Collaborators, Deceptive business practices, Lawsuits, class action

The suit contends Petland and the local store “knew at the time of sale that the puppy was procured from a puppy mill and was likely in poor health, yet consciously and knowingly withheld this material knowledge from the plaintiff.” Animal activists contend puppy mills are high-volume breeding kennels that harm the animals and lead to sick puppies being sold to consumers.

http://www.bradenton.com
August 7, 2010

Lawsuit: Petland sells sick puppies
Duane Marsteller

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MANATEE — A Bradenton woman has joined a growing number of pet owners accusing a national pet retailer of selling inferior animals.

Jenny Zawistoski sued Petland Inc. and its Bradenton franchisee Friday, accusing them of selling dogs bred in “puppy mills” but marketing them as coming from reputable breeders. The suit seeks up to $5 million in damages for Zawistoski and potentially thousands of other Floridians who have bought puppies from Petland since 2008.

“This lawsuit really focuses on the consumers who have been hurt,” said her attorney, Kurt Mitchell.

Zawistoski bought a two-month-old Boston Terrier puppy from the Petland at 3530 53rd Ave. W. in January 2009, the suit said. The store is operated by Kaya Nyati Ventures LLC, a franchisee also named as a defendant.

The dog, named “Jasmine,” soon developed multiple health problems, including repeated infections and cancer. Zawistoski estimates she already has spent more than $3,000 in veterinary bills, including chemotherapy, cancer drugs and surgeries to remove cancerous masses.

“She’s almost died twice,” Zawistoski said, her voice breaking. “It’s just terrible, what she’s gone through. But I’ll never give up on her. She was a gift to me and I’m going to help her until the end.”

The suit contends Petland and the local store “knew at the time of sale that the puppy was procured from a puppy mill and was likely in poor health, yet consciously and knowingly withheld this material knowledge from the plaintiff.”

Animal activists contend puppy mills are high-volume breeding kennels that harm the animals and lead to sick puppies being sold to consumers.

Claims of the suit
Zawistoski’s suit said Petland and the store cited a warranty disclaimer in refusing to pay Jasmine’s medical bills, thus violating a federal warranty law. The suit also accused Petland and Kaya Nyati of violating Florida’s unfair and deceptive trading practices law.

Petland corporate spokeswoman Elizabeth Kunzelman said the company had not seen the suit and could not immediately comment.

Neil Benecke, the Bradenton franchisee, said his puppies come from USDA-approved breeders and brokers, not puppy mills. Even then, there’s always a chance the puppy can have underlying medical issues, he said.

“Sometimes there are hereditary or congenital problems that no one can foresee,” said Benecke, who has owned the store since 2007. “Still, I have thousands of customers who love this place, love the puppies they’ve bought.”

Zawistoski’s suit is unrelated to a federal class-action lawsuit filed against Petland. That suit, filed in an Arizona federal court, contends the company and unnamed suppliers conspired to mislead thousands of customers into believing sick puppies came from the finest breeders when they really came from puppy mills and brokers.

Petland’s response
Petland has denied the claims, saying it is outraged and disappointed by what it calls false accusations and insists it does everything possible to provide customers with healthy, happy and well-socialized pets.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

http://www.bradenton.com/2010/08/07/2489716/lawsuit-petland-sells-sick-puppies.html


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