mills, as well as hold pet stores selling puppies responsible for alleged breeder cruelty.

According to Ira Lippman, Peggy Woods had a robust business with puppy sales accounting for more than 25% of their total revenues. The profitable business employed 18 staff, selling hundreds of puppies each year.

However, a movement was growing across the country, with national organizations taking on the cause of animal cruelty and abuse. Recruiting and teaming with local shelters and rescue organizations, the movement focused on political actions directed at city councils to enact ordinances and local laws to prohibit sales of puppies in pet stores.

(Photo by © Ross A. Benson)

(Photo by © Ross A. Benson)

Burbank enacted the ordinance in early 2014, effectively ending their run with animal sales. While he did try to support the Burbank Animal Shelter by hosting rescues, their customers wanted puppies. Although many open-minded people will provide a home for a rescue, the reality is many still want to adopt their dream Yorkie, Pomeranian, Border Collie or Husky puppy.

As the Emporium’s revenue plummeted, Lippman had to start laying off staff, many of whom had been with the store for years. Early in 2015 the Lippman brothers made the decision to close the business, and move on to either retirement or other ventures. The Emporium, and adjacent candy store, will close their doors on August 1, 2015.

Lippman admits to lingering bitterness directed at both the city council, as well as those activists who worked to change Burbank’s pet store ordinance, which ultimately killed the business. “We never knowingly sold a puppy which came from a breeder which abused animals” stated Lippman. “I visited the breeders in Missouri, and all treated animals very well.”

He also had nothing negative to say about the national pet distributor, Hunt, from Joplin, Mo. “We participated in their annual distributor conferences in Joplin, which brought us together with the company and breeders” continued Lippman. “All the animals we received were healthy, and all were checked upon arrival.”

Lippman is also deeply troubled by the potential of animal cruelty or abuse. “Animals are our life. There is no explanation or justification for abusing an animal.” Thus his bi-annual inspections and visits to breeders in the Midwest.

(Photo by © Ross A. Benson)

(Photo by © Ross A. Benson)

Lippman believes the city council voted against the pet store industry due to intense pressure and lobbying by highly sophisticated activist organizations, with nearly unlimited legal resources. Small businesses like Peggy Woods cannot afford that level of defense, and subsequently cannot defend themselves adequately, nor apply the level of influence national organizations can apply to legal and political systems.

“It is just not right,” notes Lippman.

While the Emporium sold a lot of feed, toys, and other pet supplies, competition from national chains such as PetCo, PetSmart, and Centinella are able to stock a lot more variety, and in many cases due to economies of scale can offer better prices than small businesses. And as Lippman concedes, “without the puppies, many customers simply moved on to the chains.”

There is also a bit of hypocrisy in war against commercial sales of puppies and kittens. Many pet stores, including the national chains, for example still offer a variety of exotic birds. Birds living their lives in small cages, birds which may be a second generation of animals captured in their native environments, held for breeding in conditions which rival puppy and kitten mills. Birds that will likely outlive their owners and be abandoned or released into the wild (and certain death). However that is apparently not a problem for the activists.

(Photo by © Ross A. Benson)

(Photo by © Ross A. Benson)

“It is just not right,” repeats Lippman.

So the end result for Burbank is the loss of a 64-year-old business, barriers in place for families wishing to adopt the puppy or breed of their choice, the loss of 14 jobs, and the loss of a candy store.

Peggy Woods Pet Emporium 1951 ~ 2015.

Burbank Animal Shelter Partners with Local Retail Pet Stores

The Burbank Animal Shelter is excited to expand their adoption services in and outside of the City of Burbank. In partnership with local retail pet stores, the Burbank Animal Shelter will hold traveling adoption events starting with Peggy Wood’s Pet Emporium on March 2, 2013 and A La Mutt on March 16, 2013.

