Sunday, February 19, 2012

Happiness is Pets Sued for Selling Sick Puppies

The Happiness is Pets chain of pet stores in suburban Chicago, owned by Ronald Berning, has now been targeted in a class action lawsuit for selling sick puppies from puppy mills.
Sick Puppies
Happiness is Pets sold at least 8 puppies infected with the often-fatal canine distemper disease between November, 2011 and January, 2012. Two dogs have already died. Other puppies purchased have also died, prior to diagnosis. At least six in the stores were euthanized.

As part of the warranty contract, those who buy puppies from the stores must choose from a list of "approved" veterinarians to receive free select health services for their pet. Sick puppies taken to these vets were treated for illnesses other than distemper despite suggestive symptoms, while the disease itself worsened. Once getting a second opinion from a non-listed vet, distemper was immediately diagnosed. 

Happiness is Pets boasts that it offers healthy puppies, obtained from "the best private breeders". Scores of disgruntled customers disagree, having suffered with their pets' illnesses, congenital defects, surgeries, and subsequent veterinary bills. Many blame early deaths on the lack of quality breeding and care of the puppies sold to them.

Puppy Mills
Companion Animal Protection Society (CAPS) has thoroughly investigated Happiness is Pets, documenting that the puppies for sale originate from mass breeding operations in the Midwest. These puppy mills have records of violations found during USDA inspections. Both the breeders and the brokers that Happiness is Pets receives their puppies from have reputations for inhumane breeding and care practices. 

Dogs in the care of puppy mill operations receive minimal care. Every effort is made to avoid expenses in order to procure the greatest profits - even at the expense of the comfort, health, and quality of life for these dogs. High-standard breeding practices are not followed. Pet stores provide the venues for the sale of the puppies.

Many puppies from these mass breeding operations suffer from illnesses and life-threatening congenital defects. These often result in lifelong debilitating conditions, as well as costly veterinarian care and reduced lifespans. Without proper vaccinations for the mothers, young puppies do not receive initial immunity, making them susceptible to contagious diseases such as distemper. 

At six to eight weeks old, the dogs are transported to the stores via vans crammed with stacked, crowded crates. The long, stressful journeys from the mills to the stores result in cages and dogs alike covered in feces and urine. As a highly contagious disease, it is quite likely the distemper was spread from one puppy to another during transport.

CAPS members have held peaceful demonstrations in front of Happiness is Pets stores, with the intent of educating the public on the realities of where these puppies actually come from. On January 29th, outside the Orland Park location, Jonathan Berning (31), son of owner Ron Berning, approached a protester in a threatening manner and was subsequently charged with simple assault. 

Source: CAPS PSA, YouTube
Class-Action Lawsuit
So far, six dissatisfied customers are suing Happiness is Pets for fraud, negligent misrepresentation, and breech of implied warranty. Additionally, they want the business to cease its deceptive practices, and seek refunds of purchase price and all medical costs incurred. The number will likely continue to grow as more people come forward about their dogs' conditions.

The plaintiffs in this class action lawsuit were able to seek legal action with the help of CAPS. If you have purchased a sick dog from Happiness is Pets, fill out the complaint form at Companion Animal Protection Society, then call The Clinton Law Firm at 312-357-1515 or email lawyer Stephanie Capps at

"We seek relief for all persons who were misled by Happiness is Pets as to the true health and breeding history of its puppies. This is the essence of the lawsuit" - Stephanie Capps, Attorney.


  1. Good. I'm glad to see people banding together and taking group action when they've been duped. The more activism on the part of ordinary citizens, the more others will get the message about the dangers of buying puppies at pet stores.

  2. Great news. Very good they take that road, I hope they can win the case and who knows maybe also stop Happiness is Pets from selling dogs from brokers and puppy mills all together.

  3. It sure would be better and cheaper if they just did the right thing and not continue to fund those evil puppy mills.

  4. Sounds like that list of "approved" vets should be looked into as well. Whenever I read stories like this, or see stores that still sell pets, I ask myself WHY? Sad :(

  5. One small step for puppykind...I wish we could see an end to puppy mills. Is that too simplistic a thought?

  6. I certainly hope this makes a difference. The law certainly ought to be on the side of the victims.

    I, like GLP, am also disturbed by the negligent (and possibly criminal) actions of the contracted vets. It's just sickening (no pun intended).

  7. Great News! Our local shopping mall "pet store" has recently closed! At any one time, they would have about 20 "puppies" ranging in are from 4 months to 2 years old..selling for exorbitant prices, sitting in tiny cages and never seeing grass. It was a shame! Thank God they are GONE!

  8. This is encouraging news. Let's hope all this dedication and bringing further awareness to the public about the plight of those defenceless puppies, eradicates puppy mills and those who would turn a blind eye to selling those puppies in their shops, once and for all.
    And now to end 'puppy farms' in the UK.
    With respect, Gary

  9. It's so heartbreaking about Puppy Mill dogs. I wish they would just make them illegal already.

  10. That's horrible!! Stores that sell puppies should be illegal around the world!!

  11. Love to see this blog floating around again! Update - the lawsuit is slowly making its' way through the court system. Shut em down!


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