Attorneys General Enforce Lemon Laws, Penalize Puppy Mills

The American Veterinary Medical Association estimates that more than 65% of American households own a pet. Puppies are a particularly popular choice. But sometimes, once a puppy returns to its new family, it may appear lethargic or in pain and stumble while walking.

Some pet stores and distributors sell puppies without disclosing their illnesses or birth defects, producing a nightmare of a seriously ill pet and thousands of dollars in medical bills for pet owners.

State attorneys general are cracking down on the practice, and more state legislatures are enacting puppy and lemon laws.

Application of the AG

In January 2023, New York Attorney General Letitia James reached a $200,000 settlement with Pet Zone for failing to provide consumers with complete medical records for pets and for allegedly misleading families into encouraging people to buy sick puppies.

In October 2021, former Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh reached a $500,000 settlement with Just Puppies and the company’s owner for the sale of puppies from puppy mills after Maryland enacted the Puppy Mill Act of 2020.

As advocates for consumer protection in their states, state attorneys general also act as the primary protectors of puppies. An uptick in pet sales during the pandemic has led to increased state AG enforcement.

As the demand for pets has increased, it has also provided good opportunities for bad actors to take advantage of consumers. Attorneys general offices across the country, however, appear to be mobilizing to hold these bad actors accountable.

In Virginia, the AG’s office includes an animal law unit. In Pennsylvania, the AG applies the Puppy Lemon Law with a civil penalty of up to $1,000 for each violation.

Recent state legislation will also continue to empower state AGs. California, Illinois, New York and parts of Nevada have laws prohibiting pet stores from selling pets. Philadelphia and Houston have also passed similar measures banning the retail sale of dogs, with Washington DC awaiting congressional approval for its recent legislation.

As more states pass laws banning puppy mill sales, state AGs will continue to patrol for subsequent violations.

Puppy mills

States are increasingly banning retail stores and online brokers from selling pets because these puppies often come from puppy mills. These breeding facilities are notorious for poor treatment of dogs and unsanitary living conditions, such as cages without food or water and extreme temperatures.

“Puppy mills are the horrors behind the adorable little puppies you see for sale online and in pet stores,” Amanda Rivera told us. She is the president and founder of Peace Love and Poms Rescue, a rescue organization for small breed dogs in need.

Customers looking to buy puppies online or in pet stores “don’t see the parents living in cramped cages, covered in painful rugs and their own feces, suffering from infections, rotten teeth and diseases, but we we see it when we save the parents. »

Maryland’s attorney general has actively enforced its anti-puppy mill law, reaching numerous settlements and alleging violation of the state’s Unfair, Deceptive, and Abusive Practices Act, with companies making “representations that may mislead consumers or fail to disclose material facts. the omission of which deceives or tends to deceive consumers.

Former Attorney General Brian Frosh regulation with Just Puppies for $500,000 and one with Maryland puppies online of $75,000 allowed consumers who purchased sick dogs from retailers to receive compensation to help pay for their pet’s care. Frosh’s successor, Anthony Brown, achieved a regulation last month with Charm City Puppies, imposing a $75,000 civil penalty.

Lemon Laws for Puppies

Most states have puppy protection laws in place, but some states have also enacted puppy lemon laws, which require sellers to guarantee the good health of an animal before sale.

Puppy lemon laws prevent pet dealers from selling to a consumer an animal suffering from a disease, life-threatening illness, or birth defects that could harm the animal’s health, and from providing a clear notice to the consumer at the time of sale.

The New York AG’s action against Pet Zone alleged that the company “provided consumers with misleading medical records that did not include a complete list of medications provided to the pet to hide previous illnesses,” and once the pets were sold , they got sick.

In December 2021, James also succeeded banned two 5 Corners Pet stores in New York for allegedly selling hundreds of sick or injured puppies to unknowing consumers.

These actions are not limited to blue states like New York or Maryland. This is a bipartisan issue that concerns lawyers across the political spectrum. In Florida, Attorney General Ashley Moody reached $200,000. regulation with Hoof’s Pets for misleading consumers by selling sick or dying puppies in violation of Florida law Puppy Lemon Law.

Puppy Scams

Sometimes scammers falsely advertise puppies that don’t exist. Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel warned consumers of such scams, and since 2020 his office has received 129 complaints about alleged puppy-related scams, including 24 in 2022.

Similarly, in Arkansas, former Attorney General Leslie Rutledge announced a trial against two men who pocketed $160,000 for creating deceptive websites and advertising American Kennel Club-registered puppies at discounted prices, when the puppies weren’t real.

State attorneys general continue to crack down on companies and bad actors who have profited from the Covid-19 pandemic, and the pet industry is no exception. We expect to see a flourishing of bipartisan activity in this space.

This article does not necessarily reflect the views of Bloomberg Industry Group, Inc., the publisher of Bloomberg Law and Bloomberg Tax, or its owners.

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Chris Carlson is a partner in Troutman Pepper’s Regulatory Investigations, Strategy and Enforcement practice group.

Namrata Kang is a partner in Troutman Pepper’s Regulatory Investigations, Strategy and Enforcement practice group.

Agustín Rodriguez is a partner in Troutman Pepper’s Regulatory Investigations, Strategy and Enforcement Practice Group.


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