BROWARD COUNTY, Fla.—The Broward County Circuit Court has issued a ruling refusing to dismiss several defendants from a major class action lawsuit against a south Florida puppy dealer known as "Wizard of Claws." The suit, filed in 2007, accuses Wizard of Claws, its owners, and its affiliates of defrauding customers by misrepresenting the origin of puppies, and by selling puppy mill dogs who suffer from severe health problems and genetic defects.
The court's order allows plaintiffs to proceed with their claims against three entities sharing common ownership with Wizard of Claws—Celebrity Kennels, Inc., Dog Breeder Kennel, Inc. and Puppies for Sale, Inc.—and also directs the defendants to turn over records regarding the puppies they have sold to the public. The court also ordered the owners of Wizard of Claws to sit for depositions concerning their business practices.
"After years of reaping huge profits from the sale of sick and dying animals, the owners of this operation are finally going to have to answer for their actions," said Jonathan R. Lovvorn, vice president & chief counsel for animal protection litigation and research for the Humane Society of the United States. "The sad facts of this case are one more reminder of why consumers should never buy puppies from pet stores or over the Internet."
The class action lawsuit is the result of years of legal investigation by the law firm Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP and lawyers of the HSUS. Through extensive investigation, Weil and the HSUS uncovered reports of serious, systematic violations of Florida's animal and consumer protection laws by Wizard of Claws, its owners and its corporate affiliates. The violations include allegations concerning the sale of sick puppies with life-threatening genetic defects and highly contagious parasitic infections, and the refusal to reimburse customers for either the purchase price of sick puppies or veterinary treatments that sometimes cost thousands of dollars.
The class action complaint includes numerous examples of Wizard of Claws selling sick or dying puppies including:
- A puppy with severe giardia, a contagious parasite. The dog died two days after being brought home.
- A puppy with a severe liver defect that resulted in constant seizures up to the point of death only a few weeks after purchase.
- A puppy with severe pneumonia and a collapsed lung. The dog only partially recovered after a four-day stay in a veterinarian's oxygen chamber followed by months of intensive follow up treatment.
The lawsuit seeks compensatory damages for the proposed class members, and injunctive relief against any further sale of puppies by Wizard of Claws, its owners and its corporate affiliates. The plaintiffs—which include members of the HSUS—are being represented on a pro bono basis by the New York, Miami and Houston offices of Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP.