Happiness is Pets, a Chicago-based pet store, is coming under fire after allegations of selling sick dogs purchased from puppy mills or breeding companies known to place profit before animal welfare.
According to the complaint filed a couple weeks ago, the pet owners ”purchased puppies sold by Happiness which falsely represented that its puppies were healthy and came from private and reputable breeders. In fact, the puppies at Happiness are often sick and come from some of the most despicable and horrendous puppy mills in the Midwest.”
Ronald Berning, the pet store owner, denies the allegations. His attorney, David Fish, states: ”The lawsuit has absolutely no merit and we’re confident that’s going to be dismissed.”
At the heart of the complaint are six dogs who developed health problems after being purchased at Happiness is Pets. Diva, a miniature long haired dachshund, was purchased in July 2009 by Stephanie Castillo and her husband. It wasn’t until months after the purchase, during routine blood work and pre-spaying, that they discovered her liver problem.
“We were told if she had not had those blood tests and we went ahead with the surgery to have her spayed, she would have been unable to filter out the anesthesia and she never would have woken up,” Castillo told ABC News. After a surgical biopsy, it was determined Diva had microvascular dysplasia.
“Diva has to go every six months to have blood work tested to make sure the condition is not worsening. Due to this genetic disease that she has, she’s unable to take any type of medications,” Castillo said, including medication for the severe allergies the pup suffers from.
Attorney Fish was quick to point out the (six-store) chain’s “health warranty” (click here to see the “Limited Puppy Warranty“). The warranty includes a 14-day health warranty, including free veterinary visits and a limited one year warranty against life threatening congenital defects, among other things. But, in order to be covered, all care must be done at one of their “approved clinics.” This can be difficult for people who prefer to seek the comfort of their familiar veterinarian.
The wording in the warranty is quite disturbing: if you find, within one year of the purchase date, that your puppy has a “life threatening congenital defect” you will “receive a replacement puppy of equal or one half (1/2) of the purchase price.” It’s s as if they’re selling cars or meaningless objects…not loved and deserving pets.
The class-action suit, which does not name a puppy mill or puppy farm, alleges that the Illinois pet company is in violation of “consumer fraud and deceptive business practices act, fraud, negligent misrepresentation, injunctive relief and breach of the implied warranty of merchantability …,” because of its “false and misleading representations of material fact to induce consumers into purchasing sick puppy mill puppies.”
The dog owners’ lawyer, the Clinton Law Firm, said, “We are very confident in the merits of the lawsuit and the detailed investigation that preceded its filing. Since the case was filed, we have been contacted by numerous people with concerns about puppies purchased from Happiness Is Pets. We anticipate adding additional plaintiffs to the lawsuit.” The suit seeks a full refund for the purchase price of the puppies, punitive damages, full reimbursement of all veterinary and other expenses incurred and more.
According to an article on ABC.com: the conditions of the dogs purchased from Happiness were brought to the attention of many of the dog owners by advocate Companion Animal Protection Society, which began investigating after being alerted about an alleged distemper outbreak.
The six pet owners filed the class action lawsuit in the Circuit Court of Cook County. A court date has yet to be released.
We always advocate pet adoption, but if you decide to purchase a pet, this is all the more reason to conduct in-depth research of the store and its practices beforehand.
- Angela Christian