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Pet store chain faces fraud allegations in AG suit

Pet store chain faces fraud allegations in AG suit

Judge orders stores to stop taking in new puppies, requires more documentation of any future sales

ALBANY -- The owners of The Pet Zone chain have been accused of illegally selling puppies from mall-based stores.

The lawsuit -- filed by Acting Attorney General Barbara D. Underwood -- claims the puppies were sold without necessary veterinarian exams and were improperly medicated.

Underwood also accuses the owners, Theodore and Sheila Bell, of falsifying records to avoid detection.

Locally, The Pet Zone operates stores at Crossgates Mall in Guilderland and at Aviation Mall in Queensbury, though it also has locations in Watertown and Poughkeepsie, according to a press release from the AG's office.

Specifically, the lawsuit alleges The Pet Zone sold puppies to consumers without first having the dogs examined by a veterinarian, as is required by law. The business also failed to notify consumers when the puppies they purchased received necessary presale medical treatment and violated the pet Lemon Law by failing to provide timely reimbursement for veterinarian expenses consumers incurred after purchasing sick dogs from the stores, according to the AG's office.

Supreme Court Justice James P. McClusky issued a temporary restraining order on Wednesday, prohibiting The Pet Zone from obtaining any new dogs for sale and placing additional oversight on the sale of puppies currently in their stores, while the lawsuit is pending. 

Additionally, Underwood is seeking to permanently bar The Pet Zone and its owners from ever operating a business that sells live animals in New York, as well as to obtain restitution for aggrieved consumers and significant penalties.

“Pet dealers have a legal and moral responsibility to provide proper treatment to the animals in their care, and consumers deserve to have confidence that the pets they purchase are certifiably healthy,” Underwood said, in a prepared statement. 

While the pet stores will be permitted to sell the puppies already in their stores, Justice McClusky ordered the company to provide the court and the AG's office with sworn statements and documentation attesting under penalty of contempt that the puppies sold were properly examined and medications were properly disclosed to the consumers.

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