The state attorney general's civil trial alleges Shake a Paw failed to...

The state attorney general's civil trial alleges Shake a Paw failed to disclose that many of the puppies and dogs sold there were seriously ill. Credit: Newsday/Steve Pfost

Meaghan Huber fell in love with Mei Mei moments after walking into Shake A Paw's Lynbrook pet store in June 2016 and couldn't wait to bring the 3-pound Shih Tzu to her Farmingdale home.

But days after Huber spent $2,000 for the quiet and timid puppy, Mei Mei became seriously ill with kennel cough, pneumonia and later chronic bronchitis. She never had consistently good health and died in Huber's arms on March 9, 2018 — less than three weeks shy of her second birthday — while on the way back to the animal hospital, court records show.

On Wednesday, Huber was the opening trial witness in state Attorney General Letitia James' civil case alleging Shake A Paw misrepresented the health of its animals, many of them seriously ill, and dying within weeks of purchase. But her testimony was cut short after prosecutors with James' office, who have spent the past two years preparing the case for trial, failed to submit a host of records to the court in a form that could be admissible as evidence.

The case is expected to resume Thursday with Huber back on the witness stand if prosecutors can address the evidentiary issue.


  • A state civil trial got underway Wednesday against Nassau pet store Shake A Paw, alleging the shop failed to disclose that many animals sold there were seriously ill.
  • In total, 22 customers who purchased puppies at Shake A Paw's Lynbrook store or its Hicksville location between Dec. 17, 2015, and Dec. 17, 2021, are scheduled to testify.
  • Richard Hamburger, an attorney for Shake A Paw, said the pet shop never deceived consumers, and the case is "just not sustainable factually.”

“My heart is broken,” Huber said in an affidavit submitted as part of James' lawsuit against Shake A Paw. Mei Mei at one point spent 10 days in the ICU of a Huntington animal hospital and later needed a $6,000 palate surgery to help her breathe, Huber stated in court records.

“She died too young because the dogs don't come from proper healthy places and don't have people taking care of them.”

In total, 22 customers who purchased puppies at Shake A Paw's Lynbrook store or its Hicksville location between Dec. 17, 2015, and Dec. 17, 2021, are scheduled to testify in a trial originally set to last four days.

Shake A Paw co-owner Marc Jacobs, who contends his company followed state laws and regulations, declined to comment Wednesday.

Richard Hamburger, an attorney for the company, said while his client purchases puppies from legal sources, some animals do get sick and occasionally die.

“They're examined and certified by licensed veterinarians,” Hamburger told reporters during a recess. “And when you're in the live animal business, some puppies get sick … The underlying premise of this case is that Shake A Paw has been deceiving consumers, and it's just not sustainable factually.”

The lawsuit, which seeks financial restitution for consumers along with civil penalties, alleges Shake A Paw sold dogs acquired at poorly maintained puppy mills, fabricated health certificates, lied about the animals' health and pedigrees, and failed to provide refunds when customers lodged complaints in violation of the state's Pet Lemon Law.

“My office’s thorough investigation uncovered a series of violations by Shake A Paw that defrauded consumers and found sick puppies that came from dangerous puppy mills,” James said when she announced the lawsuit in 2021. “When New Yorkers purchased puppies from Shake A Paw, they did not expect to bring home dogs in such heartbreaking and horrifying conditions.”

The attorney general's office said its investigation found that Shake A Paw knowingly sold puppies with serious illnesses or congenital defects, despite receiving health certifications signed off by the company's contracted veterinarians, oftentimes days before sale.

Shortly after filing the lawsuit, a Nassau judge granted a temporary restraining order forbidding Shake A Paw from purchasing new puppies for resale.

In April 2022, the judge lifted the order after the company posted a $250,000 bond, agreed to purchase animals from breeders licensed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, to provide the court a list of the breeders from whom it bought puppies and to allow its animals to be examined by an independent veterinarian.

Since then, Hamburger said, Shake A Paw has examined more than 3,000 puppies acquired for resale — a third of them seen by a veterinarian designated by James' office. 

“And 95% of those animals were found perfectly fit; perfectly healthy for sale,” he said. “How do you close down a business based on that?”

Despite the outcome of the trial, Shake A Paw locations are likely to close at the end of the year after Gov. Kathy Hochul signed legislation banning the sale of dogs, cats and rabbits at retail stores statewide.

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