Peggy Woods Pet Emporium Manager Jenny Dehl displays the gift basket that will be raffled off. (Photo by Ross A. Benson)

Peggy Woods Pet Emporium Manager Jenny Dehl displays the gift basket that will be raffled off. (Photo by Ross A. Benson)

Shelter pets will be available for adoption at the one-stop shop, where customers will be able to adopt a pet and purchase pet supplies. Adoption fees for dogs and cats include spaying/neutering, vaccinations, and microchips.

This weekends event held at Peggy Wood’s Pet Emporium will include samples of dog and cats treats, missing link samples, discount coupons for training classes courtesy of Raise with Praise, goodies available for pets and humans too. A raffle for a $ 100.00 gift basket is also being offered.

Discount coupons will be offered for plenty of items in stock at Peggy Woods Pet Emporium. (Photo by Ross A.Benson)

Discount coupons will be offered for plenty of items in stock at Peggy Woods Pet Emporium. (Photo by Ross A.Benson)

Peggy Wood’s Pet Emporium
923 North Hollywood Way
Saturday, March 2, 2013
12:00 pm – 3:00 pm

A LA Mutt
10214 Riverside Drive, Toluca Lake
Saturday, March 16, 2013
10:00 am – 3:00 pm

For available animals, visit thevbas.org or call 818-238-3340 for event dates.

Burbank Takes on Puppy Mills – A Pet Store Owners Perspective

Editor’s Note:  This is part three of a series on the issue of pet stores selling puppies in Burbank, whether the city should prevent sales of puppies in Burbank, and a greater issue of animal abuse through the distribution of puppies produced in “puppy mills.”

By John Savageau

As of January 2013 there is only one remaining pet store selling puppies in Burbank.  That is Peggy Woods Pet Emporium.  Another pet store, Millennium Pets, stopped selling puppies in 2012, although they still sell birds, reptiles, and pet supplies.

Photo By John Savageau

Interviews with pet store owners, including Ira Lippman from Peggy Woods Pet Emporium and Vahe from Millennium Pets indicates animals rights groups, including BurbankCROPS and Best Friends Animal Society have put tremendous pressure on their operations, with frequent visits by members who informally inspect their facilities, subjectively documenting conditions within the facility for use in either discrediting or exposing violations within the shop.

Other pet store owners, including Anne Gaffney at Pet Haven, insist pet stores can do just fine without selling puppies, and the number of rescues available, or dogs from local breeders eliminate the need for pet stores to ship in puppies from puppy mills in the Mid-West.

As Peggy Woods Pet Emporium is the last pet store in Burbank selling puppies, Ira Lippman has the most to lose from any city council decision that may prevent sales of puppies at pet stores in Burbank.  BurbankNBeyond did an extended interview with Lippman to get a better perspective on his position regarding the issue of puppy sales, puppy mills, and the motivation of animal rights groups which oppse his business model.

BurbankNBeyond: Why do you think this whole issue came up?

Ira Lippman: There are a number of reasons.  One, there is a national issue with some of the humane groups that just don’t want puppies to be sold.  They just don’t feel that animals should be sold.

So they use many tactics.  The one that’s carrying this is the Best Friends Group. And they (animal rights groups) are doing it state by state, local by local, to stop the sale of puppies.  They go to communities without pet stores and go to communities with little resistance and get the city councils to pass ordinances just to stop the sale of puppies.

They have their own agenda in that they do (pet) adoptions.  And they bring animals from other places to find homes in these communities.

Our Burbank shelter does not have excess animals.  We don’t have a problem in Burbank.  They (Burbank Animal Shelter) “lottery” animals, so people (who want to adopt) are often disappointed.

We feel people deserve to have a choice in where they get their pet.

BurbankNBeyond: So an organization like Best Friends,  are they saying that if I want a husky puppy, that I don’t have the right to purchase a husky puppy?

Ira Lippman: They are saying they don’t want you to purchase it in a pet store.  They are saying they want you to adopt animals.  They don’t think you should be getting pure breeds, unless they have them for adoption.

