Petland faces puppy mill suit

| Wednesday, March 18, 2009

A federal lawsuit seeking class-action status accuses Petland Inc. of selling dogs whelped in puppy mills.

The lawsuit, filed Monday in Arizona, accuses the Ohio company and its suppliers of violating racketeering laws by concealing the source of its animals. The 37-page lawsuit details the stories of sickly puppies bought in Arizona, Illinois, Georgia and Michigan.

Petland has four Western Pennsylvania stores — in East Liberty, Fraser, Robinson and Monroeville — none of which is named in the lawsuit. But the pet store chain is accused of supplying each of its 140 U.S. stores with animals bred at puppy mills.

The suit is partly based on a nationwide investigation conducted last year by The Humane Society of the United States, which is assisting the Philadelphia law firm of Saltz Mongeluzzi Barrett & Bendesky.

"Petland requires its retail locations use specifically approved puppy mills or puppy mill brokers to purchase puppies for resale to the public," the lawsuit states.

In a statement, Petland said it is "outraged and disappointed" by false accusations made by the Humane Society, which it described as "a radical animals rights group that has no affiliation with local humane societies."

Joe Watson, a Petland vice president, said each puppy sold through its stores is examined by licensed veterinarians before arriving at the store and again is examined by a veterinarian at the store to certify its health. The company also advises customers to have their pets examined by a veterinarian within a week of purchase.

"The health and welfare of the pets in our care is our upper-most concern," Watson said in the statement.

Plaintiffs seek damages including three times the dogs' cost plus veterinary fees. Losses are estimated at more than $5 million.

Other defendants include the Hunte Corp. of Goodman, Mo., which is accused of being the "world's leading distributor of puppies to pet stores" and of selling animals from puppy mills to Petland.

"This is another baseless, media-driven fundraiser for the 'Humane Society,'" said Hunte President Steve Rook.

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