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June 5, 2013

“Furry Babies” Pet Store Faces Lawsuit for Allegedly Selling Unhealthy Puppy Mill Puppies

A group of consumers filed a lawsuit in LaSalle County Circuit Court against the Chicago pet store chain Furry Babies, Inc., claiming that the store sold sick puppies from puppy mills to unsuspecting consumers in violation of state consumer protection laws.

The lawsuit was filed by the international law firm Edwards Wildman, along with attorneys from the Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) and The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS). The case, which was developed over the past two years with the assistance of the Illinois nonprofit group The Puppy Mill Project, alleges that the stores misrepresent the origin of the puppies they sell in violation of state law by claiming to sell “hand-picked” and “nursery-raised” puppies from reputable breeders. The chain frequently acquires puppies from inhumane breeding facilities known as puppy mills, which often produce puppies with physical ailments and behavioral problems due to the intense, unsanitary confinement and overbreeding practices endemic to these facilities.

“This slick network of puppy abusers is deceiving consumers and profiting from the extreme mistreatment and neglect of helpless animals,” said Stephen Wells, executive director of ALDF. “Furry Babies’ corporate greed for ‘puppy’ profits has led them to break the law.”

“We received a multitude of complaints about Furry Babies and, without legal help, we could only take the case so far,” explains Cari Meyers, founder of Chicago-based The Puppy Mill Project.  “We are so pleased to have the law firm of Edwards Wildman, along with the legal teams of ALDF and The HSUS, assisting the plaintiffs.”

The plaintiffs claim that in contrast to the stores’ promotional materials, Furry Babies puppies are frequently born, raised, and transported in filthy conditions, deprived of social contact, and shipped at younger ages than permitted by animal welfare laws. The USDA, the federal agency which licenses breeding facilities that sell dogs to pet stores, has repeatedly cited Furry Babies’ suppliers for violating the federal Animal Welfare Act. After one such inspection, the USDA cited a Furry Babies supplier for failing to tend to dogs with excessively matted fur and overgrown nails, causing deformity, lameness, and severe discomfort. Other citations issued to Furry Babies suppliers point to dogs living in waste-filled conditions hospitable to vermin, dogs without bedding in sub-zero temperatures, and dogs with obvious but untreated diseases.  

“Furry Babies reaps huge profits by selling puppy mill puppies to well-intentioned dog lovers who would never knowingly buy a puppy bred in inhumane conditions," said Jonathan Lovvorn, senior vice president for animal protection litigation at The HSUS. "Families often bear the great expense of veterinary treatment for sick dogs, or the terrible anguish of losing a beloved family pet. It’s time to stop this shameless industry from abusing consumers and dogs alike.”

In the fall of 2012, The HSUS conducted an undercover investigation of several Chicago-area pet stores and found that Furry Babies routinely obtains puppies from puppy mills, and violates the Illinois laws requiring disclosure of puppy origins.

Due to concerns about puppies coming from disreputable sources, some cities are considering measures to ban the sale of dogs from puppy mills in pet stores, such as a recent ordinance passed in Los Angeles. “Puppy lemon law” legislation in Illinois is awaiting the governor’s signature as consumers find themselves the owners of puppies with undisclosed, severe health conditions resulting from inhumane and irresponsible breeding in puppy mills.

Contacts:

ADLF: Lisa Franzetta: 707-795-2533, ext. 1015 (office); 415-203-5472 (mobile); lfranzetta@aldf.org

HSUS: Niki Ianni: 301-548-7793 (office); 610-999-6932 (mobile); nianni@humanesociety.org

The Puppy Mill Project:  Ilyse Strongin-Bombicino (312) 285-7702; ilyse@ripplepublicrelations.com

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