State Files Action Against Four "Just Pups" Pet Stores and their Owner for Allegedly Selling Sick Puppies and Other Consumer Fraud Violations
NEWARK – Acting Attorney General Christopher S. Porrino and the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs have filed an action against Just Pups LLC and its owner Vincent LoSacco, alleging that he misled customers about the health of puppies sold from his stores in East Brunswick, East Hanover, Emerson, and Paramus; refused to reimburse customers for puppies that died or required veterinary care; and committed dozens of other consumer protection violations.
“Vincent LoSacco’s alleged deceptive behavior caused his customers to suffer financially and emotionally as they sought expensive veterinary care for the sick puppies he sold them,” said Acting Attorney General Porrino. “This kind of consumer fraud has a devastating effect on pet lovers and will not be tolerated in our state.”
The six-count Complaint, filed in Bergen County Superior Court, alleges that the 50-year-old Emerson resident advertised or otherwise represented that puppies were healthy and up to date with vaccinations, but then sold at least 55 “sick or defective” puppies, and failed to provide refunds or reimbursements for veterinary fees, in violation of the Consumer Fraud Act (CFA), the Pet Protection Act (PPA), the Pet Regulations and the Advertising Regulations.
The alleged violations include:
- Misrepresenting as healthy and selling to consumers puppies suffering from Kennel Cough, Parvo, Bronchitis, and Giardia.
- Refusing to reimburse consumers for money paid for veterinary fees associated with the treatment of the sick dogs.
- Failing to refund the purchase price of an animal that died due to a congenital or hereditary cause within six months of delivery.
- Selling an animal without completed animal history and health certificate.
- Misrepresenting on the Just Pups website that all dogs are up to date with their vaccinations when such was not the case.
- Misrepresenting on the Just Pups website that all puppies are free from adverse health symptoms at the time of sale, when such is not the case.
- Misrepresenting that on the Just Pups website that Just Pups is not related to any other business with the name of Just Pups, when such is not the case.
- Misrepresenting on the Just Pups website that previous complaints against Just Pups were made by one person, when such was not the case.
- Failing to post, in a conspicuous location on the cage or enclosure for each animal, a sign with all required information, such as the date and place of birth.
- Failing to have an animal that was examined more than 14 days prior to purchase reexamined by a veterinarian within 72 hours of delivery.
- Failing to inform buyers of their legal right to recover the purchase price or the veterinary costs for an animal that dies or is deemed unfit for purchase.
“Just Pups and its owner Vincent LoSacco allegedly fooled consumers into buying sick puppies by making blatantly false claims about the health of the animals, and by withholding information consumers needed to make educated choices,” said Steve Lee, Director of the Division of Consumer Affairs. “Families who purchased sick puppies were faced with the heartbreaking choice of paying costly vet fees or losing their pet. The Division intends to hold Just Pups and LoSacco fully accountable for these alleged actions.”
The State’s Complaint seeks to permanently ban LoSacco and Just Pets from advertising or selling animals in New Jersey. It also seeks consumer restitution, civil penalties, and reimbursement of attorneys’ fees and investigative costs. Lo Sacco and Just Pups face civil penalties of up to $10,000 for each of the 32 violations contained in the Complaint.
Following statewide inspections, the Just Pups stores were among 26 pet shops cited for noncompliance with the PPA, which took effect in June 2015.
In the months following the Division’s action, LoSacco came under fire from authorities in the towns where his stores were located. State and local authorities charged him with more than 400 counts of animal cruelty and neglect in connection with his stores in Paramus and East Brunswick, including charges investigators found a gravely ill, emaciated puppy in a cage in the East Brunswick store that later died, and that he left 60 puppies unattended in small crates inside a cold van parked outside his Paramus store in April. LoSacco was also charged with hundreds of health code violations in the two towns, leading to the permanent closure of his stores there. His store in Emerson, which is charged with six health code violations, was closed last week when the local governing body voted unanimously to not issue LoSacco a business license for the upcoming year.
Know Your Rights Before Purchasing a Pet:
New Jersey Consumer Protection Laws, including the Pet Purchase Protection Act:
- Requires that cage labels for every animal contain detailed information about the animal’s background including the name of the breeder and veterinarian who last treated it.
- Forbids the sale of any animal purchased from a breeder or broker who doesn’t hold required state and federal licenses; has violated certain animal welfare laws in the past two years; or has refused to grant inspectors access to its facilities within the past two years.
- Requires that an animal be examined by a veterinarian within five (5) days of being offered for sale and that those results be included in the animal’s history and health certificate.
- Mandates that if an animal was examined more than 14 days before it is purchased, the pet must be re-examined within three (3) days of delivery to the consumer (unless the consumer declines the re-examination in writing).
- Potentially entitles consumers to restitution if an animal becomes seriously ill or dies within 14 days after the date of purchase and a veterinarian certifies within that 14-day period that the animal was unfit for purchase under New Jersey’s Pet Purchase Protection Law. It is the consumer’s responsibility to have the animal examined by a veterinarian and to obtain the written certification.
This certification is required in order to apply for restitution and must be presented to the pet store where the animal was purchased.
- Makes available different types of restitution to consumers.
It is the consumer’s decision regarding the form of
restitution to accept. The restitution choices include returning the animal and receiving a refund or a replacement animal, or keeping the animal and being reimbursed for veterinary fees. After the consumer selects the preferred form of restitution, the pet store must provide the restitution within 10 days.
Consumers can call Consumer Affairs to file complaints against pet stores –
1-800-242-5846 (toll free within N.J.) or
Additional tips can be found in the Division's Consumer Brief on "Purchasing a Pet," available in
English and in
Investigator Donna Leslie of the Division’s Office of Consumer Protection conducted this investigation.
Deputy Attorney General Alina Wells in the Division of Law’s Consumer Fraud Prosecution Section is representing the State in this action.
Consumers who believe they have been cheated or scammed by a business, or suspect any other form of consumer abuse can file an
online complaint with the State Division of Consumer Affairs by visiting its
website or by calling 1-800-242-5846 (toll free within New Jersey) or 973-504- 6200.