HICKSVILLE, Long Island (WABC) -- New York Attorney General Letitia James filed a lawsuit Thursday against a pet store for allegedly selling numerous sick or injured puppies to unaware consumers at two locations on Long Island.
James said an investigation found that Shake A Paw, located in Hicksville and in Lynbrook and serving the broader tri-state area, falsely advertised sick pets as healthy, fabricated health certificates, failed to disclose the animals' legitimate medical conditions, misrepresented puppies' breeds, and refused to reimburse consumers for veterinarian bills when they lodged complaints.
James also filed a motion for a temporary restraining order against Shake A Paw in an effort to protect the puppies in danger as well as to freeze funds that are in bank accounts managed by Shake A Paw for restitution.
"Shake A Paw's actions of deceiving consumers into purchasing sick or injured dogs is unconscionable and illegal," James said. "My office's thorough investigation uncovered a series of violations by Shake A Paw that defrauded consumers and found sick puppies that came from dangerous puppy mills. When New Yorkers purchased puppies from Shake A Paw, they did not expect to bring home dogs in such heartbreaking and horrifying conditions. Today, we are holding Shake A Paw accountable for their unlawful and inhumane actions by filing a lawsuit to permanently ban the company from selling puppies any longer, as well as to recoup what consumers paid. Animal mistreatment is despicable and will not be tolerated."
After receiving numerous consumer complaints, the Attorney General's Office opened an investigation into both Shake A Paw locations on Long Island.
Shake A Paw advertises their puppies as healthy and of the highest quality, but after reviewing hundreds of veterinary records and consumer complaints, the investigation found that Shake A Paw sold puppies with serious illnesses -- including some puppies that died within days or weeks of purchase.
Several puppies were suffering from serious illness and congenital defects, and they were displaying visible signs of illness at the time of sale despite receiving health certifications signed off by Shake A Paw's contracted veterinarians.
The investigation analyzed 408 veterinary records of puppies sold at the Shake A Paw locations and found:
--52% of the puppies presented coughing, sneezing, an upper respiratory infection, and/or breathing problems
--Roughly 54% were infected with parasites
--Almost 10% were diagnosed with pneumonia
In addition, the office received 113 Shake A Paw records, out of which 67 were issued between 0 and 19 days prior to sale.
The illnesses and congenital defects in these animals were found to be consistent with puppies that are purchased from puppy mills, and the investigation found thousands of puppies from known puppy mills that were shipped to both Shake A Paw locations on Long Island.
Through financial records, the investigation found payments being made to known puppy mills, and information provided by the ASPCA directly linked Shake A Paw to obtaining puppies from puppy mills and not reputable breeders as advertised.
After purchasing puppies, many consumers were left with hefty veterinarian bills shortly thereafter. But James said Shake A Paw would often give consumers the run around when they called to ask for reimbursement, were hung up on, and/or told that they were not entitled to their money back.
Shake A Paw representatives are also accused of directing consumers to the company's own veterinarians, who often failed to diagnose illnesses, telling consumers that they would not be reimbursed if they visited their own veterinarians -- a violation of the Pet Lemon Law.
Additionally, Shake A Paw refused to reimburse consumers who purchased sick animals or animals that passed away, another violation of the Pet Lemon Law.
James is seeking restitution for the victims for what she called Shake A Paw's unfair and deceptive conduct; civil penalties for such conduct; a permanent injunction preventing Shake A Paw from selling, importing, exporting, bartering, exchanging, or gifting any animals in the future; and an end to the company's further violation of consumer protection laws.
An attorney for Shake a Paw released the following statement:
"In responding to legitimate concerns that some pet stores treat puppies inhumanely and intentionally sell sick puppies to unsuspecting customers, the Attorney General is apparently on a campaign to close all pet stores in New York. Shake A Paw is the Attorney General's target today because it owns and operates Long Island's two largest and most successful pet stores. Shake A Paw has never knowingly sold a sick puppy, or knowingly misrepresented the pedigree, or breeder from whom the puppy was acquired. The New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets, which oversees and controls the licensing of Shake A Paw, has consistently found, following numerous unannounced inspections, that its two stores were in compliance with all governing laws and regulations. As required by law and in accordance with the owner's wishes, on the rare occasion when a sold puppy has taken ill, Shake A Paw has reimbursed veterinary bills up to the sales price, given a full refund, or exchanged the puppy for another. Shake A Paw does not purchase puppies from "puppy mills," and Shake A Paw takes great pride and spares no expense when it comes to the care of its puppies. The Attorney General's investigation of Shake A Paw has been ongoing for five years. Shake A Paw has turned over all requested documents concerning hundreds of transactions. Time and again, Shake A Paw's lawyers have asked the Attorney General for the particulars of pet owner complaints so Shake A Paw could pull the pertinent files and demonstrate full regulatory compliance. But the Attorney General has refused to share this information and enter into a constructive dialogue, preferring to sue first and learn the truth later. This reckless conduct threatens to destroy the good will and reputation of a good and decent small business that has, over the past 28 years, brought joy to 80,000 loyal and highly satisfied Long Island pet owners and their families."
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