Attorney General Cuomo Obtains Restitution For Pet Owners Tricked Into Paying Thousands Of Dollars For Sick Puppies By Long Island Pet Store

MINEOLA, N.Y. (August 16, 2009) - Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo today announced that his office has obtained at least $35,000 in restitution for consumers who were deceived by a Bellmore-based pet store into purchasing sick animals.

Worldwide Puppies touted itself as specializing in selling, in addition to larger puppies, high quality teacup and toy size puppies, such as Yorkshire Terriers, Chihuahuas and Shih-Tzus. The average prices of the animals range between $1,500 and $2,500 each. After receiving multiple complaints, the Attorney General’s Office conducted an investigation into the pet store, located on Sunrise Highway in Bellmore and found it violated the state’s “Pet Lemon Law,” by selling pets that suffered from serious illnesses despite the company’s guarantee that the animals were in good health.

“In a series of outrageous and cruel deceptions, this company lied to customers who thought they were buying healthy pets to bring into their families’ homes and lives,” said Attorney General Cuomo. “Instead, those customers suffered not only the heartbreak of watching an animal suffer, but also thousands of dollars in veterinary bills to bring their pets back to good health. The actions of Worldwide Puppies have caused numerous New York families to endure both significant emotional and monetary distress, and I am proud to say that my office has put a stop to their despicable practice of selling sick pets to unsuspecting new owners.”

The Attorney General’s investigation found that the pets’ illnesses included parvo, giardiasis, acute respiratory infection, bilateral patellar instability, pneumonia, bronchopneumonia, life-threatening hypoglycemia, kennel cough and intestinal parasites. When customers complained or tried to return the sick pets, Worldwide Puppies’ staff would deliberately downplay the severity of the symptoms - potentially further endangering the animals’ health - while simultaneously claiming that none of them were authorized to take the sick animals back.

To entice customers into paying high prices for the animals, Worldwide Puppies also represented to consumers that the animals came from high quality private breeders, were registered with sanctioned and well-recognized kennel associations and would come with full pedigree and registration papers - which the company often failed to provide.

In addition to misrepresenting the health status and pedigree of the animals, Worldwide Puppies engaged in other deceptive acts, including:

*Using bait-and-switch tactics by regularly promising consumers that they carried a breed to entice them to the store, only to then tell the customer that the breed was unavailable and try to convince them to purchase a different breed.
*Switching out animals for which consumers paid deposits so that when the customer came in to pick up the animal, they discovered that the original pet was no longer available.

Through an agreement with Attorney General Cuomo’s Office, Worldwide Puppies must pay $35,000 in restitution to known consumers who purchased animals that were deceptively sold, plus $20,000 in penalties, fees, and costs to the state. The company must also keep $10,000 in an escrow account to provide restitution for additional consumers who purchased animals from the Worldwide Puppies within the past 18 months and file a complaint with the Attorney General’s Office within 60 days. Consumers wishing to file a complaint should contact the Nassau Regional Office at 516-248-3300.

New York state’s “Pet Lemon Law” safeguards the public and ensures the humane treatment of dogs and cats by requiring pet dealers to guarantee the good health of any such animal sold by a pet dealer to a consumer. The law protects consumers when a cat or dog is seriously ill, has any congenital malformation that adversely affects the health of the animal, or has symptoms of a contagious or infectious disease. More information about the “Pet Lemon Law” can be found at www.ag.ny.gov/bureaus/consumer_frauds/tips/pet_lemon_law.html.

Attorney General Cuomo urges any consumer who believes they purchased a pet under potentially fraudulent of misleading circumstances to contact his office by calling 800-771-7755 or visiting www.ag.ny.gov.

The Worldwide Puppies case was handled by Assistant Attorney General-in-Charge of the Nassau Regional Office Valerie Singleton, Assistant Attorney General Derrick Robinson and Investigator Paul Matthews.

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