Lawsuit: National puppy laundering ring passed off puppy-mill dogs as rescue animals

Lawsuit: National puppy laundering ring passed off puppy-mill dogs as rescue animals
© Getty Images

Iowa's attorney general has filed a lawsuit claiming that the state is home to a national “puppy laundering” ring that sells puppy-mill dogs under the ruse of adopting rescue animals.

The lawsuit, filed Monday, alleges that the operation carefully avoids the bans on puppy-mill pet sales and tries to sell the animals for as much as $3,600.

"Some are creatively attempting to thwart anti-puppy mill initiatives and consumer protection laws by engaging in the practice of 'puppy laundering' ... the purposeful masking of the genuine source of merchandise puppies from consumers and law enforcement," the lawsuit states.

ADVERTISEMENT

The lawsuit accuses three Iowa businesses and nonprofit groups — Hobo K9 Rescue, JAK’s Puppies and Rescue Pets Iowa — of being part of the operation.

“No matter where they live, consumers should not be misled about the source of the pets they buy,” Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller (D) said in a statement.  "Puppy laundering obscures the identity of breeders who may have animal welfare violations or other problems."

Hobo K9 Rescue, a nonprofit based in rural Iowa, reportedly paid for-profit commercial breeder JAK’s Puppies in exchange for animals provided by puppy mills. Puppy mills notoriously keep animals in dirty and crowded conditions.

The lawsuit notes that the state can’t pinpoint where the puppies come from but believe the animals are bred outside of Iowa.

Hobo K9 allegedly sold nearly 1,300 puppies for $714,510 from 2016 to 2018, according to the lawsuit. All of the dogs were not older dogs that are typically legitimate rescues but puppies.

The nonprofit charged a “pedigree” fee for hundreds of the dogs it found homes for in states like California, Illinois, Florida and New Jersey. None were “re-homed” in Iowa.

"No legitimate charitable rescue’s associated fees to 'adopt' or 're-home' a dog would ever even approach such an extravagant, for-profit sum as $3,599.99," the state argued in the lawsuit.

The puppies were not spayed or neutered before sale, contrary to animal’s veterinarian needs.

Rescue Pets Iowa appears to be mimicking Hobo K9 Rescue’s operations by “brokering and exporting bunches of pure and designer breeds" to out-of-state stores, the lawsuit states.

Most of the individuals and organizations named in the lawsuit could not be reached by The Des Moines Register for comment about the lawsuit. The president of Rescue Pets Iowa declined to comment to the newspaper.