Original Russo's Pet Experience Now Targeted by Puppy Mill Foes


Animal rights groups claiming Russo's Pet Experience sells puppies raised in mills managed to pressure the Irvine Co. to end the pet store's lease at one Irvine shopping center and the Irvine City Council to ban such retailers outright.

Now, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) and the Animal Protection and Rescue League (APRL) are targeting the Russo's Pet Experience store at the chain's original location, the Irvine Co.'s Fashion Island.
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A “puppy mill awareness outreach event” runs from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday outside Russo's Pet Experience at 1013 Newport Center Drive, Newport Beach, according to an email from Action Team Coordinator Eric Deardorff of PETA.

“This outreach event against Russo's, a local pet store, will focus on
puppy mills and the millions of animals euthanized every year because of
a lack of good homes,” he explains. “Please bring friends and family members if you
can!”

But the pet store chain's owner, Dan DiGiacomo, has said he has families on his side, explaining he would not still be in business without having built strong customer loyalty. His first Russo's opened at Fashion Island in 1968, and his clientele has included John Wayne's family.

Further, DiGiacomo maintains he only gets pets from
licensed breeders and kennels that he has personally visited, and that veterinarians examine his pets weekly. His arguments did not sway the Irvine Co. and Irvine City Council when it came to saving his Irvine Spectrum store, however.

Those who want to attend Saturday's event are asked to RSVP via e-mail to APRL's Brenda Calvillo or through PETA's Facebook page. Participants are advised, “Please dress conservatively,” so don't bother picking up the puppy suit at the cleaners.

Matt Coker has been engaging, enraging and entertaining readers of newspapers, magazines and websites for decades. He spent the first 13 years of his career in journalism at daily newspapers before “graduating” to OC Weekly in 1995 as the paper’s first calendar editor. He went on to be managing editor, executive editor and is now senior staff writer.

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