As the Humane Society of the United States continues to release details from its investigation into Petland’s sales of puppy mill dogs, more franchisees of the pet store chain have lined up to bring suit against the company. (For more about the HSUS investigation and a lawsuit brought last week by former Petland franchise owners, Mike and Eglaeh Blasko…Â )
This time it is Dr. Veronica R. Jones and Robert C. Hyde who have brought a lawsuit, a class action on behalf of all similarly situated franchise owners, against Petland. Also named are Hunte Kennel Systems & Animal Care, Inc.; and Hunte Delivery Systems, Inc., subsidiaries of Hunte Corporation, the notorious puppy mill operator and distributor, that supplies the puppies sold by Petland. Â Other defendants are Petland vendors that provide, for example, merchandise, computers or software and other equipment to all Petland stores.
Jones and Hyde operated a Petland franchise in Murfreesboro, Tennesseee.Â
According to the Complaint, Jones and Hyde "and members of the class were fraudulently induced to purchase failing Petland franchises for hundreds of thousands of dollars per franchise when Petland knew, or should have known, that the franchises could not succeed. …[O]nce a franchise has failed and Petland has charged the franchisee an exorbitant termination fee, Petland looks to "flip" the store by inducing new unwary franchisees into purchasing the franchise that is similarly doomed to fail. This "sign up and shut down" modus operandi is a concerted scheme to defraud franchisees while reaping excessive, punitive and penalizing profits through the extortion of unlawful liquidated damages against unwitting – and soon financially broke – franchisees."
According to the complaint, the merchandise they were forced to sell wasÂ over-priced, and the computer and other equipment Petland required them to use was shoddy and often didn’t work.
Significantly, the plaintiffs say the animals they were expected to sell from Hunte "were often sick" and "diseased", costing the franchise owners "tens of thousands of dollars" for veterinary care.
Plaintiffs allege vendors such as Hunte "paid kickbacks to Petland".
The plaintiffs seek more than $20 million for fraud, breach of the franchise agreement, and negligence as well as punitive damages and attorney’s fees. Hunte is sued in particular for breach of the implied and express warranties of merchantability. Plaintiffs say Hunte represented the dogs were "healthy". Yet, a "substantial percentage of the puppies provided by Hunte to plaintiffs … were diseased and ill….and all required antibiotics, cough syrup, breathing treatments, ear cleanings, and/or isolation."
Jones and Hyde claim they are victims of these sleazy business practices of Petland and Hunte, that they were forced to close their franchise at a substantial loss. Jones says she asked Brian Winslow, the Director of Operations for Petland, how she and Hyde could "possibly make the kennel run on budget while still properly caring for the animals. [Winslow] responded, ‘Tell me when you figure it out.‘"
In seeking class certification, Plaintiffs are claiming this is the situation at every Petland franchised store.