29 September 2011

Animal Legal Defense Fund files suit against Southern California pet store chain


Southern California Chain in Legal Doghouse for Allegations of False Advertising, Fraud for Misleading Customers about Their Ties to Abusive Puppy Mills

LOS ANGELES – This morning, the national non-profit Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) filed suit in California Superior Court in Los Angeles County against Barkworks, a Southern California pet store chain, claiming the stores repeatedly engage in fraud and false advertising in an effort to conceal from customers that they source their puppies from abusive “puppy mills”—large-scale commercial dog breeding facilities. Numerous individual plaintiffs from throughout Southern California report purchasing extremely sick puppies from one of Barkworks’ six retail locations, despite being given warrantees that the animals were “fit for sale” and “not ill.”

What’s more, the lawsuit claims the stores have a demonstrated pattern of misleading customers about where their puppies come from. According to the suit, on multiple occasions, the name of the breeder and the USDA breeder number disclosed in sales contracts were inaccurate or incorrect—making it impossible for customers to confirm Barkworks’ claims that their puppies come from “reputable breeders.” Further, some plaintiffs claim they were assured explicitly by Barkworks employees that puppies did not come from puppy mills. In fact, today’s class action suit alleges that purchasing puppies from unsanitary and mass-producing facilities is standard business practice at Barkworks.

Consumers have good reason to be concerned about puppy mills, which often house hundreds of puppies and dogs in extremely close conditions lacking adequate food, water, socialization with other puppies, and veterinary care. Dogs from puppy mills are more likely to suffer from infectious diseases and are more prone to develop serious veterinary conditions including hip dysplasia, heart and kidney disease, and respiratory disorders. For almost three years, Best Friends Animal Society staff and volunteers have been holding peaceful demonstrations every weekend at most of the Barkworks locations in order to inform shoppers that puppies in the stores are coming from puppy mills, primarily high volume facilities in the Midwest, many of which have multiple USDA violations.

“Barkworks has misrepresented the breeding history and health of its puppies in order to convince customers to purchase them, resulting in large profits for their business—and heartbreak for countless dogs and their adoptive families,” says ALDF Director of Litigation Carter Dillard. “It is time for the court to intervene to stop Barkworks’ blatant and illegal deceptive practices, and to provide restitution to the consumers whom they have victimized.”

ALDF is being represented in this matter by lawyers at Steptoe & Johnson LLP.

ALDF was founded in 1979 with the unique mission of protecting the lives and advancing the interests of animals through the legal system. For more information, please visit www.aldf.org.