The Humane Society of the United States has released the results of its three-month-long investigation into Purebred Breeders LLC, thought to be the nation's largest online seller of puppies. The investigation was featured on NBC's Today this morning and highlighted the connection between Purebred Breeders and inhumane commercial breeding facilities known as puppy mills, where dogs are often stacked in cramped wire cages, with no exercise, veterinary care, socialization, or human companionship.

HSUS attorneys, in partnership with Florida firm Leopold Law, have also filed suit in Florida state court on behalf of HSUS members and other consumers who received sick or dying dogs from Purebred Breeders.

The HSUS investigation found that Purebred Breeders owns nearly 800 Web domains designed to mislead consumers into believing that they are dealing with local breeders when they shop online for a puppy. Whistleblowers working for the company told HSUS investigators that the company sells approximately 20,000 puppies every year, using hard-sell, deceptive tactics encouraged by company executives.

Puppies purchased through Purebred Breeders are never seen by sales personnel even though they routinely guarantee the health of these animals, who are often flown long distances directly from the breeding facility to the consumer

Appalling undercover footage

"Purebred Breeders reaps massive profits by purchasing puppies from puppy mills around the country and selling them at a huge mark-up to dog lovers who would never knowingly buy a puppy mill dog," 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 as a result unsuspecting families suffer great expense caring for sick dogs, or the terrible anguish of losing a beloved family pet."

Undercover HSUS investigators obtained photographs and video footage of several large-scale commercial puppy mills that supply dogs to Purebred Breeders for re-sale. This footage reveals dogs in stacked wire cages, empty water bowls, excessive build-up of feces under cages, and other unsanitary conditions typical of puppy mills.

The lawsuit, filed by consumer justice law firm Leopold Law of Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., in partnership with lawyers in HSUS's Animal Protection Litigation Section, alleges that Purebred Breeders violates state consumer protection laws by misleading consumers into believing that the puppies it sells are healthy and come from high-quality breeders.

"Our goal in this lawsuit is to expose the deceptive practices of Purebred Breeders and achieve justice for the consumers and animals that the company mistreats," said Ted Leopold, the lead attorney in the case.

Congress is considering the Puppy Uniform Protection and Safety (PUPS) Act, S. 707 and H.R. 835, introduced by Sens. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., and David Vitter, R-La., in the Senate, and Reps. Jim Gerlach, R-Pa., Sam Farr, D-Calif.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture is also considering taking action to regulate large-scale commercial dog breeders that sell directly to consumers online.

Don't be a victim

The HSUS recommends that when a person or family is ready they should go to shelters or rescue groups first when looking for a four-footed family member. If adoption of a homeless animal is not possible, pets should never be purchased online. For such an important decision as adding a member of the family, the living conditions of the breeding dogs should be personally inspected. And only breeders whose dogs are part of a family situation should be patronized.

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