The owners of a Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, kennel will pay more than $50,000 to consumers who bought sick or diseased animals, $25,000 in fines and investigation costs, and be required to comply with much stricter standards in the sale of puppies in the future.
Pennsylvania Attorney General Tom Corbett said the restitution, fines and operating terms are part of a consent petition filed today in Commonwealth Court against Raymond and Joyce Stoltzfus, the owners of Puppy Love Kennel.
The defendants were accused of selling sick or diseased dogs that, at the time of sale, were misrepresented as healthy and fit. In addition, misrepresentations were made about the age of the puppies and their status and registration as purebreds.
The Attorney General's Bureau of Consumer Protection investigated complaints from consumers located in Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, New Jersey, New York and Virginia who said the puppies that they purchased from the defendants required veterinary treatment for a variety of ailments including: parasites, upper respiratory infections, distemper, tapeworms, pneumonia, deafness, malnutrition, heart defects, hip dysplasia, parvo virus, kidney failure and other congenital illnesses.
Consumers told Corbett's Office that Joyce Stoltzfus rarely responded to their repeated complaints about the health of their puppies. If she did respond, many consumers said she was confrontational or hostile.
The Commonwealth believes the defendants routinely denied consumers their rights under the Dog Purchaser Protection Act or "Puppy Lemon" law, unless the consumer complained or threatened to complain to the Attorney General's Office.
"Our consent petition forces the owners of Puppy Love Kennel to comply with the toughest restrictions ever placed on a dog seller in Pennsylvania," Corbett said. "The enhanced consumer restitution and strict sales and animal management guidelines are in place to stop this kennel from selling sick, diseased or defective animals."
"The restrictions imposed go beyond what is currently required in the state and represent many of the changes that I would like to see in our existing law to further protect these young animals and their new owners," Corbett said.
According to the attorney general, many of the enhanced restitution and guidelines required in the consent petition were modeled after dog protection laws already in place in New Jersey and other states.
Under the terms of the consent, the defendants are required to:
• Pay more than $50,000 in enhanced restitution to 171 consumers who filed complaints with the Office of Attorney General. Consumers will recover veterinary expenses as much as twice the purchase price of the puppy. Under current law, consumers can only recover vet expenses equal to the purchase price of the dog.
• Pay enhanced restitution to consumers who purchased a puppy and incurred vet bills any time on or after March 13, 2005.
• Pay nearly $25,000 in civil penalties and investigation costs.
• Have their entire kennel population tested and treated by an independent licensed veterinarian by June 18, 2005. In addition, for health reasons, a 'kennel management' plan must also be implemented to separate the existing animals from the newer puppies entering the kennel.
• Provide dog purchasers with proof that the puppy was examined by an independent licensed veterinarian at least 15 days before the sale. If the puppy has not been checked within the 15 days, the animal can be rechecked within 72 hours of delivery to the purchaser.
• Provide consumers 14 days to have any clinical illnesses diagnosed and reported to defendants. Under current law consumers have 10 days to inform the seller of clinical illnesses.
• Allow four inspections of its facilities by the State Department of Agriculture every year for the next three years in addition to any other required or random inspections performed.
• Offer a full refund, replacement dog or agree to pay as much as twice the purchase price of the dog if the animal, within six months, is diagnosed with a congenital or hereditary defect. Under current law consumers have 30 days to report any congenital or hereditary defects.
• Include the name Puppy Love Kennel or otherwise identify itself as a licensed kennel in all newspaper or other advertisements.
• Provide every dog purchaser with true and accurate documentation about the puppy's purebred status, age and registration eligibility.
• Provide a method for consumers to contact the defendants to register complaints or discuss problems with the puppies purchased.