Pet Store Faces Class Action Suit

Attorney Stephanie Capps is taking on the puppy mills. She is litigating a class action suit on behalf of numerous plaintiffs against Ronald Berning, owner of the Happiness is Pets chain of pet stores in suburban Chicago, for selling sick puppies, including Rottweiler puppies, allegedly supplied by puppy mills.

The suit alleges Happiness is Pets sold at least eight puppies infected with distemper between November 2011 and January 2012. The customers participating in the class action are accusing the store of fraud, negligent misrepresentation, and breach of implied warranty. They also want the chain to cease deceptive practices and to be reimbursed for both the purchase price and all medical costs incurred.

Bryan Phillips is one of the plaintiffs. Before buying his dog Dakota from Happiness is Pets, he looked on the store’s web site that stated the company sold supplied by reputable private breeders. But within weeks of bringing Dakota home she was diagnosed with distemper.

Phillips notes, “It’s preventable with vaccines, which according to her pet record she was vaccinated twice for it. Otherwise, for a puppy it’s pretty much a death sentence.”

The pet store did not offer to make any restitution, and after he found others via the Internet who had gone through the same experience, Philips joined the class action lawsuit.

Attorney Capps notes, “The pet stores definitely take advantage of knowing a consumer will come into a store, a lot of times with their little kids, fall in love with a puppy in the window, take their word for it that they’re from a private, reputable breeder, totally healthy. We started doing research and found ‘breeders’ used at these stores were puppy mills.”

Many puppies from these mills are sold with a variety health conditions or diseases. The lawsuit seeks to compensate owners for the money spent to treat the dogs.

Veterinarian Alexis Newman adds: “If somebody is looking for a puppy, they really want to investigate where that puppy is coming from, whether it’s a breeder or a shop. When you go see a puppy, they should be playing. They should be happy, running around and interacting. If they’re not, chances are they don’t feel well.”

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