Barkworks, the popular and long-running pet store in the Thousand Oaks mall, has closed its doors.
Adam Antoniskis, manager of The Oaks, said that the Barkworks owner chose not to renew the store’s lease when it expired late last year.
Barkworks is a southern California-based chain store, but beyond that, little information is available. The company has no online presence to speak of, but negative Yelp reviews abound.
The chain has two other stores, one in Riverside and one in Brea. It opened at The Oaks in 2011.
The store had come under fire in recent years from animal rights activists protesting the use of so-called puppy mills in retail pet sales.
Kelly Rose Scheiern, a Camarillo resident, adopted a dog that was originally purchased from Barkworks.
“The original owner said that the dog had so many health issues that resulted in $1,500 worth of medical bills. I have her records of it. The dog also had a fractured hip, which surgery and post medical care cost a ton of money,” Scheiern said.
“All in all, I can’t complain because if the owners never bought her I wouldn’t be so blessed to have her in my life, but to read about all the medical issues she had, which were uncommon of a purebred even, was heartbreaking. She’s now healthy and enjoying her new life 8 years later.”
A Google search of the company turns up websites decrying animal living conditions at The Oaks mall location—and a 2015 lawsuit brought against the company by the Animal Legal Defense Fund. The lawsuit alleges that Barkworks’ business practices are illegal, including the providing of inaccurate animal breeder license numbers and addresses, the fabrication of breeding certificates, lying about providing veterinary care, and misrepresenting puppy mills as reputable breeders.
Video footage released by the Companion Animal Protection Society in 2011 showed that Barkworks purchased their animals from puppy mills—commercial dog breeding facilities where profit is emphasized over animal well-being, according the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals website.
The footage shows covertly filmed interviews with employees of Barkworks, and paperwork that lists the Prairie Mill Kennel, in New Sharon, Iowa, as a supplier. The kennel has been protested by the Companion Animal Protection Society and other animal rights organizations for its crowded, unsanitary conditions.
The Animal Legal Defense Fund filed a complaint against Barkworks in 2014. The complaint stated that the company violated California consumer protection law by lying to customers about where their stores animals came from. The company said their animals were bought from small-operation breeders.
Last November, Gov. Jerry Brown signed Assembly Bill 485, which mandates that pet stores only sell rescue animals obtained through animal shelters and rescues in their area. The law was written to keep stores from supporting for-profit puppy mill operations—and to assist in finding homes for the numerous rescued animals across the state.
The legislation will take effect Jan. 1, 2019.
The two other Barkworks Riverside and Brea locations remain open for business. The Acorn was unable to determine what happened to the animals that were being sold at the T.O. store.