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State secures $65k settlement against South Jersey dealer who sold sick puppies

Photo Credit: Cliffview Pilot File Photo

BEYOND BERGEN: A South Jersey puppy dealer who sold sick pets without the required veterinary exams, history and health records or refunds agreed to pay the state $65,634.41 to settle charges against her, Acting Attorney General John J. Hoffman announced this morning.

The settlement requires Jessica Durkin, doing business as Prada Puppies” of Salem, to pay consumer restitution, along with civil penalties and reimbursement for legal and investigative costs.

Five consumers will receive a total of $6,443.72 in restitution for the purchase price and/or veterinary costs incurred for their pets.

In the end, that may be all that Durkin is required to pay: Of the remaining settlement amount, $58,134.41 in civil penalties and cost reimbursements to the state are suspended for a 30-month period and will be vacated if the settlement terms aren’t violated.

“We can’t undo the heartache these consumers suffered when their newly-purchased puppies became sick or had to be euthanized,” Hoffman said this monring, “but this settlement includes business practice reforms to ensure that only healthy pets are offered for sale going forward.”

The settlement prohibits Durkin from:

selling a cat or dog within New Jersey without a history and health certificate containing a 10-point bold-face type “WARNING, ” as required by the Pet Purchase Protection regulations;
failing to maintain a copy of the history and health certificate signed by the consumer for a period of one year following the date of sale;
failing to provide consumers with a “KNOW YOUR RIGHTS” statement detailing prior examinations and a “WAIVER OF REEXAMINATION RIGHTS;”
failing to have purchased cats or dogs examined by a licensed veterinarian at least three days prior to delivery to the consumer;
refusing to refund consumers’ money after selling them a sick or defective cat or dog;
refusing to reimburse consumers’ veterinary fees incurred prior to receipt of the veterinarian certification;
failing to issue to consumers an ”Unfitness of Animal – Election Of Options” form for a cat or dog deemed unfit for purchase; and
failing to notify the Division of Consumer Affairs no later than five days of receipt of the “Unfitness of Animal – Election Of Options” certificate that the status is contested.

Durkin also can’t sell a cat or dog in New Jersey without a history and health certificate containing the name and address of the person from whom she purchased the animal.

The certificate also must have the breeder’s name and address and the litter number, the date that Durkin took possession of the pet and the date or dates on which the cat or dog was examined by a veterinarian — along with the findings made and the treatment, if any, taken or given.

It also must include a listing of all vaccinations or inoculations administered — including the identity and quantity of the vaccine or inoculum administered — and their dates.

Durkin refused to pay the cost of veterinary treatment after the puppies she sold turned out to be sick, among other violations of New Jersey’s Consumer Fraud Act and Pet Regulations, Hoffman said last August after state authorities filed a complaint against her.

She also vaccinated or inoculated pets herself, he said.

Durkin charged between $300 and $450 for the sale of Jack Russell terriers, Cavalier King Charles spaniels, Yorkshire terrier/poodle mixes, and Maltese/poodle mixes, according to the civil complaint.

She advertised the puppies on the Prada Puppies website, www.pradapuppies.com, as well as on various dog breeder and dealer websites such as www.qualitydogs.com, www.dogsnow.com, and www.breeders.net, and in the South Jersey Times newspaper, it says.

The state complaint filed in state Superior Court in Salem County outlines a series of horrible experiences for buyers:

One family purchased a Yorkshire terrier/poodle mix puppy from Durkin in December 2012 who quickly became ill with hypoglycemia, severe diarrhea and anemia — and was nearly comatose when they went to a veterinary clinic five days later. Eight days after the purchase, the family made the decision to euthanize the extremely ill pet.

A Jack Russell puppy developed a severe cough four days after a family purchased it from Durkin in November 2012, state authorities said. The family brought the animal to a veterinarian, who diagnosed and treated it for bacterial bronchopneumonia.

A family took a Cavalier King Charles puppy for a veterinary exam one day after purchasing it from Durkin in January 2013. The veterinarian found that the animal was suffering from ear mites, yeast infection of the ears, giardia (a parasite that invades the small intestines) and an upper respiratory infection.

Also in January 2013, a family brought a Maltese-poodle mix puppy to a veterinarian three days after purchasing it from Durkin, because the puppy exhibited vomiting, diarrhea and extreme head-shaking. The vet determined that the puppy suffered from giardia, coccidia (another parasite that invades the intestines) and ear mites.

Durkin refused to provide refunds on these and other occasions, despite the fact that in each case a veterinarian determined within 14 days of purchase that the animals had been unfit for sale, the state complaint says.

In such cases, the seller must honor the customer’s choice to either return the pet for a full refund plus the payment of veterinary costs, or to keep the pet and receive reimbursement for past and future veterinary costs up to the original purchase price, authoritites said.

According to the complaint, Durkin refused to provide buyers with State-mandated animal history and health certificates that must include, among other things, the name and address of the person from whom the dealer purchased the animal; the breeder’s name and address and the animal’s litter number; the dates on which the animal was examined by a New Jersey-licensed veterinarian, as well as the findings made and any treatment given; and a list of all vaccinations and inoculations given to the animal.

Durkin also failed to have pets examined by a New Jersey-licensed veterinarian at least three days prior to sale, as required by law, it says.

“The Pet Purchase Protection Act and the Pet Purchase Protection regulations require that cats and dogs offered for sale receive an examination from a licensed veterinarian before delivery, as well as disclosure to consumers that this important procedure has been completed,” noted Steve Lee, Acting Director of the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs.

“Any consumer about to buy a pet should review their rights, as well as the seller’s responsibilities, under this law,” Lee said.

Investigator Donna Leslie, of the Division of Consumer Affairs’ Office of Consumer Protection, investigated. Deputy Attorney General Alina Wells, of the Consumer Fraud Prosecution Section within the Division of Law, secured the settlement.

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