Press Release

Court Rules Craigslist Puppy Sellers Illegally Neglected Animals, Defrauded Families

Court bans traffickers from selling dogs, awards damages of $200,000+


LOS ANGELES — Following a week-long trial in 2022, a Los Angeles Superior Court Judge issued a decision finding that Craigslist puppy traffickers committed animal neglect and fraud by selling fatally sick dogs to families. The Court further announced that it will prohibit the family from selling dogs and awarded damages — including $100,000 in punitive damages, compensatory damages for veterinary expenses, and $10,000 in emotional distress damages for each puppy sold to the purchasers.

In awarding damages for emotional distress, the Court found that the Kenneys’ scheme was “especially heinous” due to the “suffering of the puppies and the resulting emotional toll their illnesses and deaths took on innocent families.” The decision went on to observe that: “[d]ogs, who are family, are understandably treated differently from generic property by the legislature and courts alike.”

For years, members of the Kenney family — Trina, Rick, and their adult children Elijah and Jezriel — neglected animals and defrauded consumers in Southern California by misrepresenting the health, age, sex, and breed of puppies they breed and sell through Craigslist and other sites on the internet.

The Court found that the evidence clearly established that the puppies were kept in unsanitary conditions and sick at the time of sale. The Court also observed that the defendants knew their puppies were contracting deadly diseases such as Parvovirus and provided fabricated immunization records to the families. Three of the puppies at issue in the lawsuit died from these diseases, in addition to several others purchased by families not connected to the lawsuit. The Court granted the injunction based in part on Corporations Code section 10404, a California law that gives SPCAs standing to sue in civil court to enjoin animal law violations.

“This decision sends a clear message that sellers will be held accountable when they engage in animal neglect and fraud,” said Christopher Berry, a Managing Attorney for the Animal Legal Defense Fund. “Unfortunately, this type of exploitive behavior is common, and families wishing to avoid it should adopt from a shelter or rescue organization.”

“The plaintiffs, who were harassed and intimidated by the defendants after spending weeks trying to save their sick and dying puppies, are grateful that justice has prevailed in this case and that the defendants can never again harm innocent puppies or families with their false advertising scheme,” says attorney Gary Praglin, of Cotchett, Pitre & McCarthy. The lawsuit was filed on behalf of nine plaintiffs who purchased underage and sick puppies from the family between 2018 and 2020. Trina Kenney was previously federally prosecuted and convicted of felony mail fraud for selling abused and sick horses.

The victims’ stories are heartbreaking. Typical is what happened to newlyweds Brittany and Brandon Swigart, who in February 2019 responded to the Kenneys’ Craigslist ad for an 8-week-old mini-labradoodle puppy. The couple paid $1,200 in cash for Winnie, the puppy they were thrilled to add to their new family. The Kenneys said Winnie was 8 weeks old and fully vaccinated — but the Swigarts soon learned that Winnie was only 4 weeks old, had been dyed brown, and had not been vaccinated. Winnie died just weeks after the Swigarts brought her home, from a disease she contracted because the Kenneys had not provided her vaccines they told the Swigarts she’d received. Winnie never weighed over one pound.

Joe Cotchett, Gary Praglin, and Neda Lotfi of the law firm Cotchett Pitre & McCarthy LLP represented the victim families in this case.

A copy of the decision, and photos of the plaintiffs’ puppies, are available upon request.

No More Puppy Mills

Puppy mill operators maximize their profits by producing large numbers of puppies as quickly as possible. As a result, unsanitary conditions, disease, and neglect are rampant. Sign our pledge to boycott puppy mills. Together we can end this cruel industry.

Sign Petition