Lawsuit over puppy that would cost $26,000 after interest exposes Petland’s deceptive sales and lending practices
A recent court case in Florida shines the spotlight on the questionable tactics Petland uses to dupe customers and make large profits off the sales of sick puppies—most of whom come from puppy mills.
The case involved a Petland store in Plantation, Florida, which sold a customer a golden retriever, Sunny, for $3,500. Sunny’s owner entered into a financing contract with Lending USA, a company Petland partners with, which apparently charges outrageous interest rates. According to papers filed with the court, Sunny’s owner would have ended up paying $26,655 for the dog over the period of her contract.
At the time she bought Sunny in 2018, the customer allegedly was assured that he was healthy and AKC-registered. But, as his new mom soon found out, he had a staph infection and multiple parasites. Soon after he began to limp and was diagnosed at nine months with dysplasia in both hips—a condition that would require surgeries and treatments adding up to $21,000.
Sunny’s owner sued the store for misleading her, selling her a sick puppy, and failing to abide by state laws that would have required the store to pay for the puppy’s treatment, and in October the court ordered Petland Plantation to pay $60,734 in damages to Sunny’s owner.
The legal complaint detailed the false claims the store allegedly made about the quality of the dog’s breeder. Petland claimed Sunny’s breeder was from the “top 5% breeders in the nation”; in reality, the puppy was provided to the store by Blue Ribbon Puppies, a broker listed in our 2019 Horrible Hundred report on problem mills in the United States who was linked to a campylobacter outbreak that sickened at least 118 people.
As shocking as these details are, they are not surprising to us. Since 2018 we have conducted undercover investigations at eight Petland stores and documented how Petland routinely hides puppies’ illnesses from consumers. Our puppy mills campaign has heard so far from almost 1,400 customers who purchased sick puppies from Petland.
Petland has a variety of lending practices that seem to target low-income consumers with payment plans that involve very high interest rates. The Petland credit card, for instance, has a 29.99% interest rate. People who purchased sick puppies from Petland stores have had to give up their right to speak about their claim, post about it on the internet, or report it to the Better Business Bureau before they could get reimbursement for veterinary bills. In some cases Petland wouldn’t compensate consumers even after their puppies died just a few weeks after bringing them home.
Such practices have led to multiple lawsuits against Petland in recent years. The Florida attorney general, representing 19 consumers, including six whose puppies died, is suing a Petland store and its owners for “a scheme to misrepresent” puppies with a variety of illnesses and congenital health problems using “deceptive” sales tactics and often high-interest financing. Earlier this year, our lawyers, in cooperation with the South Carolina firm Kidd Corvey & Simpson, LLC, filed a lawsuit against Petland and one of its franchises in Summerville, South Carolina, on behalf of several consumers who were allegedly deceived into purchasing sick puppies.
Consumers have filed similar lawsuits in other states where Petland does business.
The reason we’ve been shining the spotlight on Petland is that it is the only national pet store chain that still sells puppies, adamantly refusing to join the growing number of pet stores that are now making the switch from selling puppies to working with local shelters and rescues to adopt out pets. Petland not only continues to source and sell puppies from questionable dealers like Blue Ribbon Puppies, it also has put its considerable might behind battling our efforts in states and localities to end the puppy mills problem. Fortunately, the number of states and localities where Petland can sell puppies is shrinking, as a growing number of lawmakers crack down on puppy sales in pet stores—more than 370 localities and three states so far prohibit such sales, and the number is growing every day.
We are excited for the role we have played in bringing about this change through our work with states and localities, and through our annual Horrible Hundred reports. States are increasingly referring to our report to take action against problem mills. Recently, a Missouri court ordered jail time for Marlisa McAlmond, the owner of Cedar Ridge Australians, a mill that had appeared four times in our Horrible Hundred reports. According to court records McAlmond euthanized 21 dogs instead of surrendering them to the state’s Department of Agriculture to be re-homed, as she was ordered to do.
As happy as we are about this progress, puppy mills are a widespread problem and we have a long way to go before we win this fight. As consumers, you can do your part in ending this scourge. Pet stores that sell puppies are keeping puppy mills alive by acting as fronts for these operations that deny the animals in their care the most basic needs, including food, water and veterinary care. Please refuse to buy pets or pet supplies at stores that sell puppies and instead find pet stores near you that have taken our pledge to support animal shelters instead of puppy mills on our Puppy Friendly Pet Store list. Or text “puppy” to 77879 (message and data rates apply). It is easy to fall in love with a cute puppy and his soft eyes staring at you from a glass cage at a pet store. But as the Florida Petland case and the experience of so many other Petland customers clearly illustrates, bringing a pet store puppy home can often be more traumatic than satisfying.