A Bellmore pet store has been selling pricey but sick puppies to unsuspecting families and now must pay back its victims under an agreement reached with the state attorney general's office.
Customers of Worldwide Puppies and Kittens complained they spent an average of $1,500 to $2,500 for the purebred puppies - only to find out after the purchase that many of the dogs had severe illnesses that needed expensive treatment, Attorney General Andrew Cuomo's office said.
"In a series of outrageous and cruel deceptions, this company lied to customers who thought they were buying healthy pets to bring into their families' homes and lives," Cuomo said in a statement. "Instead, those customers suffered not only the heartbreak of watching an animal suffer, but also thousands of dollars in veterinary bills."
The store also didn't provide pedigree and registration papers and engaged in bait-and-switch tactics, changing dogs on customers who had made deposits on specific animals, the attorney general said. Most complaints were about puppy sales, but a few involved kittens.
Worldwide Puppies and Kittens did not respond to repeated requests for comment.
Under the agreement, the store will pay $35,000 to known victims and $20,000 in fees and penalties to the state. The store also must create a $10,000 account to cover potential victims who have not yet come forward.
The agreement was welcome news to Mary Brienza, 70, of Bay Shore, who in 2007 bought a Yorkshire terrier puppy for $2,700. As soon as she had it examined by a veterinarian, Brienza said, she discovered the truth about the tiny puppy she and her husband named Peanut.
"The dog will need operations on his legs and he is not worth the money that we paid," Brienza said several veterinarians told her.
Brienza said Worldwide refused to pay for the $4,800 operations.
Since then, Peanut has developed a juvenile cataract that covers one eye - which would cost $3,800 to fix - and has grown to 11 pounds, despite Worldwide's claim that a Yorkie would reach no more than 4 pounds, Brienza said. She has come to believe Peanut is another breed, perhaps an Australian terrier.
"They gave us a dog that wasn't the dog they said," she said. "They weren't nice at all."
Customers who have purchased an animal from Worldwide within the past 18 months and believe they were defrauded can file a claim with the attorney general's office by calling 516-248-3300.