Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Selling Defective Puppies? Local Pet Store Sued for Consumer Protection Violations

Selling Defective Puppies? Local Pet Store Sued for Consumer Protection Violations
The term “product defect” usually brings to mind vehicles breaking down or problems with packaging. But could a company get into regulatory trouble for selling defective puppies? A recent lawsuit against a pet shop owner in Novi, Michigan tests the limits of Michigan’s Consumer Protection Act.

Defective Puppies Were Sick and Contagious, Lawsuit Says

When you bring home a new puppy from the breeder or pet store, it’s supposed to be a happy event. When adopting a new four-legged family member you expect that the pet store did its work to make sure the animal is healthy and will make a long-term addition to your household. That’s especially true when the pet store owner or workers give you a written promise of health, welfare, and origin.

But that wasn’t true for one local pet store, says a recent lawsuit filed in Oakland County Circuit Court. The plaintiff buyers say the pet store sold them defective puppies that suffered from genetic defects and contagious diseases costing the families thousands of dollars in veterinary bills. Some of the plaintiffs even claim they had to put down their other family pets when they caught infections from the defective puppies. They sued the pet shop for breach of contract, fraud, and violations of the Michigan Consumer Protection Act for misrepresentations related to the sale of defective products.

Can a Puppy Be a Defective Product?

Pets may feel like part of the family, but there is no legal difference between the puppy you adopt and the dog food you feed it – they are both considered “goods” and “products” under Michigan law. That means that a puppy can be defective if it does not live up to express promises and implied warranties connected to the sale of those products. In the case of the product defect lawsuit against the pet store, the plaintiffs say the defendant had promised or implied that each dog:
  • Had been vaccinated by a veterinarian
  • Had passed a health inspection by a veterinarian
  • Was free of parasites, worms, diseases, and genetic defects
  • Was fit for its purpose as a companion animal
  • Was in sound physical condition
The lawsuit said that the defective puppies were not their stated ages, and were sold with intestinal parasites, worms, genetic defects, and contagious diseases, including Parvo. But when the pet owners asked the defendant to fix the defects by paying vet bills or replacing the puppies, the pet store is said to have refused.

Suing to Fix Defective Puppies

If there were problems with a pet purchased from the pet store, the contract signed stated and Michigan law implied that the pet store would correct the defects within a reasonable time or replace the dogs without cost to the pet owners.

The lawsuit asked the Oakland County Circuit Court to:
  • Declare the puppies were defective
  • Prevent the pet store from selling animals while the lawsuit goes forward
  • Require the pet store to pay for veterinary care to cure the diseases
  • Require the pet store to replace the defective animals
  • Award the plaintiffs money damages, costs, and reasonable attorney fees
For its part, the Novi-based pet store denies that it uses puppy mills or sold any sick puppies. The lawsuit has been referred to mediation, so the parties can try to resolve the dispute. 

The Michigan Consumer Protection Act is designed to protect consumers, no matter what the good or product. When it comes to defective puppies, the law is designed to make pet store owners live up to their promises and resolve problems with the health and fitness of pets present at the time of sale. Purchasing a sick animal can end up costing pet owners thousands of dollars in veterinary bills, not to mention the emotional strain. They need to know that pet store owners will be held to the terms of their contracts and the law to correct the problems they create.

Dani K. Liblang is a consumer protection attorney and dog lover at The Liblang Law Firm, PC, in Birmingham, Michigan. She helps consumers who purchase defective products get the remedies they deserve. If you purchased a defective puppy, contact the Liblang Law Firm, PC, for a consultation.

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