A retail store in Westchester will have to pay a civil penalty for lying to its customers, New York State Attorney General Letitia James announced.
The state reached the settlement with the Hartsdale pet store after it falsely advertised and claimed that it specialized in the sale of high quality, responsibly-bred animals, when, in reality, the store sold animals that were bred at large-scale commercial mills, James said on Friday, May 3.
Deborah Koehler, owner of Westchester Puppies & Kittens, is also prohibited from making false representations about the quality of the breeders and kennels from which she obtains animals for sale as part of the settlement. In addition, she will also pay a civil penalty of $7,500.
"Deceptive marketing and advertising will never be tolerated, including for the sale of animals,” said James. “Not only were consumers lied to about the origins of their pets, but also the health and wellness of the beloved animals they were bringing into their homes. We will continue to crack down on any and every abuse of animals.”
Westchester Puppies & Kittens, located at 26 South Central Ave. in Hartsdale, advertised on its website and on social media that it sells “home-raised” animals and only deals with “certified breeders," James said.
"For example, the store’s website stated, 'Our puppies and kittens are home-raised and responsibly-bred for temperament and good congenital health,' " said James. "It also stated that Westchester Puppies & Kittens 'specializes in the sale of healthy puppies and kittens from certified breeders.' "
An investigation was launched last year after the attorney general's office said it received numerous complaints from consumers who purchased pets from Westchester Puppies & Kittens that treatment was required for illnesses commonly associated with animals bred at puppy mills, such as kennel cough, giardia, distemper and parvovirus.
The investigation found that Westchester Puppies & Kittens acquired the animals it sold to the public from commercial breeders and puppy mills, not from “certified breeders” or those who “home-raise” animals, according to James.
One breeder from which Westchester Puppies & Kittens acquired animals – Kuddly Kritters of Atkins, Nebraska – has been repeatedly cited by USDA inspectors for poor and unsanitary conditions in its breeding operations, said James.
The investigation also found that employees of Westchester Puppies & Kittens made false representations to customers about the breeding of the animals for sale, leading them to believe that they would be purchasing a healthier animal than from any other pet dealer, according to James.
The store no longer claims that it sells animals that are “home raised” and obtained from “certified breeders" and it has also instructed its employees not to make such claims, James noted, adding that the settlement ensures that these practices will be followed going forward.
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