From Beacon News:
Pet shop owner sues protesters
December 24, 2006
By Khadija Ali staff writer
A pet shop owner is filing a lawsuit against a couple after they led a demonstration outside his shop last month.
Gary and Therese Davis protested outside the Warrenville Happiness is Pets shop last month, accusing owner Ron Berning of selling unhealthy puppies at his chain of stores. The Davises accuse Berning of selling puppies from "puppy mills," a term that describes kennels where dogs are bred in unhealthy conditions.
The Davises and other picketers demonstrated again on a public street at the intersection of Batavia Road and Route 59 Saturday and planned to do so today.
About 20 protesters were holding signs that read "Buyer Beware" and "Puppy Mills Breed Misery" at the Saturday demonstration.
Berning is filing for defamation, product disparagement and tortious interference with business relation, said Berning's lawyer, Phillip J. Zisook.
Berning filed the complaint two weeks ago and the Davises were served with the lawsuit Dec. 19.
The Davises have 30 days to respond to the complaint.
"It's really a shame that Happiness is Pets is going on an aggressive and defensive approach when Gary and Therese are just using their constitutionally protected right to express their views," said Davis' attorney, Cherie Travis, who was also at the Saturday demonstration.
Emily Ward of Warrenville was one of the 20 protesters at the Saturday demonstration who has visited Happiness is Pets' Warrenville location.
"We were worried because they (puppies) looked too young at this store," Ward said.
Gary Davis said he and his wife are willing to go to court if necessary.
"We're going to continue to stand behind our intended statement," Davis said. "We will continue to inform the public about this."
Although Berning has filed a complaint against the Davises, he says he does not want to fight with them. In fact, he is willing to discuss the matter with them in person.
"I would like to talk to them if there was any amount of reason to this," Berning said. "I'd be happy to show them around my store."
Berning says the Davises' allegations are not true because he provides quality services to his customers.
"It's not true, it's just their belief that nothing should be bred for a profit," Berning said.
Eileen Rives of Naperville has bought two puppies from Happiness is Pets and said when her puppies had kennel cough, Berning paid for the veterinarian bills for two months.
"I will always return to Happiness is Pets to purchase a puppy," Rives said. "Our dogs are the best pets we've ever had."
For Jamie Campbell of Naperville, her experience was far from satisfying. She went through three puppies in two weeks because she had to exchange them. She had to exchange two puppies and return the last one due to them all being sick or aggressive. Campbell says one of the dogs tried to bite at her face as well.
"I don't think I will return to the store, not even for a bag of supplies," Campbell said.
Gary Davis would like Berning to discontinue selling live animals and follow a business model that is similar to PetSmart, where pet supplies and adoption days are offered.
However, Berning says there is a reason why customers purchase puppies from his stores - selection of breeds.
But Gary Davis says buyers should not limit their puppy purchases to pet shops because shelters offer a variety of selections as well. He adds that some people buy puppies from pet shops because they want a certain breed, but buyers should be patient before they purchase a puppy.
"I don't know that anybody has to have an impulse purchase right now," Davis said. "Be patient."
- Beacon News