Naperville attorney says Happiness Is Pets lawsuit has ‘no merit’
BY BILL BIRD firstname.lastname@example.org February 17, 2012 6:36PM
Updated: March 13, 2012 11:03AM
The lawyer representing the owners of the Happiness Is Pets retail chain said Friday a class-action lawsuit filed against the company “has no merit.”
A half-dozen dog owners have initiated litigation, alleging the chain sells ailing, disease-prone animals obtained from squalid puppy mills.
Visibly sick and distressed puppies have been driven to the company’s stores inside crowded vans, packed into crates and covered in feces and urine, according to the lawsuit filed in Cook County Circuit Court in Chicago.
Store employees duped customers, the lawsuit claims, by assuring them the animals came exclusively from reputable breeders.
“In fact, the puppies at (Happiness Is Pets) are often sick, and come from some of the most despicable and horrendous puppy mills in the Midwest,” the lawsuit claims. The plaintiffs claim to have been “deceived into buying sick puppy-mill puppies.”
An observer at one puppy mill that allegedly supplied dogs to the stores saw what is described in the suit as “a burn pile of puppies.”
Naperville attorney David Fish represents Ronald Berning, a member of the family that owns the 25-year-old chain. Fish late Friday said the litigation was baseless.
“We’re confident the lawsuit will be dismissed,” Fish said. “It has no merit.”
Fish noted Ronald Berning was appointed to an Illinois Senate joint-resolution task force by the director of the Illinois Department of Agriculture. That agency oversees pet shops here.
The task force’s work was “specifically related to disclosure of the origin and health of puppies that are for sale at pet stores,” Fish said.
That means Berning “has really been instrumental in creating the laws” that protect store-sold puppies, Fish said. He added members of the Berning family “care about issues like this.”
Fish also said a health warranty is issued by Happiness Is Pets for every puppy the chain sells. “So they really do stand behind their puppies,” he said.
The company’s website indicated Happiness Is Pets operates five shops in Arlington Heights, Downers Grove, Lombard, Naperville and Orland Park.
Its stores sell only puppies — more than 50 breeds, from beagles and Yorkie-poos to pugs and cockapoos, according to the website. The company has been “providing the Chicago area with healthy, happy puppies for over 20 years,” it indicated.
“We take pride in dealing exclusively with the best private breeders throughout the Midwest,” the website stated. “A full 50 percent of our business comes from satisfied customers and referrals.”
But the lawsuit contends the plaintiffs have suffered emotionally and financially, as they were frequently forced to take their ill puppies to veterinarians. They are seeking compensation for their losses, along with punitive damages.
Happiness Is Pets sought to conceal the poor condition of puppies, the lawsuit asserts, by having staff carefully groom and deworm them, and also by administering antibiotics that mask underlying ailments.
The Associated Press
contributed to this report.