If the latest lawsuit against Barkworks proves anything, it's that the Southern California pet store chain needs to do a better job of weeding out the animal activists from the puppy-buying public. Because those folks are now plaintiffs in a new lawsuit filed in Orange County Superior Court that alleges Barkworks engaged in false advertising when it sold them "pure-bred" dogs that were actually "churned out" of puppy mills.
Barkworks, which has a store in Brea and others in Ventura, Riverside and Los Angeles counties, has been picketed and sued by animal activists for years for allegedly selling dogs bred at puppy mills, the derisive nickname for large-scale commercial breeding facilities.
The chain and individual stores have vehemently denied these allegations in the past, claiming they only get pure breds from "USDA-licensed reputable breeders." Banners have even been hung over store entrances proclaiming that the pooches inside do not come from puppy mills.
But despite the denials, puppy protectors have taken credit for the closures of several Barkworks stores. Plaintiffs in the current suit are SoCal members of the national nonprofit Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) who claim to have "paid upwards of thousands of dollars for 'pure-bred' puppies" that in reality were not.
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Barkworks violated California state business practices and defrauded consumers by misrepresenting the care and origin of their puppies and by not ensuring veterinary care and rehabilitation of the dogs, the ALDF alleges. The group points to litigation against Barkworks in 2011 that resulted in promises by the pet store chain "to correct its practice of misinformation about the health and welfare of dogs in their stores."
"Today's lawsuit stands up for puppies," says Stephen Wells, the ALDF executive director. "Barkworks has deceived consumers for years about the horrific conditions suffered by the innocent puppies they buy, sell, and profit from. Dog lovers have a right to the truth."
Ken Horner, the CEO of Barkworks, could not be reached for comment.