(ANIMAL NEWS) Purebred Breeders LLC, one of the leading online dog sellers, is tackling a lawsuit from its outraged buyers. Customers claim the company knowingly misled them into buying sick or injured dogs, and argue the business fails to adhere to consumer protection laws. The USDA has since stepped in and presented a new regulation requiring all online breeders and puppy mills to be licensed and inspected. Read on for more on the lawsuit and the proposed federal rule. — Global Animal
Fifty former customers of online puppy seller Purebred Breeders LLC have joined a lawsuit (CASE NO: ll-38180CA02, filed in The Eleventh Judicial Circuit, Miami-Dade County, Florida) 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 also alleges 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. 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 investigation into Purebred Breeders. The investigation was featured on NBC’s Today Show on December 7, 2011.
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.
The Human Society of the United States says “any consumer who purchased a sick puppy from an online seller is encouraged to fill out this complaint form.”