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a group of concerned upper west siders staged a nov. 28 protest in front of pet fashion, a columbus avenue store accused of selling pets from puppy mills.

the rally was the product of a month-long threat by local residents and deborah howard, president of national nonprofit organization companion animal protection society, to boycott the store because of its alleged connections to puppy mills.

upper west siders, including the owner of pet stop, the 21-year-old pet store across the street, handed out information and held signs in front of the new store, between west 87th and 88th streets.

"almost all dogs in pet shops come from puppy mills," howard said. "so many consumers buy these dogs and the dogs end up getting sick."

jo umans, who found her puppy, jake, at the city pound, said the protest is a testament to the power of the neighborhood's pet-loving community.

"none of us here want to see this store go out of business," umans said. "we just do not want them selling unhealthy dogs that may not live strong, good lives."

while ricky aballay, manager of pet fashion, agreed that puppy mills produce sick dogs, he said that his dogs are healthy and come from responsible private breeders.

"you can take a look at our dogs. they're not malnourished. they're not sick. they don't have runny noses," aballay said. "as far as our dogs ever being sick, not yet. not yet. i don't think they will be either."

howard's group launched a private investigation that led to the conviction of kathy bauck, one of the largest dog brokers in the united states. howard and her group claim that bauck's husband, allen, sold puppies to the owner of pet fashion.

another protest is planned dec. 19.

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