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.
Stoltzfus, JoyceJoyce Stoltzfus
Puppy Love Kennel
267 Riverview Rd.
Peach Bottom, PA 17563
CAPS Investigation: 2/4/05
USDA license would be required if S. 1139 passes
Approximately 300 dogs and puppies. Breeds: Pekingese, Puggles, Pit Bull Terriers, Golden Retrievers, Beagles, Cock-a-poos, Boxers, various mixed breeds
Puppy Love Kennel had two separate facilities, one of indoor pens housing puppies only, and another of outdoor pens housing adult dogs and puppies.
Indoor puppy pens
These pens were inside a wooden barn about 25 feet wide and 40 feet long. The barn had a peaked roof, a doorway accessing it on one side, and five puppy pens on each of its longer sides. There was artificial lighting and concrete flooring in the barn.
Each pen measured about eight feet long and eight feet wide, with four-foot-tall wooden walls between pens and on the hallway-side of each pen. There were about a dozen puppies in each pen, each about eight to twelve weeks old and of varying breeds, including Pit Bull Terriers, Puggles, German Shepherds, Beagles, and various mixed breeds.
Each of the hallway walls had a sliding wooden doorway with a metal latch on the outside. Metal bars ran from the top of each wall to the ceiling. One side of the hallway had several bags of wood shavings piled up against it in three different places. The pens themselves had a layer of wooden shavings several inches thick thrown over their floors. More than 24 hours’ accumulation of feces was evident, as dried feces were visible in the shavings that had been thrown over old feces and urine not removed.
Each pen contained two plastic food dishes, a foot in diameter and four inches deep. They were filled to their tops with about three days’ worth of food for each pen and covered with a tan powder. Plastic water dishes in each pen were filled with murky brown water.
One black German Shepherd puppy, less than two pounds in weight, appeared emaciated. The stomach appeared sucked in and its ribs, spine, and hips clearly visible under its taught skin. One pen contained a white Pit Bull puppy, which appeared to weigh two pounds. The puppy appeared lethargic, convulsed slightly as though it was coughing, and had thick green mucous draining from its eyes and nostrils. The puppy’s eyes were nearly swollen shut, and it did not move at all while observed for several minutes, other than turning its head from side to side.
The other part of this kennel, within a hundred feet of the puppy barn, consisted of several rows of outdoor pens surrounded by a six-foot-high chain link fence about 60 feet long and 40 feet wide. The chain link sections surrounding the outdoor rows had green plastic strips set in them which blocked view into the compound from the outside.
Each row had ten adjacent pens, each measuring about seven feet long, three feet wide, and four feet high. Each cage was made of chain link wiring with the back two feet of each cage enclosed in wood with a doggy door framed in metal allowing access between these sections. Each cage contained five to eight dogs of various breeds and ages. Pekingese, Boxers, Golden Retrievers, Lhasa Apsos, Beagles, Basset Hounds, German Shepherds, Australian Cattle Dogs, Maltese, Jack Russell Terriers, American Eskimos, and various mixed breeds were present. All of the dogs with white fur had yellow stains in their fur, and many dogs had wet fur.
The first row of pens against a 40-foot section of the privacy fence had the sides with chain-link doors facing to the inside of the compound. The second row of pens faced the first, the third row backed to the second row, and the fourth row faced the third row. Two rows of cages that faced each other had another row of four cages in a perpendicular row between them.
All were raised above the ground by two-foot-high wooden stilts and had treated wire flooring. Wooden beams framed the bottoms of the pens. All of the wood was painted red, with paint peeling in many areas and revealing a white coating underneath. The metal bars at the bottom of the chain link walls were all rusting. One pen, containing two Boxers and a Lhasa Apso mix, had its front chain link wall separated from the metal bar at its base. Metal sheets were used as roofs over the pens. There were several lights placed on the roofs of the kennel rows, with wiring running along the roofs of the pens. The walls with the doggy doors were covered with while plastic sheeting that had brown stains.
