Just when you think it can't get any worse news comes out of Iowa that a major lawsuit has been filed against multiple defendants in a "puppy laundering" case. The term refers to mass produced puppies in so called puppy mills being sold as "rescues" to pet stores by being first routed through a fake rescue. Midwest puppy mill broker JAKS Puppies and its owners Jolyn Noethe and Kimberly Dolphin are the lead defendants that include several phony rescues and transport companies. The plaintiffs are multiple consumers in California that purchased these dogs in pet stores under the assurance that they were from reputable rescues.
Since California's puppy mill retail sales ban came into effect in 2019, the most populous state in the union became impossible for puppy mill operators to profit from. Maryland and Illinois followed in quick suit, implementing their own bans while multiple municipalities took similar action (Boston and Philadelphia). “This demonstrates how far breeders, millers, and brokers will go to disguise their cruel and abhorrent industry to profit from animals’ suffering.” says Animal Legal Defense Fund Executive Director Stephen Wells whose organization filed the class action lawsuits.
The claims are being brought under the federal anti-racketeering statute (RICO) and California consumer protection laws as well as an array of state law claims. The filings claim the defendants created and participated in an illegal scheme intended to deceive regulators and consumers into believing dogs sourced from commercial puppy mills were rescue animals. In essence the puppy mill transferred the dogs to phony rescue organizations they had created in Oregon, Iowa and California. Then the rescues certified the puppies were genuine rescue dogs and sold them as such to unsuspecting pet shops in California. Consumer purchased these dogs feeling assured that they were saving a rescue animal.
If convicted in the class action suit the litany of defendants surely will face bankruptcy. The RICO claims if held up in court could result in substantial prison times as well as financial ruin. But being aware of how unscrupulous and heartless these people are one would not be shocked if in a few years time they reappeared under different names, but always doing their nefarious deeds.
Kudos to the Animal Legal Defense Fund!