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Animal advocates cancel protests outside Aquebogue puppy store, plan to meet with owners

Although protestors met in Aquebogue yesterday, they decided to put down their signs and meet to discuss their concerns, instead.

With an eye toward raising awareness and cooperation, animal advocates who had planned a protest outside the Puppy Experience in Aquebogue decided to cancel their demonstrations this weekend.

Invited by the store’s owners to come inside, the animal rights’ advocates say they hope to meet soon with Brian and Keith Lewin, to discuss concerns they have and to suggest the store be run as a “humane” business, helping to find homes for shelter dogs or sourcing dogs only from what they say are deemed “humane breeders”.

Protestors did meet Saturday but both the Lewins were not onsite due to the Memorial Day holiday and in the interest of fairness, Barbara Dennihy of the Companion Animal Protection Society said she would plan to schedule a meeting to discuss her concerns, rather than demonstrate outside.

“We are waiting on the Lewins to meet with us,” she said, adding that she would like to address the issue what she believes is the alleged use “puppy mills with violations.”

The puppy shop has been the scene of numerous and contentious protests in the past, when Puppy Experience was owned by Scott Kaphan, who died in 2013.

The store is under new ownership: The Lewin brothers, whose family business, Lewin Medical Supply in Riverhead, has long been a mainstay in the community, took over Puppy Experience Feb. 1.

Keith Lewin said he was aware of the planned protest. “It’s fine by me. My fellow veterans and I fought and died for the rights of these people to protest. If that’s how they want to spend their weekend, that’s fine.”

John DiLeonardo, president of Long Island Orchestrating for Nature, issued a statement: “LION is urging the Puppy Experience to immediately stop sourcing animals from puppy mills and to join the growing number of stores selling strictly adoptable animals.”

But the Lewins maintain that they are not utilizing any breeders with violations. “Our dogs did not come from puppy mills. I welcome them to come in and check our breeders for themselves. We have no secrets. I have nothing to hide,” Brian Lewin said this week.

He added that the business was inspected recently by Suffolk County, with “zero problems.” He added that if he were selling puppies from breeders with violations, whether direct or indirect, he’d be fined $1,500 per dog and “I’d be broke. Just owning a puppy store, everyone just assumes it’s all bad. That’s the karma of the business, the way it is. It’s sad. The business we got, unfortunately, comes with a bad rep.”

Both Brian and Keith said the most fulfilling part of the new business so far has been watching when the rescue dogs or adoptable puppies at their store find forever homes. “When you find a home for a dog who didn’t sell right away, even if we cut a ridiculous deal, that’s the best feeling,” Keith said.

“We always have dogs for adoption,” Brian added.

And, Keith said, “My brother and I have a good name in the community. We want to keep it that way.”