Each cage had a black plastic water bucket attached to its front chain-link door. A water spigot was in inside the kennel, with a water hose strewn across the ground. About three inches of snow and ice were on the ground of this kennel at the time of investigation.
The pens themselves were over concrete flooring, and there were several days’ accumulation of feces under them. There was bright and dark blood as well as mucous in the feces under several cages. One row of cages facing into the compound had the flooring below it raised up about 45 degrees so that urine and runny feces would wash down away from it, though large piles of feces were resting on the grade itself.
Sick, wet, dirty dogs
Several of the dogs and puppies in the outside pens were sick. One was a black German Shepherd mix weighing about 35 pounds with hair loss around its eyes. Another was an Australian Cattle dog puppy, about two months old and weighing about 25 pounds, that had thick green mucous build-up around its right eye and draining from its nostrils.
Two Maltese mixes, each weighing about ten pounds, had dirt and feces covering their soaked and yellow-stained fur. Another pen, containing about five dogs that each weighed about ten pounds, housed a black Poodle mix with large fur mats covering the dog’s face and body.
A black Cock-a-poo puppy weighing about five pounds had thick green mucous discharge from its nostrils. There were four other puppies in the pen with the sick Cock-a-poo, including three mixed-breed puppies each weighing about five to eight pound and a Boxer puppy weighing about 15 pounds.
In one pen was a Boxer weighing about 50 pounds, whose right eye was nearly swollen shut and draining a clear discharge. A Lhasa Apso mix weighing about 15 pounds had long curved toenails and severely matted fur around its face so that its eyes could not be seen and its nose was barely distinguishable.
Several other pens contained dogs and puppies of significantly different weights, such as one pen which housed a 40-pound Corgi mix, a 45-pound short-haired mixed breed, and a Jack Russell mix weighing about 25 pounds.
In several pens, the number and/or size of the dogs precluded all of the dogs occupying the boxes at the backs of their cages at one time and lying in a normal manner or turning about freely. For example, pens housed five dogs that each weighed 25 to 35 pounds, and other pens housed six to eight dogs that were five to 15 pounds in weight.
Complaints against veterinarians in Nassau County, NYCAPS did an extensive investigation of Jeff Blustein, a USDA licensed broker whose company, Rare Breeds, was importing Hungarian puppies with fraudulent pedigrees. He sold these puppies to pet shops in New York and New Jersey. CAPS received a number of complaints from consumers who purchased European Kennel Club (EKCH) puppies. CAPS President Deborah Howard appeared on TV news in Hungary and worked closely with reputable Hungarian breeders who verified that the pedigrees produced by the bogus kennel club were fraudulent.
We presented our documentary evidence to the New York Attorney General's Office in 2005. CAPS had two lengthy meetings in the Manhattan and Nassau County Attorney General offices to discuss the case. The Attorney General reached a settlement in March. Rare Breeds agreed to discontinue importing dogs from Hungary with pedigree documents from EKCH or any other kennel clubs with which Bela Musto (the exporter and creator of the pedigrees) is affiliated. Rare Breeds also agreed to pay a civil penalty of $20,000. CAPS will continue to monitor Hungarian puppies in pet shops.
I was accompanied by Detroit Free Press reporter Steve Neavling. CAPS worked with Steve on a three-part series on the pet shop/puppy mill industry that ran July 12, 2006. Steve was working on a story about the Michigan Department of Agriculture’s pet shop inspection program and was planning to feature Pollywood Pets as an example of a pet shop with many complaints and violations for which the state took no action. The December 30 (Sunday) edition of the Detroit Free Press features this article as well as an article and video about CAPS' rescue of two dogs from Pollywood (read below for more info on the rescue).
Recently, CAPS received alarming complaints about the horrible conditions at Pollywood Pets, a cramped, dirty store that sells puppies, dogs, kittens, cats, parrots, finches and small animals. The owner of the Pollywood Pets is Shelly Myers. She says that even though the pet shop is only open on weekends, she takes care of the animals on a daily basis.
