Consumers who say they bought dogs advertised online, only to find out that the animals they grew to love were already suffering from various illnesses when they purchased them, today filed a lawsuit against the online puppy marketplace PuppyFind.com. The lawsuit, filed by the Arizona law firm Burch & Cracchiolo with assistance from the HSUS legal team, alleges that PuppyFind.com is promoting the sale of sick puppy mill puppies.
Over the year, The HSUS has gotten an earful from scores of angry and frustrated consumers who unwittingly purchased sick puppies from breeders advertising on PuppyFind. One of the plaintiffs received a puppy who had such a severe respiratory infection that within days of receiving him his lungs began to flood with blood and his new guardian was left with little choice but to euthanize the suffering animal. Another plaintiff received a dog who appeared much older than was advertised and whose face was scarred, and who was later found to be deaf and blind. Several of the dogs purchased from PuppyFind were afflicted with mange.
PuppyFind.com, which is based in Arizona, claims to have over 50,000 puppies for sale on its website at any given time. Thousands of individual breeders advertise on the website. According to the lawsuit, many consumers complain about receiving sick dogs from the breeders selling on the website, and submit negative reviews for other consumers to see. But PuppyFind has removed those reviews from the website, leading consumers to believe that the sellers are responsible breeders selling healthy dogs. Sadly, many of the breeders advertising on PuppyFind.com are puppy mills, raising dogs in inhumane conditions, where dogs are confined in stacked wire cages, given inadequate exercise, and have little to no human interaction.
Several breeders featured in the HSUS 2016 Horrible Hundred report, which highlights terrible puppy mills across the country, have routinely advertised on PuppyFind.com. These include Marilyn Williams (aka Marilyn Shepard), located in Ava, Missouri, who had been cited by state inspectors for maintaining over the past four years numerous sick and injured dogs. Dogs found in need of medical care at Ms. Williams’ facility just this year and last year have included an underweight dachshund with “prominent vertebrae, ribs, and loss of muscle mass” who was nursing five puppies, a fox terrier with a skin lesion that extended across its abdomen, a miniature schnauzer with hair loss around the eye, a bearded collie who was limping and had a “wide strip of hair loss on his back” but was not taken to a veterinarian even though the licensee was instructed to have him treated, and numerous other sick dogs.
Beverly Hargis of Hargis’ Sunshine Kennel in Hallsville, Missouri, has been cited by authorities for numerous animal welfare violations and has advertised her puppies on PuppyFind.com. During a January 2016 inspection, USDA inspectors found two dogs with such advanced dental disease at Hargis’ kennel that one of them had teeth missing and his gums were receded, red, and inflamed, and the other had his tongue hanging outside of his mouth, which is common in dogs who are missing numerous teeth. In addition, the inspector found most of the outside enclosures so filled with feces that it “made it difficult for the animals to avoid walking in it.” Two additional breeders in the report, one who had her licensed revoked by the USDA (Caryl Freeman/ Freeman Frenchies), and one who had her licensed revoked in Ohio (Susan Fitzgerald), were also found selling on PuppyFind.
Plaintiffs in the case filed today purchased their puppies from Tennessee puppy sellers George and Tabitha Doyle, after seeing the high star rating given to this seller and reading the exclusively positive reviews posted about them on PuppyFind.com. Unfortunately, each of the seven plaintiffs received sick puppies from the Doyles. Many of them subsequently attempted to post negative reviews of their experiences on PuppyFind, but their reviews were either removed or failed to post.
The Internet may be an efficient way to purchase any number of household products, but it’s the wrong way to purchase a puppy, especially given that so many dog breeders operate in a deregulated environment and strain to keep consumers from seeing the reality of what mill dogs endure. Pet buyers should always take the time to do their homework, and refuse to ever purchase a puppy without visiting the place where the puppy was born and raised. Visit here for more information on how to find a responsible breeder or how to adopt.