A Nassau County judge has overturned a ban on Shake A Paw stores from selling new puppies at the company’s Lynbrook and Hicksville locations. State Attorney General Letitia James had levied the ban in December, accusing the businesses of knowingly selling sick dogs.
The ruling, issued on Friday by Nassau Supreme Court Justice Helen Voutsina, ended a three-month ban on the stores from purchasing new animals for resale. The decision comes at a price, however: Shake A Paw must pay a $250,000 bond, agree to purchase animals from breeders licensed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, provide James’s office with a list of breeders it buys from, and have an independent veterinarian examine each dog.
“The temporary restraining order.… must be modified to permit respondents to continue to operate their business, including to permit them to purchase and sell puppies,” Voutsinas wrote in her decision.
She dismissed a claim that puppies were not handled humanely at Shake A Paw. but she let stand claims that the company operated fraudulently, engaged in deceptive business practices, and falsely advertised its product, which was “likely to mislead a reasonable consumer.” Voutsinas added that a hearing would be necessary to resolve the remaining charges.
At a March hearing, attorney Richard Hamburger defended Shake A Paw against 19 consumer complaints that James’s office had gathered over a six-year period, and two veterinarians also testified. One, who was appointed by the court, said he examined 220 puppies and found that only six were unhealthy, while the others were fit for sale, a success rate of 97.2 percent.
“Justice Voutsinas’s decision is vindication for Shake A Paw,” Hamburger said in a statement. “The court recognized that Shake A Paw’s business was being destroyed by the reckless and unjustified demands of the attorney general to block the purchase of puppies for resale.”
Shake A Paw Vice President Marc Jacobs said his businesses have helped to satisfy more than 80,000 customers by uniting them with new dogs throughout their 28-year history, and that the state’s Department of Agriculture and Markets has consistently found its two stores to be in compliance during unannounced inspections.
“Shake A Paw only acquires puppies from licensed and lawful breeders,” Jacobs said in a statement, “and has never knowingly sold a sick puppy.
“As required by law and in accordance with the owner’s wishes, on the rare occasion when a sold puppy has taken ill, Shake A Paw has reimbursed veterinary bills up to the sales price, given a full refund, or exchanged the puppy for another.”
James’s suit described the source of Shake a Paw’s animals as puppy mills, although customers were told that the dogs were from legitimate breeders. Many of the puppies had been afflicted with serious health issues, including pneumonia, breathing problems, infections and congenital defects, James claimed. Several had parasites.
Some customers told James that certain issues were kept hidden from them while health certificates were doctored to advertise healthy dogs.
At least nine dogs sold by Shake a Paw “died soon after sale” from various ailments, according to the suit, while a number of customers paid for “hundreds of dollars of unnecessary additional goods and services” — sometimes thousands of dollars.
Several owners claimed they had to quickly take their new dogs to the vet, racking up bills they say Shake a Paw refused to reimburse.
“Shake A Paw must be held accountable for all the pain they caused countless families who bought sick puppies from their stores,” James said in a statement. “Overwhelming evidence shows that Shake A Paw’s business practices were unconscionable and illegal. We will continue to fight to protect these puppies and New York consumers. New Yorkers deserve relief for being misled and we are determined to provide it to them.”