The first animal that caught my attention was a Jack Russell Terrier mix, who was turning circles in a cage in which he could barely turn around. Shelly referred to this dog, as a “standard” Jack Russell Terrier (there is no such thing as a standard JRT). The dog had been in a cage for 18 months. Some of the dogs in Pollywood Pets are in three tiers of cages on wheels. Each time a dog moves, the cages shake and the dogs have to balance on the wire grate floors. Some of the smaller dogs are in bird cages.
I told Shelly that I was looking for a dog for my mother and wanted to see the Jack Russell Terrier mix. She said he wouldn’t be a good dog for an older person and would be better suited for breeding. She refused to take the dog out for me to see. However, she did bring the dog out for Steve.
The dog, who was very timid, appeared to have sores on his body, including a large open wound on the top of his neck, a torn ear that looked like it had been bitten, very long nails and splayed feet, which were probably the result of having to balance in the wires of an unsteady cage for such a long time.
Shelly took out a Cavalier King Charles mix, who had been in a cage for one year. This dog seemed too large for his cage. This dog was friendly but hyper. She gave me a retractable lead to use so it was hard to control the dog. She could have easily provided a regular lead from the shelf. Most of the supplies in the store, including regular dog leads, have been there so long that they are dusty. The dog was thrilled to get out of his cage and pulled me around the store. I returned the dog to one of the employees, who promptly took him off the leash. The dog took off into the flea – Shelly said to let him go – with the employee in pursuit.
I stated that the dog needed obedience to which Shelly replied that I needed obedience. I noted that one of my dogs from years back had an obedience title called a CD. Shelly didn’t know what that meant and apparently that bothered her. She later told Steve that she wasn’t going to sell the Cavalier mix to me because she got bad vibes from me and seemed like the kind of person who would complain and cause trouble. Steve and I looked at the records for both dogs. They appeared to come from Amish breeder in Camden, Michigan, where CAPS investigators recently checked out USDA licensed facilities, but the records for the Jack Russell Terrier mix stated that he was a Yorkshire Terrier. The state has cited Shelly for improper recordkeeping.
Shelly wanted $399 for each dog! She boasted that she never euthanizes any of her animals if they don’t find homes. It sounded like she was running a shelter and not a pet shop. We have yet to encounter a pet shop that euthanizes animals because they don’t sell right away. Most, however, mark the prices down significantly so that the animals find homes well before a year. And some animals go home with employees. Shelly told Steve that if he didn’t buy the dog that it might not be there later because she “worked” with people who found homes for the long-time residents of the pet shop.
I knew that CAPS had to get both dogs out of this pet shop. Steve and I made contact with Marie Skladd, the founder of Michigan Animal Adoption Network in Ferndale. I also found a local Cavalier King Charles rescue woman, Nancy Friedman.
Marie and Nancy went to Pollywood on December 15. When they walked into the store, one employee was holding the dog by the nape of the neck and another was cutting the nails, which were bleeding. The dog must weigh at least 25 lbs. Even Animal Control agreed with me that this was improper. Marie and Nancy purchased each dog for $250 in cash. They then took the dogs to Veterinary Centers of America (VCA) in Allen Park. Steve met them there and videotaped the dogs being examined by Dr. Marj Field. She spent about two hours with the dogs.
The Jack Russell Terrier mix, now named Wishbone, had a freely bleeding laceration to the tip of the the ear (he was flinging blood, which is why he appeared to have bloody sores on his body), fleas, infected ears, bad teeth, a Urinary Tract Infection, giardia, long nails and splayed feet.