They do a service that is a nice service, but not everyone wants to get an adopted animal.  There are differences of opinions.

When you raise a puppy in your home it develops the fabric of your family, its personality, the characteristics that it has.

BurbankNBeyond: But what about the high numbers of animals being euthanized, over population, those issues raised by the animal rights groups?

Ira Lippman:  They (animals rights groups) blame this over-population on the pet stores.   Our puppies never end up in the shelters.  They (regulators) know where our puppies go.  We are not the problem.

BurbankNBeyond: Is there anything nefarious about  the animal rights groups?

Ira Lippman: I don’t  like the idea they don’t want me to be in business.    They are part of this greater idea that people shouldn’t be able to buy pets.  They challenge pet ownership.  They feel people should just adopt them.

I’m OK with adoption.  We support a lot of adoptions.  I think it is a really nice thing.  But why shouldn’t we have choice?  In America we deserve choice.

If people don’t want to buy a puppy it’s OK.

We are part of the community.  We provide programs for middle school kids to come and get service hours to walk puppies and learn to take care of them and socialize them.

BurbankNBeyond:  What about puppy mills?

Ira Lippman:  It’s an emotional issue.  This whole puppy mill issue.  I don’t support puppy mills.  They are substandard breeders.  Many of our dogs and cats (that we sell) come from our community.  We don’t just get our puppies from professional breeders, we also get them from local community members.  We provide a service to find a home for puppies they have.

We don’t have a problem in our community.  This group (Best Friends) came into our community to push their agenda.  They go to lots of communities and push their agenda.  They rally people, and they want you to adopt their animals.

BurbankNBeyond: What do they get out of it?

Ira Lippman: Well they make money.  It is a multi-million dollar organization.  They get donations, they get fees for doing whatever their business is, they get fees for whatever.  They get to work under the umbrella of a non-profit.

I don’t have a problem with people going to (local hobby and small) breeders and get a puppy.  I don’t have a problem with that.  It is not easy to find a breeder to get a puppy.  You don’t know if that is necessarily a good puppy to buy.  Depending on the breeder you go to most breeders have no regulation.

So what happens when you take away a legal vehicle for people to buy something?  You go underground.  There are huge Internet and street corner sales of puppies.  The people want to have a pet, and if you don’t have a vehicle for them to buy it they find it somewhere else.  There will always be a source.

Those groups are not regulated at all.  The adoption organizations also have no regulations at all.  None.

All the state and local laws are exempted to the adoption groups.

If they sell a puppy and it gets sick you don’t really know what that puppy is going to be like.  You don’t really know the history.  You are stuck with it, and you have no recourse whatsoever.

We (pet store owners and professional breeders) are a highly regulated industry.  For example in California we have the Polanco Act.  We abide by it fully.

Excerpt from “Polanco Act”

The Lockyer-Polanco-Farr Pet Protection Act requires pet dealers (i.e., retail sellers of more than 50 dogs or cats in the previous year; not including animal shelters and humane societies) to have a permit, maintain certain health and safety standards for their animals, sell only healthy animals, and provide written spay-neuter, health, animal history and other information and disclosures to pet buyers.

If after 15 days from purchase a dog or cat becomes ill due to an illness that existed at the time of sale, or if within one year after purchase a dog or cat has a congenital or hereditary condition that adversely affects the health of the dog or cat, an owner is offered a refund, another puppy or kitten, or reimbursement of veterinary bills up to 150 percent of the purchase price of the puppy or kitten.

The Pet Store Animal Care Act, effective in 2009, requires every pet store that sells live companion animals and fish to formulate a documented program consisting of routine care, preventative care, emergency care, disease control and prevention, veterinary treatment, and euthanasia. (HEALTH AND SAFETY CODE SECTION 122125-122220)

Burbank Animal Control does a monthly inspection visit to the store, and we abide by all laws and regulations.  We don’t have a problem.

