Default Judgment Entered Against Pets of Bel Air

Pets of Bel Air

Update Aug. 8, 2009:  The court entered a  $4.8 million default judgment against the Pets of Bel Air pet store which is closed.

The pet store used to be known as the pet store to the stars.

No more.  Thanks to protests which forced the store’s closing and this lawsuit filed in Lost Angeles Superior Court on behalf of customers who alleged they were sold sick and dying puppies from puppy mills.  More than 90% of dogs sold by pet stores come from puppy mills.

In 2008 the judge certified the case as a class action, meaning appproximately 800 former customers who purchased puppies at the store between December 2003 and October 2008 were allowed to join the case as plaintiffs.

The default judgment was entered for Pets of Bel Air’s failure to provide documents as ordered by the Court or respond to motions.

For more on this, read Animal Law Coalition’s original report below. 

Original report: More than 90% of puppies sold by pet stores come from for profit commercial breeders also known as puppy mills. The owners of the pet store, Pets of Bel Air, in Los Angeles made famous not only by their celebrity clientele but also by a widely publicized HSUS undercover investigation, claims they were unaware the dogs came from such places.

The store’s web site says "we would never knowingly buy a dog from a puppy mill; and we are appalled by the possibility that this may have happened."

Now a jury will get to decide if that’s true. A California superior court judge has ruled a case brought against the store in December, 2007, by Wayne S. Kreger for fraud and false advertising will go to trial. Kreger seeks an unspecified amount of damages including punitive damages. 

According to the complaint filed in the case, Kreger bought a Chihuahua puppy from Pets of Bel Air that died 12 days later in his wife’s arms from a virus that attacked the digestive system. The complaint states, "It was a gruesome, miserable existence for the puppy and a traumatic, emotional and terribly sad time" for Kreger and his wife.

Kreger is no longer the only plaintiff. Others who claim similar experiences with puppies purchased from the store have joined the lawsuit. Kreger hopes to have the case certified as a class action.

The lawsuit was filed in the wake of an undercover investigation by HSUS that revealed the store’s staff allegedly misrepresented where the store obtained the dogs.  

Puppies in Pet Stores Come from Puppy Mills 

According to the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council, it is estimated that 3,700 of the nation’s 11,500 pet stores are involved in selling dogs from mills. These shops are said to sell 300,000 to 400,000 puppies a year. And, in recent years there has been an explosion of web sites for online purchases of dogs.

It is estimated there are approximately 400,000-500,000 puppies born to U.S. commercial dog breeders each year. Over 5,000 puppies are said to be shipped from puppy mills every week. Last Chance for Animals, reports, "Each of the 4,000-5,000 puppy mills in the U.S…. houses between 75 to 150 breeding animals". Last Chance for Animals aptly describes the result of treating dogs as property to be exploited for profit:  "Only half of the dogs bred at puppy mills make it to the pet store; the other half die from the mill’s squalid conditions, hypothermia starvation, or other horrors of transport."  

The dogs that do reach the pet stores or sold online or through advertisements may well be inbred. These dogs have received little if any veterinary care. They are likely to have congenital conditions including deformities as well as diseases or illnesses and be covered in fleas, tics and the like. The dogs are not socialized, meaning they could also well have behavior problems. 

California’s Puppy Lemon Law 

California has a statutory remedy specifically for purchasers of dogs and cats, what is commonly known as a "puppy lemon law". Under Cal Health & Saf Code §§122125-122315 a purchaser can return and obtain a refund or exchange the dog and also receive  reimbursement of veterinary bills up to the purchase price if a veterinarian issues a statement that within 15 days of the sale the dog showed signs of illness or disease that existed at the time of purchase or within 1 year of the sale was discovered to have a congenital or hereditary condition that adversely affects the animal’s health or will require hospitalization or surgery. If the dog has died, the purchaser may receive a refund and reimbursement for the cost of veterinary care up to the amount of the purchase price.

As an incentive to keep the surviving dog in its new home, the law provides the purchaser may keep the dog and receive reimbursement for veterinary bills up to 150% of the sales price.  

Purchasers, however, must notify breeders within 5 days of learning of the illness, disease, or congenital condition.  

In the event of a claim the breeder can demand that unless the dog is dead, his or her own veterinarian examine it at his or her cost.

Pet stores must supply purchasers with written notice of these rights. _______________________

Keep reading Animal Law Coalition for updates on the Kreger lawsuit.