The Cavalier King Charles mix, now named Casey, had bilateral entropian eyelids, a very painful congenital condition in which the eyelid turns in thereby causing the lashes to constantly brush against the eye. It should have been surgically repaired right away, yet Pollywood Pets allowed him to suffer with this condition for one year. He also had a luxating patella (he limps), lip-fold moist dermatitis (skin infection due to constant moisture and yeast because of poor jaw conformation), infected ears, fleas, bad teeth, giardia, coccidia, and an umbilica hernia.
VCA neutered the dogs and provided surgery for the torn ear, which they believe was the result of a dog fight, entropian eyelids, torn knee ligament, jaw problem and hernia. The vet hospital kindly donated close to $4,000 in services, and we thank them greatly for their kindness and generosity. Pet Supplies Plus donated treats, toys and food. On December 29, VCA released the dogs to Marie. Steve was on hand to videotape their discharge from the vet hospital, subsequent evaluation by renowned animal behaviorist/trainer Vladae Roytapel and their arrival at Pet Ritz Lakeshore Resort in Roseville, a posh dog daycare, spa and overnight resort. The dogs will stay at Pet Ritz at no charge for rehabilitation and socialization with dogs and people. Pet Ritz works with Vladae Roytapel, so he will be doing behavioral work and training with Casey and Wishbone. He says that Wishbone was abused. We will have information on Vladae’s assessment and work with the dogs in a future blog.
It’s wonderful to see a media powerhouse like Oprah getting behind a cause that The Companion Animal Protection Society has been dedicated to for over sixteen years. We truly hope that this is only the first of an ongoing series.
Oprah's show featured special correspondent Lisa Ling investigating puppy mills, which Ling calls “horrific” and “haunting.” Winfrey says the show is “for anybody anywhere who loves a dog, has ever loved a dog, or just cares about their basic right to humane treatment.”
Based in the greater Boston area, CAPS is the only national nonprofit dedicated exclusively to the protection of companion Animals and is the top investigative force of pet shops and puppy mills in the United States.
CAPS has investigated more than 1,000 puppy mills – mostly USDA licensed breeders and brokers – in the United States and handles pet shop complaints from all over the United States and Canada. CAPS has also rescued a number of unwanted dogs from pet shops and puppy mills and placed them in loving homes.
To raise awareness about the horrors of the pet shops and puppy mills, CAPS has generated stories with the following media: CNN, "Dateline," "20/20," "Hard Copy," Reader's Digest, Life, People, Detroit Free Press, The Philadelphia Inquirer (two front page articles) and numerous local television news stations and newspapers.
He travels in an SUV loaded with straw and 10 or so donated bags of Kibbles 'n' Bits. By the end of the day they're gone -- given away so owners can feed their dogs. Deutsch, a 50-year-old advertising copywriter, is a volunteer with the Animal Care Network, a Ferndale agency that focuses on helping animals in Pontiac and Inkster.
The work often involves cajoling those who aren't taking care of the animals to give them up. He's seen something else in recent months -- dogs trapped in abandoned houses, in yards or roaming the street, their owners nowhere to be found.
"We're seeing more dogs being left behind," said Deutsch, of Oak Park. "We'll call the police. We'll call animal control and hopefully they'll take care of it. It's not unusual for someone to leave seven dogs behind when they leave."
Complaints about abandoned animals are soaring amid Metro Detroit's listless economy and foreclosure crisis. Sometimes, the pets are given to a shelter. Sometimes, they're just let out the door and face sickness and starvation.
Often, they breed, creating another generation of problems.
Complaints to the Michigan Humane Society about abandoned animals have nearly tripled since 2003 to 1,381 last year. They come as foreclosures have jumped 68 percent statewide in one year to 136,205 filings in 2007, according to RealtyTrac Inc., an Irvine, Calif.-based group.
Last year, Michigan ranked third nationwide in foreclosures behind only Nevada and Florida. Filings fell 7 percent in January from a year ago. Now, Michigan ranks 10th -- an improvement.Still, the phone rings constantly at the Animal Care Network, said Marie Skladd, president. Tips come from people who hear strays barking in abandoned homes or suspect abuse. Often, they come from the owners themselves, who simply can't afford to keep their pets anymore.
