2008-05-29 / Community

Prices go up as puppy salesman must pay taxes

By Nancy Needham nancy@theacorn.com

A tiny puppy whimpered nonstop for attention until Josh Pasewaldt picked him up. Then the small German shepherd/mystery mix fell sound asleep in his rescuer's hand.

The mutt is one of almost 1,000 dogs whose life has been saved by the owner of Newbury Park Feed and Pet Supply, who drives to Kern County twice a week to fill his car with puppies scheduled for euthanasia at crowded kennels.

For about a year Pasewaldt had been rescuing dogs from the Bakersfield area and charging $60 each for them, the price he pays the animal shelters. Then the Los Angeles County Animal Care and Control got involved, and Pasewaldt learned he must make about $4,000 worth of improvements at his pet supply store at 67 N. Reino Road or shut down.

"Our officers only go out after there is a complaint. The public is our eyes and ears, but sometimes people make complaints that we find are not correct," said Michelle Roache, deputy director of Los Angeles Animal Care and Control.

After a complaint about the pet supply store came to the Los Angeles shelter, an officer was sent out to see if the animals he rescued were living in unsanitary conditions.

"We act quickly when we get an anonymous complaint about the health and welfare of an animal, but we did not find any evidence of unclean conditions," Roache said.

But the animal control officer did find the store needed to follow certain rules, such as installing fire protection equipment, she said. Roache compared it to when they are called and told there are dogs somewhere that don't have water. When the officer goes out the dogs have water but they aren't licensed, so owners are asked to comply with licensing their dogs.

"We're a lot like health inspectors at restaurants. We have a list of things we check on when we are out," Roache said.

Because of personnel issues, they don't make regular visits to every place that sells pets, she said.

"I think Josh Pasewaldt is doing a really good thing. He's really done a lot of good for those animals," Roache said.

After making improvements that ranged from the simple placement of a sign in his window saying how he could be reached in an emergency to the more extensive installation of a sprinkler system to protect the puppies and kittens kept in kennels inside the store from fire, he learned the wording on his newly acquired permit would require something more.

"My accountant told me I have to pay back sales tax on the puppies I sold, and that comes to about $4,000 again. It always seems to be about $4,000 more," Pasewaldt said.

He already works in the red because he doesn't charge for the time or gas he uses to drive to get the pups. Nonprofit rescues that charge $150 to $800 for dogs rescued from shelters have told him they're frustrated because he undersells them and they must keep their organizations in the black, he said.

Pasewaldt has raised his prices: Now he sells the pups for $60 plus tax. That comes to nearly $5 more. No one has complained about the increase, he said.

People are still coming from all over to get a puppy. Pasewaldt makes them fill out a bit more paperwork, but the little dogs are still going out the door at about the same rate as he can bring them in.

He now brings a tape measure with him when he chooses which dogs to bring back. He used to look for healthy and loving dogs, but now he must also look at their size because he's only allowed to have so many total inches of dogs in the four 36squarefoot kennels, he said.

Still, the kennels are filled with shredded newspaper and puppies sleeping, chasing each other or just wagging their tails trying to make eye contact with those shopping for baby canines.

"It's puppy and kitten season and the shelters are full," Pasewaldt said.

That means he's going to be trying to help out as much as he possibly can by saving dogs who are close to being put to sleep. The other day he got a mother dog and her puppies out just in time. The mother has been adopted along with one of her pups. The other puppies were going fast, with only two of the seven left. All have been altered.

"The animal shelters make sure the animals I adopt are altered and have shots before they leave there," Pasewaldt said.

His store is across from Newbury Park High School, near Borchard Road. It is open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday and from noon to 4 p.m. on Sunday.

People who come in and out looking for dogs are under no pressure to take one because the dogs rescued by Pasewaldt are no longer under threat of euthanization.

A dog may be returned within five days for a full refund as long as an explanation is given as to why the dog did not work out so the pet store can make a better placement the next time.

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