The Happiness is Pets chain of pet stores in suburban Chicago, owned by Ronald Berning, has now been targeted in a class action lawsuit for selling sick puppies from puppy mills.
Happiness is Pets sold at least 8 puppies infected with the often-fatal canine distemper disease between November, 2011 and January, 2012. Two dogs have already died. Other puppies purchased have also died, prior to diagnosis. At least six in the stores were euthanized.
As part of the warranty contract, those who buy puppies from the stores must choose from a list of “approved” veterinarians to receive free select health services for their pet. Sick puppies taken to these vets were treated for illnesses other than distemper despite suggestive symptoms, while the disease itself worsened. Once getting a second opinion from a non-listed vet, distemper was immediately diagnosed.
Happiness is Pets boasts that it offers healthy puppies, obtained from “the best private breeders”. Scores of disgruntled customers disagree, having suffered with their pets’ illnesses, congenital defects, surgeries, and subsequent veterinary bills. Many blame early deaths on the lack of quality breeding and care of the puppies sold to them.
Companion Animal Protection Society (CAPS) has thoroughly investigated Happiness is Pets, documenting that the puppies for sale originate from mass breeding operations in the Midwest. These puppy mills have records of violations found during USDA inspections. Both the breeders and the brokers that Happiness is Pets receives their puppies from have reputations for inhumane breeding and care practices.
Dogs in the care of puppy mill operations receive minimal care. Every effort is made to avoid expenses in order to reap the greatest profits – even at the expense of the comfort, health, and quality of life for these dogs. High-standard breeding practices are not followed. Pet stores provide the venues for the sale of the puppies.
Many puppies from these mass breeding operations suffer from illnesses and life-threatening congenital defects. These often result in lifelong debilitating conditions, as well as costly veterinarian care and reduced lifespans. Without proper vaccinations for the mothers, young puppies do not receive initial immunity, making them susceptible to contagious diseases such as distemper.
At six to eight weeks old, the dogs are transported to the stores via vans crammed with stacked, crowded crates. The long, stressful journeys from the mills to the stores result in cages and dogs alike covered in feces and urine. As a highly contagious disease, it is quite likely the distemper was spread from one puppy to another during transport.
CAPS members have held peaceful demonstrations in front of Happiness is Pets stores, with the intent of educating the public on the realities of where these puppies actually come from. On January 29th, outside the Orland Park location, Jonathan Berning (31), son of owner Ron Berning, approached a protester in a threatening manner and was subsequently charged with simple assault.
Source: CAPS PSA, YouTube
So far, six dissatisfied customers are suing Happiness is Pets for fraud, negligent misrepresentation, and breech of implied warranty. Additionally, they want the business to cease its deceptive practices, and seek refunds of purchase price and all medical costs incurred. The number will likely continue to grow as more people come forward about their dogs’ conditions.
The plaintiffs in this class action lawsuit were able to seek legal action with the help of CAPS. If you have purchased a sick dog from Happiness is Pets, fill out the complaint form at Companion Animal Protection Society, then call The Clinton Law Firm at 312-357-1515 or email lawyer Stephanie Capps at firstname.lastname@example.org.