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Iowa sues to shut down national puppy laundering ring

Posted at 11:21 AM, Mar 19, 2019
and last updated 2019-03-19 22:53:25-04

(AP/KSBY) – The Iowa Attorney General’s Office is suing to shut down what it describes as a national puppy laundering ring that sells dogs from illegal breeding operations at inflated prices.

The office said in a news release that puppy laundering is the use of nonprofit rescue groups to obscure the source of dogs, deceive consumers and circumvent “puppy mill” bans.

It says it filed a lawsuit Monday against breeder J.A.K.’s Puppies, and nonprofits Hobo K9 Rescue and Rescue Pets Iowa Corp. The lawsuit also alleges four ringleaders violated Iowa’s consumer fraud act.

The state is seeking $40,000 in fines per violation, plus reimbursement to defrauded customers.

It says the operations sold almost 1,300 animals in California, Illinois, Florida and New Jersey for more than $700,000.

Rescue Pets Iowa is also named in a lawsuit filed in San Luis Obispo County, along with Bark Adoptions and Animal Kingdom Pet shop, which has locations in Pismo Beach, Grover Beach, and Santa Maria.

The lawsuit claims Rescue Pets Iowa is a puppy mill that supplies puppies to Bark Adoptions, which is located in Southern California, thereby violating California’s ban on puppy mills.

A new California law that went into effect in January allows pet stores to sell dogs, cats and rabbits only if they’re from a rescue organization or shelter.

A KSBY News investigation found that Animal Kingdom receives some of its dogs from Bark Adoptions. San Luis Obispo County Animal Services ordered Animal Kingdom to provide documentation proving Bark Adoption’s 501 C-3 nonprofit status. Animal Services said it received those documents earlier this month and can now confirm the organization has the 501 C-3 status.

Dr. Eric Anderson, San Luis Obispo County Animal Services Manager, told KSBY, “The lawsuit may point to increasing questions and concerns over the legitimacy of Bark Adoptions, Rescue Iowa and other named groups as true rescue organizations. It does not, at this point, indicate or establish any local business as being in violation of state law and it does not invalidate the 501 C-3 status of those organizations.”

Under the new law, California pet stores that can not prove they’re working with a legitimate nonprofit could be fined $500 per dog.

We reached out to the IRS to see if they have been looking over the 501 C-3 filings of rescue organizations more closely since the state laws have changed but have not yet heard back.