Philly firm leads Petland suit

A Philadelphia law firm has filed a class action lawsuit on behalf of consumers it says were defrauded by nation's largest pet store chain and its suppliers.

The firm, Saltz Mongeluzzi Barrett & Bendesky, along with the Humane Society of the United States is suing Ohio-based Petland Inc, alleging the company and its suppliers, including the Hunte Corporation of Missouri, violated federal and state laws - including Pennsylvania consumer protection act - by selling unhealthy puppy mill puppies to unsuspecting consumers.

In the 34-page suit filed in Phoenix today, the plaintiffs contend Petland "orchestrated and executed a scheme to defraud consumers by manufacturing a fictitious market for puppy mill puppies."

"Unscrupulous dog dealers like Petland and Hunte reap massive profits by pushing unhealthy puppies on well-intentioned dog-lovers who would never knowingly buy a puppy mill dog,” said Jonathan Lovvorn, vice president & chief counsel for Animal Protection Litigation at The HSUS. “Families often bear the great expense of veterinary treatment for sick and unhealthy dogs, or the terrible anguish of losing a beloved family pet. This industry has been systematically lying to consumers for years about the source of the dogs they sell, and it’s long past time for a reckoning.”

Petland has 140 locations across the country, including four in the Pittsburgh area and one in Levittown. The company has denied it supports these substandard breeding facilities and called the HSUS investigation "baseless."

The class action lawsuit is the result of many months of investigative and legal research, and comes after an eight-month investigation into Petland stores by HSUS that demonstrated a direct link between multiple Petland stores and unscrupulous puppy mills. HSUS alleges that Petland engaged in deceptive sales practices, including the marketing and sale of puppies with potentially fatal genetic defects and highly contagious parasitic and viral infections.

The complaint includes numerous examples of sick or dying puppies that Petland sold including:

Mainerd, a Boston terrier, was diagnosed with a congenital spinal condition. Some of her vertebrae have not formed completely while others have fused together causing tissue to grow underneath along with possible nerve damage. Mainerd is now receiving steroid treatments for her ailments and may require expensive surgery.
Minchy, a miniature pinscher, was sold by Petland at 10 weeks old. He was immediately diagnosed with coccidian, an intestinal parasite that causes diarrhea and weight loss. Minchy was also diagnosed with an inherited disorder, Progressive Retinal Atrophy, which will ultimately lead to permanent blindness.
Tucker was sold at four months old. The bloodhound puppy experienced severe separation anxiety and various health problems before developing orbital cancer at only 7 months of age.
Patrick, a Pomeranian puppy, was sold at three months old. He suffered from diarrhea and vomiting shortly after arriving at his new home. At 11 months old, Patrick was diagnosed with a genetic disorder, dual luxating patellas, which will require expensive surgery on both of his knees to correct.