AG Fisher accuses Lancaster Co. dog seller of selling sick puppies; Lawsuit seeks restitution, enhanced fines and ban on doing business in PA
Issued: Friday, December 5, 2003
HARRISBURG - Attorney General Mike Fisher's Bureau of Consumer Protection today filed a lawsuit against a Lancaster County dog seller accused of selling numerous puppies that were sick, diseased, genetically flawed, misrepresented and/or falsely characterized as eligible for American Kennel Club (AKC) registration. The lawsuit alleges violations of Pennsylvania's Consumer Protection Law, Dog Purchaser and Protection Act or "Puppy Lemon Law" and a prior 2000 consent agreement with Fisher's Office. The suit followed an investigation into numerous complaints from consumers in Pennsylvania, Maryland, New Jersey and Delaware.
Fisher identified the defendants as Joyce and Raymond Stoltzfus, doing business as Puppy Love Kennel, 267 Riverview Road, Peach Bottom, Lancaster County.
"We allege that the defendants should have known that the puppies they were handling were not fit for purchase and should not have been sold to consumers," Fisher said. "Their failure to comply with our previous legal action plus the seriousness of these new allegations justify our request to the court to forever revoke their right to sell or participate in the sale of dogs in Pennsylvania."
According to investigators, the defendants between 2000 and 2003 sold dozens of puppies to consumers that were sick, had contagious or infectious diseases, congenital or genetic defects or were falsely characterized as healthy purebreds that would be recognized by the AKC for registration.
In the majority of complaints filed with Fisher's Office, consumers claimed that the defendants misrepresented the health status of the puppies sold despite receiving their Guarantee of Good Health certificates as required under law. Some of the alleged health problems included heart defects, heart murmurs, hip dysplasia, parvo virus, distemper, kidney failure, pneumonia, cancer, lameness, kennel cough, coccidia, giardia parasites, worms, mange, upper respiratory infections, malnutrition, vomiting, scabies, mites and fleas.
In some cases, consumers said that their puppies required moderate to extensive veterinary care soon after the date of purchase. In the worst cases, some new pet owners said that their puppies either died or had to be euthanized. The lawsuit also accuses the defendants of making false and/or misleading representations about the puppy's age, purebred status and/or worthiness to be registered with the AKC. In reality, the AKC in July 1990 notified defendant Joyce Stoltzfus that her privileges had been suspended and that it will no longer accept her puppy litter registrations. Consumers learned, after purchase, that the puppies were not eligible for AKC registration papers. AKC registration implies that a puppy has the characteristics and standards of a particular breed that are considered the most desirable for those seeking a purebred.
Consumers also claimed that the defendants either ignored their requests for payment of veterinary bills or other medical treatment up to the price of the puppy as required under the "Puppy Lemon Law." In cases when the defendants did respond, consumers said they became obstructive, confrontational and/or hostile.
Fisher said his Bureau of Consumer Protection in 1997 filed a lawsuit against the defendants involving similar allegations. The lawsuit was filed prior to the passage of Pennsylvania's Dog Purchaser and Protection Act or "Puppy Lemon Law." The suit was resolved in a 2000 consent agreement requiring the defendants to pay more than $35,000 in restitution and fines and cease all future violations of the Consumer Protection Law. The second lawsuit includes alleged Consumer Protection Law violations which violate the prior consent agreement.
"For that reason, I'm asking the court to impose an enhanced penalty of $5,000 for each violation of the consent agreement in addition to the fines associated with denying consumers their rights under the Puppy Lemon Law," Fisher said.
The lawsuit asks the court to:
- Require the defendants to pay appropriate restitution to consumers.
- Permanently bar the defendants from owning or operating any business involving the sale of puppies or dogs in Pennsylvania.
- Require the defendants to pay enhanced civil penalties of $5,000 for each violation of the Consumer Protection Law.
- Require the defendants to pay civil penalties of $1,000 for each violation of the "Puppy Lemon Law" and $3,000 for each violation involving a consumer age 60 or older.
- Appoint a receiver to determine and collect the defendants' assets to satisfy the court's order.The lawsuit was filed today in Commonwealth Court. The case is being handled by Senior Deputy Attorney General Seth A. Mendelsohn and Deputy Attorney General Jodi L. Zucco of Fisher's Bureau of Consumer Protection Office in Harrisburg.