One of the nations largest online dog selling companies, Purebred Breeders Inc., may have another lawsuit to battle.
An appellate judge from the Third District Court of Appeal in Miami-Dade County on Thursday reversed a decision that had dismissed the original complaint against the largest online dog seller in the U.S. two years ago.
In a May 2012 complaint filed by Ted Leopold, of Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll PLLC, accused Purebred Breeders Inc with operating nearly 800 Web domains designed to mislead customers into thinking they were dealing with breeders in their home states when they were shopping online for a puppy.
The lawsuit was filed in partnership with the Humane Society of the United States and more than 60 plaintiffs. Many of the plaintiffs alleged that shortly after receiving the dogs, the animals became sick and some even died.
Purebred Breeders, a company based in South Florida, filed a motion to dismiss the case claiming that the claims could not be justified. By October, a judge agreed with the company and dismissed the case.
"We are currently evaluating our litigation strategy and planning to continue to pursuit of justice on behalf of consumers and the animals who have suffered egregiously," attorney Ted Leopold said.
Purebred Breeders has denied the accusations from the start.
A spokesperson for the Humane Society, Cheylin Parker, said, "we’re pleased that consumers duped by Purebred Breeders will be able to have their day in court."
In addition to the 61 plaintiffs in the original lawsuit, Leopold said close to 200 additional complaints have been reported to the firm or the Humane Society.
"It raises the issue that if these allegations are without merit, why is there a continuous influx of complaints?" Leopold said. "What it reveals is a systemic practice of fraud and abuse."
In a statement provided to WPTV reporters in 2012, the company said:
"Purebred Breeders has placed puppies with thousands of families over many years. The company was created by a group of dog lovers who saw an avenue to match the best dog breeders in the US with families across the country. Purebred Breeders has the most stringent standards in the industry that far exceed any local, state or federal regulations. We are committed to animal welfare and are concerned about any substandard facilities where the well being and health of any animal is not forefront."
Read the full statement from the company below.
In October 2012, The Humane Society of the United States released the results of their own investigation into Purebred Breeders. Watch the video below to see what their investigation uncovered.
The three-month undercover investigation captured video at six of the company's breeders where investigators found dogs stacked in wire cages and, often, in dirty conditions.
According to the Humane Society, whistle blowers working for Purebred Breeders said the company sells about 20,000 puppies each year and uses "hard-sell, deceptive tactics encouraged by company executives."
During its investigation, the Humane Society said it learned "puppies purchased through Purebred Breeders are never seen by sales personnel even though they routinely guarantee the health of these animals, who are often flown long distances directly from the breeding facility to the consumer."
As a result of this latest appeal, the case is reinstated and attorney Ted Leopold will be exploring options for future litigation.
Any consumer who purchased a sick puppy from an online seller is encouraged to fill out this form.
Full statement from Purebred Breeders, LLC in response to the Appeals Court upholding lower court’s dismissal:
Florida’s Third District Court of Appeal confirmed last week that the 2012 decision by a Circuit Court Judge in Miami-Dade County dismissing a lawsuit against Purebred Breeders LLC [Case Number: 11-38180 CA02] was correct.
"On Wednesday, the Third District Court of Appeal confirmed that Plaintiffs' complaint was properly dismissed without prejudice by the trial court and directed the trial court to revise its original order to reaffirm that the case was dismissed without prejudice,” stated Christopher Carver, attorney for Purebred Breeders.
Purebred Breeders was created by a group of dog lovers who saw an avenue to match the best dog breeders in the US with families across the country. The company, with a team of over 100, has the most stringent standards in the industry, which far exceed any local, state or federal regulations. We are committed to animal welfare and are concerned about any substandard facilities where the well-being and health of any animal is not forefront. Purebred Breeders has robust systems in place which assists in continual evaluation of the breeders and the long term health of the puppies they place with families across the country.
An ongoing independent survey of all of our customers over the past 3.5 years has generated over 15,000 responses. Purebred Breeders received a 4.63 out of 5 overall experience rating, with over 93% of customers giving the company a 4 or 5 overall excellent rating. We believe this is a much more accurate representation of our services and the experiences of our customers than what the HSUS and its legal representatives are trying to portray in their complaint and with the media through frivolous allegations and misinformation.
The Humane Society of the United States has a long history of filing frivolous, publicity driven and unsuccessful lawsuits against responsible businesses. Purebred Breeders will continue to seek an award of its attorneys’ fees and costs from plaintiffs and the Humane Society of the United States in Circuit Court Case Number: 11-38180 CA02, filed last December. The company has committed to donating a portion of any attorney’s fees awarded by the court to local shelters around the country. This is in an effort to help replace a portion of the millions of dollars lost by these organizations from HSUS’s deceptive and misleading fundraising activities as referenced by six members of Congress in their letter to the Office of Inspector General of the United States.
Scripps National News Producer Lynn Walsh contributed to this story.