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January 27, 2010

Court Orders Puppy Mill Dog Racketeering Lawsuit To Proceed Against Petland

PHOENIX — A federal court in Arizona has issued a ruling allowing a lawsuit to proceed against Petland, Inc. based on allegations that the retail chain is routinely selling unhealthy puppy mill puppies to unsuspecting consumers. Petland is the nation's largest chain of pet stores that sells puppy mill dogs.

The lawsuit, filed in federal district court in Phoenix, alleges that Petland violated the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO), and numerous state consumer protection laws by misleading thousands of consumers across the country into believing that the puppies sold in Petland stores are healthy and come from high-quality breeders. The suit is the result of many months of investigative and legal research, and comes after two separate investigations into Petland stores by The HSUS in 2008 and 2009 that demonstrated a direct link between multiple Petland stores and unscrupulous puppy mills.

"Unscrupulous puppy sellers like Petland reap massive profits by pushing unhealthy puppies on well-intentioned dog-lovers who would never knowingly buy a puppy mill dog," said Jonathan Lovvorn, vice president  chief counsel for Animal Protection Litigation at The HSUS. "This industry has been systematically lying to consumers for decades about the source of the dogs they sell, and it's time for a major correction."

In its ruling, the Court allowed the RICO and several state law claims to go forward against Petland, but dismissed puppy mill dog broker Hunte, Inc. (a major supplier of Petland), and also removed some of the consumer plaintiffs from the case. The case will now proceed to discovery and trial before United States District Judge David Campbell.

The class plaintiffs are being represented in the case by Saltz Mongeluzzi Barrett Bendesky, PC; Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro, LLC; Garen Meguerian, Esq.; and lawyers in The HSUS' Animal Protection Litigation section. The suit requests a jury trial on behalf of the consumer class plaintiffs, and seeks reimbursement of the puppies' purchase price along with compensation for all related monetary damages for the class members.

To learn more about puppy mills, visit humanesociety.org/puppymills.

The HSUS encourages individuals and families who wish to add a dog to their family to visit their local animal shelter or breed rescue group where they will find healthy, happy animals just waiting for someone to give them a second chance. For those wishing to purchase a dog from a breeder, The HSUS offers guidelines for finding a reputable breeder at humanesociety.org/puppy.

  • Documented conditions in puppy mills include to little to no veterinary care, squalid conditions, over-breeding, inbreeding and dogs kept in small wire cages with no exercise, socialization or human interaction. Breeding dogs suffer for years in puppy mills, must endure constant breeding cycles and are destroyed or discarded once they can no longer produce puppies.
  • The HSUS supports compassionate breeders who provide for their dog's physical and mental well-being. Quality breeders don't sell puppies through pet stores or over the Internet.
  • Puppy mills contribute to the pet overpopulation problem, which results in millions of unwanted dogs euthanized at shelters every year.
  • Pet stores and online sellers often use attractive Web sites to hide the truth and to dupe consumers into thinking that they are dealing with a small, reputable breeder. Common doublespeak used by pet stores can be found at humanesociety.org/puppymills.

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The Humane Society of the United States is the nation's largest animal protection organization — backed by 11 million Americans, or one of every 28. For more than a half-century, The HSUS has been fighting for the protection of all animals through advocacy, education, and hands-on programs. Celebrating animals and confronting cruelty — On the web at humanesociety.org.

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