"Dont Shop. Adopt!"
This was one of the messages that protesters demonstrating outside the Lynbrook Shake-A-Paw on Dec. 22 were hoping to send to potential customers of the local pet shop.
Hoisting signs that read, "How sick is that puppy in the window?" and "For Every Buy, a Shelter Pup Dies," members of Long Island Orchestrating for Nature (LION) marched outside the Atlantic Avenue store for roughly two hours during the chilly Saturday before Christmas.
"A lot of people are bringing home dogs and cats as presents and we welcome that as long as they are going to a good family, but we definitely want them coming from a shelter," stated Julie Cappiello, vice president of LION, which was formed in August and is currently seeking non-profit status.
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Cappiello, 21, shared personal stories of family and friends who purchased dogs from Shake A Paw, and shortly after, discovered their new pets were sick with parasites, heart problems and other conditions. She also cited various complaints that have been lodged against the store and some of its breeders, who have been accused of running "puppy mills."
"Puppy mills are large-scale breeding factories where horrendous conditions are standard, diseases are rampant, and mothers are often forced to live out their lives in wire cages caked with excrement," LION's President and Malverne resident John Di Leonardo told Patch. "Much like criminals launder their money through seemingly legitimate businesses, puppy mills launder their animals through pet stores, such as Shake A Paw, hiding the cruelties of their industry behind the eyes of cuddly puppies."
DiLeonardo explained, "We are here today because the public deserves to know where Shake A Paws' animals are coming from, about the various health conditions their animals often suffer from, and the poor animals bred to them deserve a voice."
Shake A Paw refused to comment on the protest or the allegations voiced by LION when contacted by Patch.
Lynbrook Police responded to the scene of the protest twice. They arrested one of the protesters, and charged him with disorderly conduct. According to Di Leonardo, cops told the protester he was impeding traffic and had to leave, but as he put his hands in the air and went to walk away, an officer threw him to the ground and handcuffed him.
The protesters were allowed to continue demonstrating so long as they kept moving and did not interfere with traffic. But later in the afternoon, Lynbrook Police had to respond to the scene again when two civilians had an encounter with the protesters.
The unidentified men approached the group and grabbed signs and pamphlets out of the demonstraters' hands, according to Cappiello.
"They were very aggressive ... they threatened many of us," she said, but credited Officer King with settling the "rowdy" crowd.
Cappiello said the protest was able to persuade at least one family that day to not purchase a puppy from the store by directing them instead to local rescue groups and shelters.
"For those who want purebreds, one might be surprised to find out that 1 in 4 shelter dogs are purebred and breed rescues abound," DiLeonardo stated. He recommends people looking for a pet to visit TheShelterPetProject.org, which is endorsed by the Humane Society of the United States.
He added, "If one wants to add a member to their family, whether it be during the holiday season or otherwise, town shelters and nonprofit rescue groups provide adoptions at a fraction of the cost of pet stores with your money going toward a good cause rather than a cruel enterprise."
Have you purchased a cat or dog from Shake A Paw in Lynbrook? Tell us about your experience.