Online shopping is a great way to buy holiday gifts, but not when it comes to getting a companion animal. In our latest undercover investigation, released today, Humane Society of the United States investigators and attorneys dug into the world of Internet puppy sellers and found not only the underlying cruelty of puppy mills, but also deceptive sales tactics aimed at making sure that consumers can't resist that adorable photo on the computer screen.
Purebred Breeders LLC, a company based in Florida, is believed to be the largest Internet puppy broker, selling more than 20,000 puppies a year according to a whistleblower who contacted us. The company attracted our attention after we heard heartbreaking complaints about sick and dying puppies arriving by air from all over the country -- puppies covered in feces and urine, many sick with giardia, parvovirus, and upper respiratory infections including pneumonia. (Read some of the complaints.)
What we found led our in-house attorneys to collaborate with the Florida consumer justice law firm Leopold Law to file a lawsuit on behalf of HSUS members and other consumers against Purebred Breeders. The lawsuit alleges that Purebred Breeders uses deceptive advertising to dupe unsuspecting consumers into purchasing dogs from inhumane commercial breeding facilities known as puppy mills. This morning, Lisa Myers of NBC's Today Show aired an exposé with our video footage from our investigation to show how this company reaps enormous profits by misleading the public about the origins and health of the puppies it sells.
Purebred Breeders claims on its websites to use only the most responsible, ethical breeders, and specifically claims to oppose puppy mills, but our investigators found otherwise. We visited six breeders used by the company and found inhumane conditions at all of them. We also discovered that Purebred Breeders maintains about 800 Web domains intended to mislead consumers into believing they are dealing with local breeders -- so, for instance, if you search for boxer puppies in Maryland, the first hit takes you to a PBB website even though you may think you're dealing with a local, Maryland breeder. A dog purchased from PBB can come from any puppy mill in the country.
And the deception goes further. Our whistleblower informed us that when speaking with potential buyers, PBB salespeople are instructed to speak as if they know the puppies and the breeders personally. They are not supposed to reveal that the puppy will be shipped in the cargo area of a plane from the facility, until the deal is sealed.
Purebred Breeders makes most of its profits during the holiday season. Please share our video, the Today Show piece, or Jeff Burnside's NBC Miami piece on the subject with people concerned about the welfare of animals and ask them to share it with others to spread the word. Purebred Breeders has already caused enormous pain and suffering. Let's make sure people stop buying dogs online so that this deceptive company and others cannot continue doing business this way. You can also help by letting federal regulators know how you feel about this.
This post originally appeared on Pacelle's blog, A Humane Nation.
Follow Wayne Pacelle on Twitter: www.twitter.com/humanesociety