A consumer fraud suit filed against a suburban Chicago pet store chain has gotten its second wind. An amended class action claim has been filed in Cook County Circuit Court against Happiness is Pets. This claim narrows the focus of the suit to three stores in the chain – Arlington Heights, Naperville and Oak Lawn – that were involved in the sale of the dogs represented in the suit. And, it gives more details about dogs sold at those stores that allegedly became very ill shortly after being purchased.
The suit claims that the three Happiness Is Pets stores owned by Ronald Berning committed consumer fraud by claiming misrepresenting where its dogs come from. The store claims online and when people shop at the store that it only partners with reputable small scale, private breeders. The suit also states that Happiness is Pets doesn’t procure animals from large-scale breeders known as puppy mills.
According to the suit, the plaintiffs had been told that the puppies they were purchasing were healthy. However, many were receiving medications, using nebulizers and receiving other veterinary care from the staff at Happiness is Pets. None of this information was disclosed the time of the sale.
The suit claims that Happiness is Pets trains its employees to make the same three misrepresentations –
- That each puppy was in good health at the time of purchase from and was healthy during the entire time he or she was in the care of Happiness Is Pets;
- That each breeder was a small scale, reputable breeder in compliance with animal welfare laws; and
- That the puppies are not from puppy mills.
There are currently eight plaintiffs in this case that purchased dogs from one of the three stores at various times. All eight of the dogs became ill shortly after they were purchased. The eight plaintiffs contend that they were told the puppies were healthy and not on any medication when, in fact, the dogs were being medicated for various health issues prior to being sold.
Happiness is Pets came to the attention of Chicago consumers in early 2012 when several puppies sold over the holidays were diagnosed with distemper. All of the dogs except one, Dakota, died from distemper. Dakota’s owner, Bryan Phillips is one of the plaintiffs in this suit.
The Humane Society of the United States and Illinois Department of Agriculture were called in to investigate the chain after the distemper outbreak. The other seven dogs listed in the case were not part of that outbreak.
Dogs listed in the complaint have a variety of health issues ranging from distemper and Giardia to a dislocated hip, glaucoma, hypothermia, VKH Syndrome (an autoimmune disease) and microvascular dysplasia – a hereditary disease passed on from one or both parents. One dog is blind in one eye from that disease and all have ongoing health issues.
A judge dismissed the suit, which was originally filed last year, without prejudice earlier this year, ruling that the suit needed to narrow its scope to focus only on the stores that allegedly sold sick dogs to the consumers in the complaint.
For other stories covering Happiness is Pets and the sale of puppy mill dogs, read
- More Distemper cases confirmed
- Dakota’s story
- Initial Lawsuit
- Attorney’s Refocus Happiness is Pets suit
- Puppy Lemon Law
Just last month, Governor Pat Quinn signed the Puppy Lemon Law, which goes into effect in January. It will provide more protection to consumers who purchase sick pets from pet stores. A consumer fraud suit was also filed this summer against another consumer pet store chain - Furry Babies.