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A.G. Schneiderman Demands Pet Store Chain Stop Illegally Denying Reimbursement To Customers Sold Very Ill Dogs

News from Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 20, 2017

New York City Press Office / 212-416-8060
Albany Press Office / 518-776-2427
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A.G. SCHNEIDERMAN DEMANDS PET STORE CHAIN STOP ILLEGALLY DENYING REIMBURSEMENT TO CUSTOMERS SOLD VERY ILL DOGS

The Pet Zone Was Served Cease And Desist Letter To Stop Outsourcing Of Obligations To Reimburse Consumers Who Were Sold Sick Dogs

Schneiderman Urges Consumers to Adopt, Not Shop, When Choosing A Family Pet

WATERTOWN – Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today announced that his office has issued a cease and desist letter to Bell Pet Company, LLC, which owns a chain of pet stores with locations in Watertown, Albany, Poughkeepsie, and Queensbury, known as The Pet Zone. The letter demands that the company stop illegally denying reimbursement or refunds to customers who have attempted to enforce their rights under the state’s Pet Lemon Law when the dogs they purchased from the stores became ill and were certified as “unfit for sale” by their veterinarians.

"New Yorkers have rights when it comes to the pets they purchase," said Attorney General Schneiderman. "My office is committed to ensuring all New Yorkers are protected – whether it's families that purchase a pet, or animals that deserve humane treatment. I urge those seeking a new pet to adopt from a local shelter, rather than purchasing an animal. This gives an animal in need a home, and gives the consumer the peace of mind that they are receiving a healthy pet.”

As part of an ongoing investigation, the Attorney General’s office has received numerous complaints from consumers that purchased dogs from The Pet Zone that immediately exhibited signs of severe illnesses or congenital defects. Consumers then followed the requirements of the Pet Lemon Law and presented The Pet Zone with veterinarian certifications that the pet was “unfit” for sale, seeking reimbursement from the store for the expenses. Rather than comply with the law, The Pet Zone instructed consumers to file claims with third party insurance or warranty companies. The investigation has shown that reimbursement through these channels is not overseen by the stores and can take up to 60 days for consumers to receive their money, if ever.

In New York, the Pet Lemon Law is designed to safeguard the public and ensure the humane treatment of dogs and cats by requiring pet dealers to guarantee the good health of the animals they sell. When pet dealers sell a pet that a veterinarian certifies was “unfit for sale” within 14 days of the purchase, the consumer is entitled to a refund, reimbursement for reasonable veterinarian expenses up to the cost of the pet, or a replacement animal. The law requires dealers to provide the refund or reimbursement within ten business days of receiving the certification.

Attorney General Schneiderman remains committed to protecting all who reside in New York, including animals. To that end, in May 2013, he announced his office’s Animal Protection Initiative, which is aimed at shutting down criminal animal fighting rings, charging those who abuse or neglect animals, cracking down on the abuses of so-called “puppy mills” in order to protect both consumers and the welfare of the animals being sold, and as was the case here, ensuring compliance with the Pet Lemon Law. Just last month, he announced the arrests of 43 individuals after the bust of a Herkimer County-based cockfighting ring. The raid resulted in the seizure of over 50 birds, which were then turned over to the local Humane Society.

Consumers with complaints against The Pet Zone are urged to contact Attorney General Schneiderman’s Watertown Regional Office at 315-523-6080. General consumer complaints can be filed here.

The investigation was conducted by Investigator Chad Shelmidine. The Investigations Division is led by Chief Investigator Dominick Zarrella.

This case is being handled by Assistant Attorney General Alicia M. Lendon, under the supervision of Assistant Attorney General In Charge Deanna R. Nelson, both of the Watertown Regional Office. The Division of Regional Affairs is led by Executive Deputy Attorney General Marty Mack.