Animal Rights

Florida Puppy Protest Gets Ugly; Using Kids to Make Point

| by Mark Berman Opposing Views

There has been on ongoing battle in Hollywood, Florida between the owners of a pet shop and an animal rights group -- and now it's personal.

The animal rights group wants to shut the store down, thus forcing people to get dogs from shelters. The store, Puppy Palace, says people have the right to buy purebred puppies if they so choose.

The issue seems fairly straightforward. But a whole new can of worms was opened during the latest protest this weekend when store supporters held signs featuring a photo of an anti-store protest leader's child. It would appear they were exploiting a child to make their point. But who exploited the child first?

Ghazal Tajalli is the protest organizer. The photo is of her daughter holding a sign that reads, "Every dog bred means a shelter dog dead." The picture came from Tajilli's web site.

Tajilli was outraged that the pet shop used it. "I think it's really sick," she told the Broward Palm Beach New Times. "Do I have to put a disclaimer telling people they shouldn't use my photos for their propaganda? Our protests are clearly hurting them so much that they're going to these disgusting lengths to try to bother me personally."

However, Shannon Ledford, a manager at Puppy Palace, said she felt the signs were justified. "We want people to know what kind of people these protesters are," she said. "She [Tajalli] puts her daughter out there in public with these signs and then puts the pictures out there in public on Facebook."

Ledford pointed out that the girl is holding a PETA sign, despite the fact Tajilli says her group is not affiliated with any larger animal rights organization. "We hope this will lay that issue to rest once and for all," she said. "We're not going to shut up and sit down and go away as these people say horrible, incorrect things about us."

Tajilli insisted her group has no connection with PETA, and may seek legal action against the store for using her daughter's image without her permission.

This is the latest nasty exchange between the two groups. The protest so far has featured fake dead dogs, people wearing dog suits, a death toll, sarcastic welcome signs, and a lot of insults. Ledford agreed that both sides were behaving immaturely. "The thing is, everybody here, on both sides, loves animals. I wish we could just focus our energy together to take on some of the really big problems out there."

So who is exploiting children here? On one hand, the pet shop did use the image of a child to make its point. But the image came from the mother's public web site. She used her own child in a protest to further her views, then posted it online for all the world to see. Maybe the mother should look in the mirror before accusing others of exploiting her child?