What’s Wrong with that Doggie in the Window? [Video]
“First time I saw Dakota, I was pretty much in love, right then and there. I had to have that dog,” says Bryan Phillips. “I just did my research from their website. And on their website, it’s very professional. It seems to be a very nice, warm, loving environment. They work with the very best, private breeders.”
In December of 2011, Bryan Philips was seduced by the cuteness of that “doggie in the window.”
But within a few weeks he faced a jarring reality.
“It was confirmed that she had distemper, which for a puppy is pretty much a death sentence,” says Phillips. “It’s preventable with vaccines, which according to her pet record she was vaccinated twice for it.”
When Philips informed the pet store of Dakota’s illness, he says they refused to take any responsibility and redirected him to the expired warranty information on their website. With the vet bills piling up, Philips decided to fight back and took to the internet, where he discovered he was not alone.
He joined several others in a class action lawsuit against the pet store chain. Chicago attorney Stephanie Capps is leading the charge.
“The pet stores definitely take advantage of knowing a consumer will come into a store, a lot of times with their little kids, fall in love with a puppy in the window, take their word for it that they’re from a private, reputable breeder, totally healthy,” says Capps.
Capps, who has worked on multiple pet-related cases, starts with an investigation.
“After many people were contacting us, we started doing research. We were finding that the ’breeders’ used at these stores were not in fact private, reputable breeders. Many of them had hundreds of dogs at their facilities. They were puppy mills.”
A puppy mill is a mass-producing dog facility that emphasizes profit over the welfare of the dog. The dogs usually are kept in feces-filled cages, deprived of clean drinking water and often have untreated, running wounds. As a result, they can easily develop a number of otherwise preventable infections.
“They’re horrific, just horrific conditions,” says Capps.
Animal advocates say that most of the puppies sold in U.S. pet stores come from puppy mills, and nearly all have parasites at the time of purchase. These illnesses can often lead to unexpected vet bills for new puppy owners.
“The benefits of doing a class action suit in regards to animals are basically economical,” says Capps.
She notes it’s the best way to recoup the staggering amount of money pet owners pay veterinarians to restore the health of their pet store dogs.
If you want to avoid the headache and heartache of a lawsuit, make sure you buy a healthy puppy.
“If somebody is looking for a puppy, they really want to investigate where that puppy is coming from, whether it’s a breeder or a shop,” says Alexis Newman, veterinarian and president of the Chicago Veterinary Medicine Association. “When you go see a puppy, they should be playing. They should be happy, running around and interacting. If they’re not, chances are they don’t feel well.”