Corona del Mar Today: Pet shop owner withdraws harassment complaint

The owner of a Corona del Mar pet shop has withdrawn a harassment claim against an animal rights protester but faces more than $5,000 in legal fees because of a so-called SLAPP motion, according to online court records and the woman's attorney.

Brooke Bradford filed for a temporary restraining order against Carole Davis on July 22 after a confrontation between the two women inside the I Heart Puppies shop at 2801 E. Coast Hwy.

She later consulted with an attorney, and they decided to drop the case because there had been no other incidents, said the lawyer, Richard Feld.

"We felt it wasn't necessary," Feld said. "We respect Carole's and her group's 1st Amendment rights, as long as the safety of the store and the animals were intact."

The request for dismissal was filed in Orange County Superior Court, online records show.

Davis, who is the West Coast director for the Companion Animals Protection Society, has been investigating the store and has alleged that some of the puppies sold there come from puppy mills. About 140 protesters, including Davis, attended a rally Aug. 7 in front of the shop.

On Thursday, court records show, Davis filed a SLAPP motion, which is a claim that she was exercising her right to freedom of speech in connection with the harassment claim. That motion has not been withdrawn, Feld said, and Bradford faces paying Davis' attorney fees, which are more than $5,000, if Davis prevails, he said.

A hearing on the motion is scheduled for 10 a.m. Aug. 31.

"Carole wants to proceed with the action against Brooke, even though the action has been dropped," he said.

Davis was never served and never appeared in court on the matter, he said. "The tables certainly have been turned," he said, adding that the protesters and legal matters have taken a toll on Bradford and her business.

Davis' lawyer, Bryan Pease, said the SLAPP law isn't meant as a punishment but to compensate for billable hours spent on these types of cases.

"The defense of the restraining order has incurred a lot of time and energy, and the plaintiff in this type of suit that is designed to chill free speech is required to pay the legal fees of the defendant," he said.

When asked to comment, Davis issued the following statement via email:

"I don't speak for our attorneys, they are the legal experts. My expertise is puppy mills and the pet stores that keep them in business.

"I Heart Puppies needs to listen to the cries of OC's shelter animals who need homes, to the cries of dogs being tortured in pet factories and lastly, to the voice of the people who came out yesterday in the most powerful animal rights demonstration CdM has ever had in its history."


Coastal Commission approves Buck Gully plans

The Coastal Commission unanimously approved plans for an erosion project in lower Buck Gully at a meeting held Wednesday in Watsonville.

The project involves placing wire-mesh baskets filled with river rock in the lower part of Buck Gully and installing rock structures in the upper bend of the creek. The effort will divert run-off and could prevent homes from sliding down the hillside if a major storm caused serious erosion.

The project also will restore the area's natural habitat, which has undergone major changes since the 1990s when construction in Newport Coast changed the gully from mostly dry to mostly wet; read our earlier story here.

The project likely will begin in September, with construction taking about four months and six months for planting. The plans include building a temporary road from the Little Corona restroom area to the gully below, which would be removed and replanted after the project's completion. The approved plans permit the temporary closure of the Little Corona Beach restroom but require the city provide temporary facilities.


Burglary reported at Seaward Road home

A resident in the 400 block of Seaward Road reported a burglary occurred overnight, police said Wednesday.

The victim told police he had left the rear sliding door to his home unlocked overnight, said Kathy Lowe, a police spokeswoman.

"When he awoke this morning he discovered his laptop, iPad and cell phone missing," she said. The crime was reported at 6:10 a.m. Crime scene investigators were at the scene looking for evidence, she said.

In other police news, officers arrested an 18-year-old Lake Forest man at 4:15 p.m. Tuesday at 21181 Newport Coast Drive on suspicion of embezzlement, according to a police report. Bail was set at $500.

Police also assisted after a report of a vehicle theft at 8:01 p.m. Tuesday at Ocean Boulevard and Marigold Avenue, according to online logs.


Disorderly conduct arrests

Newport Beach police arrested four people Aug. 7 on suspicion of disorderly conduct while intoxicated in separate Corona del Mar locations, according to reports.

A 50-year-old Newport Beach man was arrested at 12:03 a.m. at Fernleaf Avenue and East Coast Highway; a 54-year-old California man was arrested at 5 p.m. at 611 Heliotrope Ave.; a 20-year-old San Bernardino man was arrested at 6:50 p.m. at Narcissus Avenue and E. Coast Highway; and a 77-year-old Newport Beach woman was arrested at 11:45 p.m. at 440 Heliotrope Ave. Bail for each was set at $500, reports state.

Police also took reports of two grand thefts from vehicles in the Cameo neighborhoods. One incident occurred between 6 p.m. Friday and 12:44 p.m. Saturday in the 4600 block of Cortland Drive, and the other occurred between 6:30 p.m. Friday and 7 a.m. Saturday in the 4600 block of Gorham Drive.

In both cases, the vehicles were unlocked, police said.

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