Attorney General James Secures Relief for Consumers Who Were Tricked Into Purchasing Sick Pets
The Pet Zone Provided Incomplete Medical Records for Pets to Hide Past Illnesses
Company to Pay up to $200,000 to Eligible Consumers for Medical Costs
New York Attorney General Letitia James today reached an agreement with Bell Pet Company, LLC (Bell Pet), which does business as The Pet Zone, and its owners for misleading consumers about the health of the pets they sold to New Yorkers. Today’s agreement requires Bell Pet to pay a civil penalty and create a restitution fund of up to $200,000 to reimburse eligible consumers for medical costs. The Pet Zone, which has stores in Albany, Poughkeepsie, Watertown, and Queensbury, misled customers about the health of the pets they purchased by providing incomplete medical records.
“Deceiving families into buying sick puppies and kittens is not only cruel, it’s illegal,” said Attorney General James. “The Pet Zone turned a happy moment of bringing home a new pet into misery for pet owners when they discovered that their pet was sick and that they had to pay expensive medical bills to help them recover. This agreement will ensure that no one is deceived about the health of a pet they bring home. I encourage any individual who purchased a pet from The Pet Zone and was misled about their health to file a claim for reimbursement.”
The Office of the Attorney General (OAG) found that The Pet Zone provided consumers with deceptive medical records that did not include a full list of medication provided to the pet to hide previous illnesses. The Pet Zone offered consumers an online tracking system called “PetKey,” which the defendants claimed included a full list of all the medication provided to the pet prior to purchase. The OAG found that on several occasions, PetKey failed to list medications, including antibiotics, provided to pets and once the pets were brought home, they became sick.
Today’s agreement requires The Pet Zone to create a restitution fund of up to $200,000 to reimburse eligible consumers who purchased pets in or after January 2014 and within 14 days of purchase received a certification from a vet that their pet was sick and should have been unfit for sale. Eligible consumers will be reimbursed for their veterinary costs related to the vet’s certification and treatment for the illness up to the total cost of the pet, including tax. The fund will be available to any qualifying consumers for 12 months. In addition, The Pet Zone must pay $2,500 in penalties to the state.
As part of the settlement, within the next 30 days, the Pet Zone will be required to post informationabout submitting claims for anyone who believes they may be eligible to seek reimbursement. In the interim, if New Yorkers have questions about this settlement, they are encouraged to contact the OAG Watertown Regional office at (315) 523-6080.
The agreement also requires The Pet Zone to ensure that every pet has been examined by a licensed vet and has received all the vaccinations as required by state and local law with accurate and complete records provided to consumers. Additionally, The Pet Zone is required to train its employees and visibly alert consumers to the requirements of the Pet Lemon Law. The Pet Zone must identify a corporate point of contact for all Pet Lemon Law claims.
“I applaud Attorney General Letitia James for her efforts to hold The Pet Zone accountable for misleading customers about the health records of the pets they were selling,” said State Senator Neil Breslin. “Bringing a pet home is supposed to be an exciting time for any person or family. Misleading consumers about the health of the pets they were purchasing is unconscionable, and I am glad that The Pet Zone is facing the consequences of their actions.”
“I thank Attorney General Letitia James for again protecting New York consumers and ensuring customers who purchased or bought their pets at the Pet Zone and later discovered undisclosed medical conditions will have the opportunity to seek reimbursement,” said Assemblymember Patricia Fahy. “Just as New York acted to end the retail sale of pets, dogs, and rabbits this year in retail pet stores, we will continue to hold this industry accountable where necessary. Remember: adopt, don’t shop.”
“Instead of getting these defenseless pets the proper medical care that they needed, Bell Pet put profits ahead of morals by passing the buck to unknowing consumers. Not only does this type of greedy behavior endanger animals who may not get necessary medications, but it is also another unfair cost that many hardworking families simply cannot afford,” said Albany County Executive Daniel P. McCoy. “While I’m happy we have the Pet Lemon Law on the books to protect dogs and cats, I’m even happier that we have a fighter like Attorney General James to enforce these regulations and hold bad actors accountable.”
“When our neighbors purchase a pet, they are hoping to bring love and joy to their family, yet these families were instead saddled with unexpected medical bills and the misplaced guilt associated with thinking they did something wrong to make the pet sick,” said Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan. “It is despicable that anyone would sell sick pets, especially when it is a pet store with multiple locations across our state. Thank you, Attorney General James, for holding these despicable organizations accountable, and helping our neighbors who were targeted by their malicious business practices.”
“We thank the Attorney General’s Office for their efforts to protect the consumers of New York state,” said Warren County Administrator John Taflan.
“Poughkeepsie families, and all New Yorkers, deserve to know that when they purchase a pet and bring a new companion animal into their lives, that new member of the family is healthy,” said Town of Poughkeepsie Supervisor Jon Jay Baisley. “Unexpected vet bills cause real harm to family finances, but they pale in comparison to the emotional toll having a sick pet takes on children and families. I thank Attorney General James for standing up for New York families and ensuring they can again have trust that the animals they buy are healthy and safe.”
This agreement builds on Attorney General James’ past efforts to protect New York consumers and companion animals. In December 2021, Attorney General James filed a lawsuit against pet store Shake A Paw for unlawfully selling numerous sick or injured puppies to unaware consumers at both of its Long Island locations. Attorney General James also successfully secured a court order protecting puppies at both Shake A Paw locations. This past December, New York state took action to further protect companion animals when Governor Hochul signed legislation seeking to end the puppy mill-to-pet store pipeline and stop abusive breeders.
This case was handled by Assistant Attorney General Julia Toce of the Watertown Regional Office with investigative assistance from Supervising Investigator Chad Shelmidine of the Watertown Regional Office. The Watertown Regional Office is led by Assistant Attorney General in Charge Deanna R. Nelson and is a part of the Division of Regional Affairs, which is led by Deputy Attorney General for Regional Affairs Jill Faber. The Division of Regional Affairs is overseen by First Deputy Attorney General Jennifer Levy.