The HSUS assists with lawsuit against online puppy marketplace

By on October 14, 2016 with 18 Comments By Wayne Pacelle

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.

Categories
Companion Animals, Public Policy (Legal/Legislative)

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18 Comments

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  1. Fran Leard says:

    It’s about time these filthy horrible puppy mills will be shut down. This is so cruel and how did they get away with this for all the years of inhumane treatment?

    The Amish are notorious for treating animals like a piece of trash and I refuse to buy anything they sell.

  2. T.M. Graves says:

    This is the best thing I`ve heard all day. The poor dogs will never have to live in a horror factory !! God bless you !!!

  3. Diane Siveny says:

    After Puppyfind….then we should go after Craig’s List.

    • Eleanor Piccola says:

      I agree Craigslist is just as bad. Don’t ever put in search of….my fear is that breed will be stolen for searchers.

  4. Laura Umphenour says:

    I commend HSUS for continual investigations into these horrible places. There are many of us who flag on CL these breeders and the sheer number of listing are overwhelming. It is my hopes that with continued public support and outrage many of these in-line loopholes can be closed.

  5. Beth Maurer says:

    Lisa Snuffer. She runs a puppy mill in Swansea, SC. let me know if you would like some information.
    There’s another one I know of in WV.. Elkview. Have her info at work.
    I would love nothing more than help to shut them down.
    bmaurer6614@gmail.com
    Thank you,
    Beth Maurer

  6. David Bernazani says:

    I can hardly believe that people can still be so clueless they continue to buy puppies online. I would almost say they got what they deserved and be done with it, if it wasn’t for the dogs themselves. The certainly don’t deserve to live in miserable conditions and have their underage, sickly and often inbred puppies torn from them and shipped around the country.
    I’m glad the HSUS and some of th customers are doing something about it, but I’m also wondering what the state and national governments are doing while this incredible mess of an industry is thriving? Isn’t it their job to regulate commerce, protect citizens and safeguard animals? It seems they’re not doing much of that at all.

  7. Jane king says:

    Close them ALL down!!!!!

  8. Jane king says:

    Close them ALL down

  9. Evelyn Lennon says:

    Thank you so much for all you do to rescue them from horrible conditions. Your agency is “second to none”, these dogs are grateful, they know your there to help them. If you notice, I haven’t seen one rescued dog bite anyone, they know your there to end their miserable life, in these hell’s that they had to encounter. You their voice.

    Thank you
    Evelyn Lennon

  10. Kim Schmidt says:

    All these puppy mills need to be shut down and regulated by the states along with monthly checks on all animals that have ment the highest required standards for animal care .

  11. shirley says:

    I bought a puppy that died 30 days after picking her up. She supposedly had only a cold when I picked her up from a Florida Broker which advertised as a breeder on puppyfind. My gut told me not to take the puppy, but I was in love with her and wanted to take care of her. Now that my heart is somewhat healed, I will be posting against this broker. floridapups.com and floridastate pups.

    • Joe Whistler says:

      In the state of Florida, all dogs and cats for sale must be accompanied by an official certificate of veterinary inspection by a veterinarian licensed by the state of Florida and accredited by the USDA. F.S.S 828.29. If one was not provided, you have recourse in the form of a criminal charge (1st degree misdemeanor).

  12. toni Cooley says:

    Good! Keep up the pressure. Thank you.

  13. selma castanheira dos santos says:

    justiça em defesa a causa animal

  14. Terry C says:

    There are also a lot of really good hobby breeders on puppyfind. Buyers should first go to see the litter in person. I have done so, and have seen both sides. From some truly amazing people who give their puppies and adult dogs the best possible care, to those who are milling for money and have no love for the animals. It’s important to take a balanced view and use your intellect as well as your heart when choosing a puppy. I don’t believe puppies should never be exploited for financial, egotistical, quasi-religious, donations or political gain.

  15. Terry C says:

    Typo: I meant to type: I don’t believe puppies should ever be exploited.

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