Protested pet store to close

Eight months after its opening drew thousands of protesters to Corona del Mar, I Heart Puppies is closing its retail shop at 2801 E. Coast Hwy., according to a sign in the shop's window.

"I Heart Puppies would like to thank the community of CdM for their kindness, generosity and support. Sadly, we are closing our storefront," the sign states. "I Heart Puppies will continue to provide the same quality puppies for sale on our website, where we will be able to offer a larger variety of breeds. We take pride in offering puppies from our reputable breeders; we personally visit our breeders and their kennels and continue to monitor them to maintain the highest level off quality. We look forward to providing you with professional, quality one-on-one service in selecting your future puppy."

The store opened July 1, selling $1,500 puppies, food and accessories. But the shop soon drew scrutiny from animal rights activists, who said the owners bought their dogs from inhumane Midwestern puppy mills, and protesters began picketing the shop in August. Protesters also attended several City Council meetings, asking that Newport Beach consider a ban on puppy sales, but the council did not respond to those requests.

The store's owners, Brooke Bradford, Suzanne Bradford and Summer Gorjian, defended their puppies and said they visited the kennels and breeders personally and did not buy from puppy mills.

A sign in the shop's window says the final days will be Saturday and Sunday, when all merchandise will be 75% off. The shop was closed earlier Friday, and no puppies were in the cages in the window. The shop also has a Craigslist listing that says beds, toys, harnesses, shampoo and other items will be discounted because the shop is closing.

Calls and emails to animal rights protesters seeking comment for this story were not immediately returned.

"We are closing our store front and just doing Internet sales, with our same quality puppies," Suzanne Bradford said. "We are planning a breeder tour to visit our breeders and look for some larger breed breeders. We are revamping our website [and] will have videos of available puppies, parents, the breeder and their kennels."

She said the reasons for closing the store were economic and high overhead. All the puppies have been sold, she added.

Twitter: @coronadelmartdy

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