"It's virtually a daily occurrence now, Skladd said. "Over the last year with people losing their jobs, now all of the sudden they're stuck because foreclosures are almost imminent now."
Financial troubles forced Raynail Mayes to give away her two dogs -- a 1-year-old pit bull and another year-old mixed breed. The Pontiac resident recently moved to another rental in the city to save money. The landlord doesn't allow dogs.
"My son is very attached to the dogs," said Mayes, 35, "But I just can't afford it anymore."
Shelters are seeing an influx of atypical canines, said Elaine Greene, executive director of the Dearborn Animal Shelter. It's a sign the financial crisis has crept into the higher income brackets.
"Typically, we get the not-so-adoptable, unwanted dogs. We get a lot of pit bulls," Greene said. "Now were seeing a different type of dog come in -- purebred and small-breed dogs."
The shelter last week had a purebred golden retriever. The dog even has a tracking chip imbedded under its skin.
"We've had no luck finding the owners. The phone numbers are disconnected. I'm fearful they may have moved on," Greene said last week.
The owners were never found. But the golden retriever was adopted by another family, who picked him up Friday.
Officials at the no-kill Last Chance Rescue in Howell, are turning pets away. There are about 30 dogs in the kennel. Another 45 or so are with "foster" families.
"They're very, very sad to have to leave their dog behind, but many times, they have to either move out of state or into an apartment," said Mary McIntyre of Last Chance Rescue.
There are small but frequent successes. Pam Porteous of the Animal Rescue League in Pontiac recently convinced a resident to give up a Rottweiler kept in a backyard.
The dog was about 50 pounds underweight and had about a week to live, Porteous said.
Now, the dog has put on 15 pounds and has a home lined up when it's healthy.
Foreclosure agent Debbie Raider became a rescuer herself about a month ago.
She taped a foreclosure notice to a house in Monroe County and discovered something strange -- a purebred German shepherd trapped inside, left behind by his owner a week or so earlier.
Raider contacted sheriff's deputies and had neighbors get in touch with the former owner. He gave her permission to take the dog, and Raider became a savior to Champ. She spent about $1,000 to get veterinary treatment for the underweight, unhealthy dog.
It has been CAPS' pleasure to have the assistance of Evan Deutsch and Marie Skladd with investigations, rescues and other work in Michigan. Animal Care Network is part of Michigan Animal Adoption Network (MAAN). We look forward to a continued association with such a wonderful nonprofit organization. For more information on MAAN and Animal Care Network: www.mi-aan.org.
Interview with Deborah Howard talking about Puppy MillsURL: http://www.mediafly.com/Podcasts/Feeds/Animal_Wise_Radio_Podcast
Publication date: 2009-02-09
Publication name: Animal Wise Radio
Headline: Interview with Deborah Howard talking about Puppy Mills
Summary: Deborah Howard, President of Companion Animal Protection Society, talks about their work investigating and reporting on the conditions in America's pet shops and puppy mills. Julie Sherman from the Marine Fish Conservation Network talks about some fishy things going on in the World's oceans. Nathan Winograd from the No Kill Advocacy Center expains why private animal welfare organizations should not try to provide animal control services to their cities and counties.
You may need to fastforward to video as the interviews begins approximately 18 minutes into the segment.
How much do you know about that puppy in the window?Publication: CBC Canada - Canada's Investigative Consumer Show Marketplace
We’ve all heard puppy horror stories about sick dogs from bad breeders. But many pet stores promise problem-free dogs from first-rate breeders.
Sick Puppies Dog Some Online Purchasers
Team 5 Investigates Why Nothing Being Done To Protect ConsumersPublication: The BostonChannel.com
BOSTON -- Shopping online is now more popular than ever. Some people are even buying pets online. But Team 5 Investigates found that could be a big mistake that ends up costing consumers big money.