A woman has come forward with allegations against Puppyland, a retail pet store located in Puyallup. She claims that the store coerced her into purchasing a puppy that was already sick. Unfortunately, the puppy passed away shortly after being brought home, leaving the woman saddled with a loan and subjected to aggressive collection measures.
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.
The lawsuit claimed that the puppy did not show signs of vibrancy or energy once it was brought home. It seemed tired and was observed to be breathing heavily while sleeping.
According to the complaint, one day while the puppy was playing with one of Ms. Rattanavong’s children, both the child and the puppy fell. Unfortunately, the puppy never fully recovered from the fall and eventually died of lung failure a few days later. The complaint argues that it is not typical for “healthy” puppies to succumb to such minor falls while playing with small children.
According to the complaint, Rattanavong, who was undergoing chemotherapy for cancer treatment and on Medicaid, visited the store with her children for therapeutic reasons on the suggestion of her fiance. While browsing, she was convinced to fill out a loan application just to determine her eligibility. Despite being aware that she couldn’t afford the $6,800, she ended up purchasing the puppy she liked.
In a statement to The News Tribune, Puppyland denied any wrongdoing despite facing scrutiny from the state Attorney General’s Office.
“We extend our deepest condolences to the Rattanavong family for the heartbreaking loss of their beloved puppy,” expressed Kayla Kerr, owner of Puppyland, in an email. “Having personally experienced our own challenges, with my own mother fighting cancer, we empathize with the pain and difficulty of such moments.”
Kerr contested the circumstances surrounding the unfortunate demise of the puppy.
Puppyland ensures the well-being of our puppies through comprehensive vet examinations, providing peace of mind to our customers. We also offer health warranties for post-sale support,” Kerr emphasized. However, it is important to note that our guarantees do not extend to accidents, such as the incident involving Ms. Rattanavong’s child falling with or on their puppy.
Despite multiple attempts, the attorney representing Rattanavong in the lawsuit did not respond to requests for comment. Similarly, our efforts to reach out to LendingUSA and Cross River Bank were unsuccessful.
Rattanavong made every effort to stay current on her loan payments and requested LendingUSA to either forgive the loan or temporarily halt payments until she completed her chemotherapy treatment, according to the lawsuit. However, the company was uncooperative and resorted to aggressive collection tactics, bombarding her with multiple daily phone calls and even contacting her sister.
Cross River Bank allegedly caused confusion for Rattanavong by presenting two different interest rates on its paperwork: 25.9% and 29.9%. This discrepancy made it difficult for him to determine which rate corresponded to the loan’s default rate. The bank is also facing legal action for providing loans to merchants like Puppyland and for utilizing LendingUSA as a loan servicer.
In the complaint, it was requested that the court void Rattanavong’s loan and mandate Cross River Bank to cancel and refund all loans utilized by residents of Washington to acquire puppies from Puppyland.
According to the lawsuit, the plaintiff firmly believes that the defendants engage in the profitable practice of selling overpriced and unhealthy puppies through high-interest loans. Despite facing consumer backlash, regulatory scrutiny, and state actions, the defendants persist in their unethical behavior.
The allegations made in the lawsuit mirror those brought by the state Attorney General’s Office in April. The office had sued Puppyland and its owners, accusing them of not honoring advertised health guarantees and directing customers towards predatory loans with illegal terms that restrict honest reviews.
Puppyland, a company that started operating in Washington in 2018 and currently owns stores in three other states, has been accused of restricting customers from sharing their feedback publicly. They included a non-disclosure provision in the purchase paperwork, warning customers of potential legal action if they spoke negatively about the store.
The case is still ongoing, according to records from the King County Superior Court.
In June 2022, the Pierce County Council enacted comprehensive measures to protect dogs sold in pet stores and the individuals who purchase them. The new regulations mandate that all pet shops must source their dogs from state-licensed organizations that adhere to the stricter dog-breeding laws of Washington state. This bill primarily targeted Puppyland, the only store in the county that sells puppies, and was prompted by concerns raised by various organizations. Councilwoman Jani Hitchen has been vocal about the need to address these issues.
According to the online reports of the county Auditor’s Office, Puppyland underwent monthly inspections last year, and no violations of state or county code were found.
Two months prior to Rattanavong’s purchase of her puppy, Governor Jay Inslee signed House Bill 1424. This legislation was specifically aimed at putting an end to commercial dog-breeding facilities, commonly known as “puppy mills.” One of the provisions of this bill made it illegal for pet shops in Washington state to offer financing options.
Rattanavong’s purchase was made a few weeks before HB 1424 took effect.
The lawsuit is seeking unspecified damages, legal fees, and an injunction against Puppyland. The injunction would require Puppyland to revamp its practices and procedures regarding the well-being 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 by Puppyland.
“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 rigorous standards in all our practices.”