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AIEA (HawaiiNewsNow) - An Aiea pet store with ties to a controversial Waimanalo puppy mill was again the target of protesters Saturday.
About 30 people, accompanied by many four-legged friends, lined Kamehameha Highway near the Aloha Pet Stop in the Pearl Kai Shopping Center, holding signs promoting pet adoption. A similar protest last Saturday drew about a dozen people.
"We've just come out today to tell people that it's not okay to treat animals inhumanely,and it's not okay to raise animals in substandard conditions," said Theresa Donnelly, who is a member of the Boxer Club of Hawaii and Hawaii Military Pets.
But many of the protesters also held up signs, claiming that Aloha Pet Shop is owned by the same people who owned a puppy mill in Waimanalo, where 153 dogs were seized in a raid in February 2011.
The pet shop is owned by Sheryl Luke-Kalani, who owned the land where the puppy mill was operated by Bradley International, which listed Luke-Kalani's father, Vernon Luke, as an officer. Bradley International pleaded no contest to 153 charges of animal cruelty last December in connection with the raid.
Luke-Kalani is also listed as an owner of a new dog breeding business on the Big Island.
"Based on what we saw in Waimanalo, this industry needs a little bit of hand-holding by government, and sometimes you just gotta do that," said Rep. K. Mark Takai (D-Newtown, Waiau, Pearl City, Waimalu), who also helped organize the rally.
Takai said there are bills in the legislature aimed at increasing oversight of the industry. He also supports pet adoptions.
"There's a lot of pets out there," said Takai. "Waimanalo generated probably close to 200 adoptable dogs. And some of those are still in foster care."
Aloha Pet Shop issued a statement addressed to customers and neighbors, saying it had purchased dogs raised by commercial breeders in the past, but no longer does so, calling it "an unfortunate mistake we have learned from. Today, we purchase our puppies from private, responsible breeders to ensure these dogs are treated with love."
It also said, "We, like you, are pet lovers and to maintain our business we believe it is important to deliver puppies raised in the best possible environment to our customers. This means puppies that have the correct pedigree and that are not over bred." That sentence was underlined in the statement.
Another rally organizer was skeptical of the claims in the statement. "Has this pet store gone to those breeders that they're purchasing their puppies from and taking a look at this puppies, seeing how they're raised?" said Alicia Maluafiti of the group Poi Dogs and Popoki. "I think that's a rhetorical question. No way. Come on. Give me a break."
Aloha Pet Shop didn't have a store sign up today. It said in the statement, "We respect people's right to demonstrate, but we also ask you to please understand that we intend to give our side of this story and for once set the record straight on this misrepresented allegations."