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Pet stores at Westfield malls in Escondido and National City close amid legal pressure

Posted at 11:58 PM, Jan 02, 2020
and last updated 2020-01-03 08:41:14-05

ESCONDIDO, Calif. (KGTV) -- Two pet stores in San Diego County abruptly shut down just before the end of the year amid mounting legal pressure.

Bark Avenue had been operating in the Westfield North County mall in Escondido, and The Puppy Patch had been at Westfield Plaza Bonita in National City.

In December, animal rights groups Animal Protection and Rescue League and Not One Animal Harmed filed a temporary restraining order against Bark Avenue and Westfield.

They argued the store was in violation of a California state law that went into effect on Jan. 1, 2019. The law prohibits stores from selling cats, dogs or rabbits unless they come from a rescue that has an agreement with a registered humane society.

RELATED: Pet stores to be kicked out of Westfield malls

The judge agreed, granting a temporary restraining order on Dec. 10, 2019.

In reaction, Westfield announced they would be terminating their lease with Bark Avenue, as well as The Puppy Patch, though the latter was not named as a defendant.

Despite the temporary restraining order, Bark Avenue continued to operate.

The store had an inventory of mostly young, purebred and designer mix puppies. The placards indicated they came from Bark Adoptions, a rescue located in Menifee.

However, an investigation by 10News in February, along with the Companion Animal Protection Society, found that Bark Adoptions had been funneling dogs from commercial breeders in the Midwest to pet stores in Southern California.

RELATED: California limits pet store sales of cats, dogs and rabbits to rescue or shelter animals only

While listed as a nonprofit rescue group, there was no evidence Bark Adoptions held any adoption events.

On Dec. 31, Bark Avenue was back in court.

Superior Court Judge Ronald Styn issued a preliminary injunction, barring Bark Avenue from “selling any dogs, cats, or rabbits from Bark Adoptions or any other noncompliant group.”

They closed later that evening. The Puppy Patch had closed the week before.

“We have the unfair business practices statute in California that enables a judge to issue an injunction that’s as broad as it needs to be in order to stop unfair competition,” said attorney Bryan Pease, who represented the plaintiffs.

RELATED: Investigation into pet stores reveals 'puppy laundering scheme'

10News reached out to Jazmin Ramirez, the manager of Bark Avenue, but did not hear back.

Pease had requested that the judge order Bark Avenue to turn over the remaining animals to the San Diego Humane Society, but it doesn’t appear that was included in the judge’s order.

A spokesperson for the Humane Society said they sent officers to Bark Adoptions on Dec. 31 to monitor the closure of the store. They said only eight dogs remained on the property and were taken by the owners.