May 31, 2012
Dozens of Former Customers Join Consumer Lawsuit Against Nation’s Largest Online Dog Seller
The Humane Society of the United States and Leopold Law flooded with calls and emails about Purebred Breeders LLC
Fifty former customers of online puppy seller Purebred Breeders LLC have joined a lawsuit against the company alleging that they were misled into buying sick or injured dogs. The suit was amended and filed by consumer justice law firm Leopold Law of Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., in partnership with lawyers from The Humane Society of the United States.
The lawsuit alleges that Purebred Breeders violated Florida state consumer protection laws by misleading consumers into believing that the puppies it sold were healthy and came from high-quality breeders, when the dogs came from inhumane breeding facilities, also known as puppy mills, all across the country. The lawsuit charges that Purebred Breeders runs nearly 800 Web domains designed to mislead consumers into believing that they are dealing with breeders in their home states when shopping online for a puppy. Thought to be the largest online seller of dogs in the country, the Florida-based company sells as many as 20,000 puppies a year over the Internet, according to whistleblowers who worked for the company.
“Purebred Breeders continues to operate a deceptive business model that is generating a host of distraught customers across more than 20 states,” said Jonathan Lovvorn, senior vice president for animal protection litigation and investigations at The HSUS. “Internet puppy sellers like Purebred Breeders deceive consumers about the origins of the puppies they sell and inflict huge expenses and terrible anguish on unsuspecting families that purchase sick or dying dogs over the Internet.”
Overall, more than 100 calls and emails have poured in to The HSUS and Leopold Law, as customers describe their experiences receiving sick puppies. In one case, a woman got a puppy with deformed feet. The Better Business Bureau has given the company a C-minus rating due to the number of complaints from consumers and other factors.
Shortly before the lawsuit was first filed in November, The HSUS released the results of a shocking investigation into Purebred Breeders. The investigation, featured on NBC’s Today Show, highlighted the connection between the company and puppy mills, where parent dogs are often stacked in cramped wire cages, with no exercise, veterinary care, socialization, or human companionship.
“Purebred Breeders continues to shirk responsibility despite the steady stream of plaintiffs that continue to come forward with similar complaints,” said Ted Leopold, the lead attorney in the case. “This amended complaint proves that the allegations are not isolated and are systematic of the egregious and unconscionable behavior perpetrated by the defendant.”
Any consumer who purchased a sick puppy from an online seller is encouraged to fill out this complaint form.
Since the filing of the lawsuit, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has proposed a federal rule to close a loophole that allows hundreds of large-scale commercial puppy mills to operate without federal inspections or oversight.
The rule, which would be implemented under the federal Animal Welfare Act, would require large-scale, commercial breeders and dealers who sell puppies to members of the public “sight unseen,” including those who sell over the Internet, such as Purebred Breeders and their suppliers, to be licensed and inspected and abide by the same basic standards of care as those who sell wholesale to pet stores.
The USDA is accepting public comments on the proposed rule through July 16.