Aiexpress – A woman has come forward with allegations against Puppyland, a retail pet store based in Puyallup. According to her, she was coerced into purchasing a sick puppy from the store, which unfortunately passed away shortly after she brought it home. As a result, not only did she have to deal with the loss of the puppy, but she also found herself burdened with a high-interest loan and faced with aggressive collection tactics.
Powell Rattanavong filed a lawsuit against Puppyland, its owners, Cross River Bank, and loan-servicing company LendingUSA in Pierce County Superior Court on January 10, according to court records.
Upon arriving home, the puppy seemed to lack its usual vitality and energy. It appeared tired and was observed to be breathing heavily while sleeping, according to the lawsuit.
According to the complaint, the puppy was playing with one of Ms. Rattanavong’s children when both of them fell. Unfortunately, the puppy did not recover from the fall and succumbed to lung failure a few days later. The complaint emphasizes that it is unusual for a “healthy” puppy to die as a result of a minor fall while playing with small children.
According to the complaint, Rattanavong, who was receiving Medicaid and undergoing chemotherapy for cancer treatment, visited the store in July with her children for therapeutic reasons, as suggested by her fiancé. While there, she was convinced to fill out a loan application just to check if she was eligible. Surprisingly, she qualified and ended up purchasing a puppy that she adored, even though she was aware that she couldn’t afford the $6,800 price tag.
Puppyland, which has faced scrutiny from the state Attorney General’s Office, denied any wrongdoing in a statement provided to The News Tribune.
“We offer our sincere condolences to the Rattanavong family for the heartbreaking loss of their beloved puppy,” expressed Kayla Kerr, the owner of Puppyland, in an email. “Having personally experienced our own challenges, including my mother’s courageous battle with cancer, we empathize with the pain and hardship they are enduring.”
Kerr challenged the explanation surrounding the puppy’s unexpected demise.
“We take the health and well-being of our puppies seriously here at Puppyland,” Kerr emphasized. “Every puppy goes through extensive vet examinations to ensure their overall health and quality. Additionally, we provide health warranties to offer post-sale support for our customers.” However, it’s important to note that our guarantees do not cover accidents, such as the unfortunate incident involving Ms. Rattanavong’s child falling with or on their puppy.”
The attorney representing Rattanavong in the lawsuit did not respond to requests for comment. We were unable to reach out to LendingUSA and Cross River Bank for their input.
According to the lawsuit, Rattanavong made every effort to stay on top of her loan payments and asked LendingUSA to consider either forgiving the loan or pausing payments until she completed her chemotherapy treatment. However, the company was reportedly uncooperative and resorted to aggressive collection tactics. They would call her numerous times throughout the day and even reach out to her sister.
Cross River Bank is facing allegations of presenting conflicting interest rates on its documentation – 25.9% and 29.9% – which led to confusion for Rattanavong in determining the loan’s default rate. The lawsuit also targeted the bank for providing loans to merchants like Puppyland and for utilizing LendingUSA as a loan servicer.
The court was asked to nullify Rattanavong’s loan and compel Cross River Bank to cancel and reimburse all loans taken by Washingtonians to buy puppies at Puppyland.
The lawsuit alleges that Defendants persist in the profitable business of selling overpriced and unhealthy puppies through high-interest loans, despite facing consumer, regulatory, and state scrutiny. It is believed and therefore asserted by the Plaintiff that the Defendants employ coercion and aggressive loan collection tactics to further their business interests.
The state Attorney General’s Office filed a lawsuit against Puppyland and its owners in April. The lawsuit alleges that Puppyland failed to honor advertised health guarantees and directed customers into predatory loans with illegal terms that restricted truthful reviews. This information was stated in a previous statement from the office.
Puppyland, a company that started its operations in Washington in 2018 and currently has stores in three other states, including Puyallup, has faced allegations of preventing customers from sharing their feedback publicly. To achieve this, they included a non-disclosure provision in their purchase paperwork, which threatened legal action against customers if they spoke negatively about the store.
According to records from the King County Superior Court, the case is still ongoing.
In June 2022, the Pierce County Council implemented comprehensive measures to protect dogs sold in pet stores and their purchasers. These measures included the requirement for stores to source dogs from state-licensed organizations that adhere to the stricter dog-breeding laws of Washington state. The bill, which specifically targeted Puppyland as the only store selling puppies in the county, was prompted by concerns raised by various organizations. Councilwoman Jani Hitchen had expressed her concerns about the store.
According to a review of the county Auditor’s Office reports, which are available online, no violations of state or county code were found during the monthly inspections conducted at Puppyland last year.
Two months prior to Rattanavong’s purchase of her puppy, Governor Jay Inslee passed House Bill 1424, a law aimed at eliminating commercial dog-breeding facilities, also known as “puppy mills.” One of the provisions of this bill made it unlawful for pet stores in Washington state to provide financing options.
Rattanavong’s purchase was made a few weeks before HB 1424 came into effect.
The lawsuit is requesting unspecified damages, as well as legal fees, and an injunction against Puppyland. The injunction would require the company to make significant changes to its practices and procedures regarding the welfare of the animals it sells. Additionally, Puppyland would be subjected to supervision and routine audits by the state Department of Agriculture. The lawsuit also aims to put an end to any “puppy mill” conduct that Puppyland may be engaging in.
“We want to make it clear that Puppyland strongly denies any involvement in ‘puppy mill conduct,’ and we firmly believe that Ms. Rattanavong’s accusations are unfounded,” Kerr stated. “We are dedicated to maintaining exemplary standards in our operations.”