New York Attorney General Letitia James last week announced a settlement with the owner of a Westchester pet store that was falsely advertising and claiming that it specialized in the sale of high quality, responsibly-bred animals.
Pursuant to the settlement, Deborah Koehler, owner of Westchester Puppies & Kittens in Hartsdale, is prohibited from making false representations about the quality of the breeders and kennels from which she obtains animals for sale. She will pay a civil penalty of $7,500.
The store sold animals that were bred at large-scale commercial “mills,” according to the Attorney General’s office.
“Deceptive marketing and advertising will never be tolerated, including for the sale of animals,” said Attorney General Letitia James. “Not only were consumers lied to about the origins of their pets, but also the health and wellness of the beloved animals they were bringing into their homes. We will continue to crackdown on any and every abuse of animals.”
Westchester Puppies & Kittens operates a retail pet store at 26 S. Central Ave. in Hartsdale. The store advertised on its website and on social media that it sells “home-raised” animals and only deals with “certified breeders.” The store’s website stated “Our puppies and kittens are home-raised and responsibly-bred for temperament and good congenital health.” It also stated that Westchester Puppies & Kittens “specializes in the sale of healthy puppies and kittens from certified breeders.”
The Office of the Attorney General initiated an investigation in 2018 after receiving numerous complaints from consumers who purchased pets from Westchester Puppies & Kittens that required treatment for illnesses commonly associated with animals bred at puppy mills, such as kennel cough, giardia, distemper and parvovirus.
The office’s investigation found that Westchester Puppies & Kittens acquired the animals it sold to the public from commercial breeders and puppy mills, not from “certified breeders” or those who “home-raise” animals. One breeder from which Westchester Puppies & Kittens acquired animals – Kuddly Kritters of Atkins, Neb. – has been repeatedly cited by USDA inspectors for poor and unsanitary conditions in its breeding operations.
The Attorney General’s investigation also found that employees of Westchester Puppies & Kittens made false representations to customers about the breeding of the animals for sale, leading them to believe that they would be purchasing a healthier animal than from any other pet dealer.
During the course of the investigation, Westchester Puppies & Kittens removed from its website and social media false and deceptive language about the breeding of animals its sells. The store no longer claims that it sells animals that are “home raised” and obtained from “certified breeders.” It has also instructed its employees not to make such claims. The settlement ensures that these practices will be followed going forward.
The settlement is the latest in the Attorney General’s ongoing Animal Protection Initiative, which was launched in May 2013. The initiative seeks to protect consumers and animals by cracking down on animal cruelty, shutting down criminal animal fighting rings and bringing to justice those who unscrupulously sell animals to unsuspecting consumers. The initiative is comprised of investigators and assistant attorneys general from around the state, regional offices, the Consumer Fraud Bureau, the Criminal Enforcement and Financial Crimes Bureau, the Organized Crime Task Force and the Investigations Bureau.