BurbankNBeyond: Where do you think this is going to go in Burbank?

Ira Lippman: I don’t know.  They are very, very vigilant group that are backing this policy.  They go from town to town, they are a profession, they have huge budgets to make this happen.  They rally up the people, put pressure on the council people, and people get emotional about it.

But we don’t have a problem in Burbank.  And I try to explain, “why chase business away from Burbank?”

We (pet shop owners) are not causing the over-abundance of animals in the pet shelters.  Again we are highly regulated.  Even as much as how we keep the animals in our store.  How we sell them, where they come from – everybody know the parents, what their birth dates were – those things have to be (on a )5 page document with a written guarantee.  At least three veterinarians have seen that dog before it ever goes home.

The puppies come (to us) in a beautifully outfitted transportation facility (provided by Hunte Corporation).  They are all independently housed and they have a controlled environment.  They have 24 hour care.  They drive straight through from wherever they are coming from (Hunte’s distribution facility is in Goodman, MO).

Their facility, you can see it online, is beautiful.

I believe Hunte wrote a letter to every city council person and invited them to come see their facilities.  And for them to base their decisions on facts.  These groups (animal rights groups) don’t let facts get in their way.

They are really savvy.  They have training in warfare. They’re good at what they do.  I understand that.

BurbankNBeyond: What do you expect from the upcoming debate at the city council meeting?

Ira Lippman:  We are hoping the council makes their decision based on factual information

Lippman claims they do not buy puppies from mills.  He noted staff from his store had visited breeders, visited the Hunte Corporation, and were satisfied both were providing a safe and healthy environment for puppies.  In addition, he has the ability to view and select puppies online through the Hunte website, ordering only those animals which meet the following criteria:

  1. Meet their specific requirements
  2. Come from “approved” breeders
  3. Have a complete audit trail and documentation

If they find an animal that is provided by a breeder which is not on their “approved” list, they will go through the USDA website and check for compliance or violations prior to placing an order.

BurbankNBeyond: Do you ever procure puppies from local sources?

Ira Lippman:  Yes.  In the past 60 days we have offered puppies from at least five different litters, including a St. Bernard litter and a Maltese litter.

Lippman continues that it is not always possible to get the breeds needed for their customers via local breeders, and thus they need to go to a company such as Hunte to procure the animals ordered by local customers.

BurbankNBeyond: If we acknowledge the reality of dogs being euthanized in shelters, and the reality of abuses in puppy mills, what should we, as an American society do to solve this problem?

Ira Lippman: Of course we need to start spaying and neutering our pets.  The trend nationwide is a reduction of animal euthanasia due to better public awareness of the need to spay and neuter animals, and eliminate unwanted litters.

We need to force the federal and state governments to enforce laws regulating breeders.  Puppy mills need to be put out of business.

BurbankNBeyond: What will happen if the city council determines we should stop the sale of puppies in pet stores?

Ira Lippman: We will adapt.  However, this is the United States.  Don’t we have the right to have a choice?  This is not only a matter of protecting the interest of animals, they (city council) are also making a decision protecting the rights of the citizens of Burbank.

The Burbank City Council is planning to discuss the pet store issue at an upcoming city council meeting.  The issue is to consider enacting a law or ordinance such as recently enacted in Glendale (Ordinance #5748) which states “no pet store shall display, sell, deliver, offer for sale, barter, auction, give away, or otherwise transfer or dispose of dogs or cats in the City of Glendale on or after the effective date of this Chapter.”

BurbankNBeyond encourages a healthy, open debate on the issue, and for citizens and residents to contact their city council members to inform them of your position, concerns, or recommendations prior to making an decision on the issue of preventing puppy sales in Burbank.

You can contact all Burbank City Council members by email at CityCouncil@ci.burbank.ca.us

Burbank N Beyond welcomes comments from readers.  Please send your comments to jsavageau@burbanknbeyond.com.