Iowa AG takes out “puppy rings”

DES MOINES — Iowans who operated an alleged puppy laundering ring have agreed to dissolve their “pet rescue” nonprofits, permanently cease deceptive operations, pay the state $60,000, and submit to other restrictions as part of a settlement with Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller. 

Miller had sued two nonprofit rescue groups, a commercial broker and their officers in March 2019, alleging that they had worked together to illegally transfer hundreds of designer puppies through sham Iowa non-profit “rescues” to out-of-state pet shops. The lawsuit accused the defendants of misleading consumers about the true source of the puppies. Miller also alleged the defendants abused their Iowa non-profit status to circumvent state and local laws banning the sale of “puppy mill” dogs.   

The attorney general’s investigation found that the two nonprofits — Hobo K9 Rescue of Britt and Rescue Pets Iowa Corp. of Ottumwa — transferred at least 3,600 dogs to entities in California, Illinois, Florida, Missouri and New Jersey from September 2016 to September 2019. They included Pomeranians, Shar-Peis, Alaskan Malamutes, Poodle-Yorkies and other high-priced purebred and designer breeds. 

The defendants denied the allegations but agreed to the consent judgment.  

Miller’s lawsuit shined a spotlight on “puppy laundering,” the practice of using sham non-profit “rescue” groups to obscure the source of puppies. In some cases, puppy laundering can hide the identities of breeders who may have animal welfare violations or other problems they wish to keep hidden from consumers seeking a puppy. With increasing consumer and government scrutiny into puppy mills, Miller is concerned that others will engage in “puppy laundering” to continue lucrative pet sales.  

“This case was the first of its kind brought by any state attorney general, and this settlement will ensure the defendants never again attempt to evade ‘puppy mill’ bans,” Miller said. “This outcome should send a strong message to others who are thinking about engaging in similar fraudulent activities in Iowa.”   

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