Dow brings suit against pet dealer
TRENTON, N.J. (Legal Newsline) - New Jersey Attorney General Paula Dow and the state Division of Consumer Affairs announced a lawsuit on Thursday seeking injunctive relief against a pet dealer who allegedly sold gravely ill puppies.
Allan Levine of Millstone Township, N.J., and his three businesses allegedly violated the New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act and the Regulations Governing the Sale of Animals by engaging in unconscionable business practices, including failing to have pets properly examined by a veterinarian prior to sale, refusing to provide refunds or reimburse the consumers' veterinary costs, and for failing to truthfully disclose the puppies' health information to the buyers.
The division has received approximately nine complaints against Levine and his businesses, Al's Special Friends, Van Dam Inc., and Allan Levine Inc. The state Superior Court granted the state's request for a temporary restraining order against the businesses on August 5.
"By allegedly selling puppies without disclosing serious health conditions that led some of the dogs to die within days of being welcomed into a home, these defendants demonstrated a level of callousness that is simply unconscionable," Dow said. "New Jersey's pet regulations exist to protect animals as well as consumers. Anyone who seeks to profit by violating them will be held fully accountable to the law."
Dow is seeking restitution for consumers, as well as civil penalties and reimbursement of attorneys' fees and related costs and to have the defendants permanently enjoined from selling animals.
The lawsuit alleges that Levine and his companies sold at least 10 gravely ill or dying puppies to unknowing consumers and then refused to provide refunds or reimburse the consumers' veterinary costs. The consumers viewed and purchased the animals at Levine's home.
The lawsuit further alleges that Levine later altered his business model by casting Allan Levine Inc. as a charitable organization and characterizing payments for animals as charitable "donations." The defendants allegedly freely comingled the "donations" with Levine's own assets in his personal bank account and repeatedly failed to produce any financial records required of charities to the division.
"No matter what defendant Levine wants to call his companies - the conduct alleged in our complaint is nothing less than fraud," Calcagni said.
Under New Jersey's pet regulations, pet dealers must have each animal examined by a licensed veterinarian prior to sale and must provide a complete history and health certificate for each animal sold. Consumers have certain rights if the pet they purchase turns out to be diseased or ill, including being able to return the animal and receive a refund.