A Lemon Law for Puppies?Posted by Kelly Cronin and Stephanie Capps, Guest Bloggers on April 10, 2013
A new "puppy lemon law" has been introduced in Illinois, known as Senate Bill 1639, that would provide consumer protection for pet owners whose puppies die as a result of puppy mill abuse. This legislation would potentially make it more appealing to litigate puppy mill cases, since the bill would impose explicit duties upon pet store operators. Under the bill, a pet store operator must provide certain disclosures regarding the origins of the dog (or cat), including known diseases, vaccines, and the name and address of the breeding facility where the animal was born. The Illinois Humane Care for Animals Act already provides requirements for the same disclosures but are willfully ignored by many pet store operators.
Will this new law, though worthy in cause, really make a difference? Hopefully, this will reduce the number of commercial breeding facilities and protect consumers from the heartbreaking experience of losing a brand new puppy.
Puppy mills have come under attack since the animals that reside in them are physically restricted in small cages, neglected, and provided dirty water. Many puppy mills go as far as putting up a home "front". This is when a large commercial breeder displays a handful of puppies in a grassy bright safe haven to customers (the "front"), while the hundreds of other puppies are hidden elsewhere–in dirty wire cases with no space to move freely or even turn around. The puppies are paid no human attention and receive little to no medical care. Often, cages are so rarely cleaned that puppies will sit in their own excrement for long stretches of time, often leading to health problems imminently or later in life. The worst atrocity of the puppy mill are the breeding mothers, who are kept pregnant as much as possible, are isolated from their pups at an unnaturally early age, and spend the entirety of their lives in a dirty, confined cage. Once a breeding dog is no longer able to produce litters, she will often be killed, having never known a life outside of a cage.
Puppies in mills often suffer from potentially fatal conditions such as heart or kidney disease and diabetes, in addition to other chronic disorders such as anemia, hearing or vision problems. Conditions such as hip dysplasia can cause lameness and chronic arthritic pain. Due to the squalor these pups are raised in, they are at a greater risk for heartworm, giardia, distemper, and kennel cough, all of which can lead to death.
Puppy brokers, the intermediary between the mills and the pet stores, retrieve the puppies, pile the puppies on top of each other in a hot, enclosed van, and transport them to pet stores. By the time the puppies arrive to the pet store, many are irretrievably damaged and suffer long-term illnesses or even death.
The Clinton Law Firm and Attorney Stephanie Capps have taken action against Happiness is Pets, a pet store chain in Illinois, alleging consumer fraud in the sale of puppies. The suit alleges that Happiness is Pets sells puppies under the guise of healthy, privately bred puppies, when in reality they are sick and bred in some of the most deplorable conditions imaginable: Puppy mills. The pet stores’ defense to misleading customers about the origin of their pets and covering the fact that they are often sick puppy mill dogs? They argue that telling consumers their puppies are "healthy" and from "reputable breeders" is simply "puffing"–or sales talk. Is selling puppies the same as selling used cars? We don’t think so.