Newark - Acting Attorney General John J. Hoffman and the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs have filed suit against Jessica Durkin, d/b/a "Prada Puppies," of Salem, a puppy dealer who allegedly sold sick pets to consumers without providing required veterinary examinations prior to sale, without providing required animal history and health records to consumers, and without providing consumers with refunds or paying the cost of veterinary treatment after the puppies she sold turned out to be sick.
"Families who bring a new puppy into their home will bond with that pet very quickly," Acting Attorney General Hoffman said. "Those who purchased sick puppies from this defendant – including the family that had to have their new pet euthanized – suffered on behalf of their animals and because of the defendant's alleged failure to disclose health information or provide reimbursement for purchase and veterinary costs. We are pursuing full restitution for those consumers."
The State's civil complaint, filed in State Superior Court in Salem County, alleges that Durkin charged between $300 and $450 for the sale of Jack Russell terriers, Cavalier King Charles spaniels, Yorkshire terrier/poodle mixes, and Maltese/poodle mixes. She advertised the puppies on the Prada Puppies website, www.pradapuppies.com, as well as on various dog breeder and dealer websites such as www.qualitydogs.com, www.dogsnow.com, and www.breeders.net, and in the South Jersey Times newspaper.
"Failure to follow New Jersey's laws requiring basic health checks and disclosure to consumers when selling puppies and other pets is harmful to the animals and potentially heartbreaking to the buyers," Division of Consumer Affairs Acting Director Steve Lee said.
As set forth in the State's complaint, filed by the Division of Law on behalf of the Division of Consumer Affairs:
On at least four occasions between November 2012 and January 2013, Durkin violated New Jersey's Consumer Fraud Act and Pet Regulations in connection with the sale of puppies that turned out to be sick and in need of expensive veterinary treatment.
For example, on December 19, 2012, a family purchased a Yorkshire terrier/poodle mix puppy from Durkin. The animal quickly became ill with hypoglycemia, severe diarrhea and anemia, and was nearly comatose when the family brought it to a veterinary clinic five days later. On December 27, 2012, eight days after its purchase, the family decided to euthanize the extremely ill puppy.
In November 2012, a Jack Russell puppy developed a severe cough four days after a family purchased it from Durkin. The family brought the animal to a veterinarian who diagnosed and treated it for bacterial bronchopneumonia.
In January 2013, a family took a Cavalier King Charles puppy for a veterinary exam one day after purchasing it from Durkin. The veterinarian found that the animal was suffering from ear mites, yeast infection of the ears, giardia (a parasite that invades the small intestines) and an upper respiratory infection.
In January 2013, a family brought a Maltese-poodle mix puppy to a veterinarian three days after purchasing it from Durkin, because the puppy exhibited vomiting, diarrhea and extreme head-shaking. The vet determined that the puppy suffered from giardia, coccidia (another parasite that invades the intestines) and ear mites.
Durkin refused to provide refunds on these and other occasions, despite the fact that in each case a veterinarian determined within 14 days of purchase that the animals had been unfit for sale. In such cases, the seller must honor the customer's choice to either return the pet for a full refund plus the payment of veterinary costs, or to keep the pet and receive reimbursement for past and future veterinary costs up to the original purchase price.
On these and other occasions, Durkin also allegedly defrauded consumers by violating other New Jersey laws and regulations regarding pet sales.
For example, Durkin refused to provide the buyers with State-mandated animal history and health certificates that must include, among other things, the name and address of the person from whom the dealer purchased the animal; the breeder's name and address and the animal's litter number; the dates on which the animal was examined by a New Jersey-licensed veterinarian, as well as the findings made and any treatment given; and a list of all vaccinations and inoculations given to the animal.
Durkin also allegedly failed to have pets examined by a New Jersey-licensed veterinarian at least three days prior to sale, as required by law. On various occasions she also vaccinated or inoculated pets herself, without the order of a New Jersey-licensed veterinarian.
The State's complaint alleges that Durkin violated multiple provisions of New Jersey's Consumer Fraud Act and Pet Regulations, and asks the court to order Durkin to pay full consumer restitution as well as civil penalties and reimbursement of the State's investigative costs and attorney's fees.
Deputy Attorney General Alina Wells, of the Consumer Fraud Prosecution Section within the Division of Law, is representing the State in this matter.
Investigator Donna Leslie, of the Division of Consumer Affairs' Office of Consumer Protection, conducted this investigation.
Consumers who believe they have been cheated or scammed by a business, or suspect any other form of consumer abuse, can file a complaint online with the State Division of Consumer Affairs or by calling 1-800-242-5846 (toll free within New Jersey) or 973-504-6200.