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AG Nessel Puts Hillsdale County Puppy Mill on Notice
October 02, 2019
LANSING – A puppy mill allegedly running an inhumane and unsanitary puppy peddling operation in Hillsdale County was put on notice by Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel late last week to protect Michigan consumers and animal welfare. This is the first legal action Nessel’s Corporate Oversight Division has taken against a puppy mill since she announced her crackdown on puppy scams in April.
The Department of Attorney General learned of the inhumane operation through complaints referred to the department by Monroe County Animal Control and the Humane Society of the United States. The complaints detailed that puppy mill owner, Paul Steury, and his associate, Peter Miller, were selling sick puppies and adult dogs to consumers and providing false documentation of the breed, age, health, and vaccination records. Providing false or misleading information in connection with the sale of goods is a violation of the state’s Consumer Protection Act.
“For many Michiganders, pets are an extension of their family,” Nessel said. “These puppy mill operators appear to be brazenly taking advantage of Michigan consumers and their love for animals with zero regard for the health or welfare of the dogs they’re selling.”
Each year, consumers in the U.S. spend more than $1 billion buying puppies without realizing they may be doing business with scammers, puppy mill operators or both. Puppy mills are inhumane, dog breeding operations that keep dogs in overcrowded and unhealthy conditions and are not regulated by the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development. Breeders hide their poor conditions by meeting buyers at offsite locations or selling through pet stores or online.
In addition to the notice of intended action, Nessel’s office petitioned Hillsdale County Circuit Court for investigative subpoenas to gather additional information about the operation. As the notice of intended action and request for investigative subpoena’s detail, the Attorney General has probable cause to believe the they are engaged in several unfair and deceptive trade practices made unlawful by the Michigan Consumer Protection Act, including:
- Representing that goods or services are of a particular standard, quality, or grade, or that goods are of a particular style or model, if they are of another.
- Failing to reveal a material fact, the omission of which tends to mislead or deceive the consumer, and which fact could not reasonably be known by the consumer.
- Making a representation of fact or statement of fact material to the transaction such that a person reasonably believes the represented or suggested state of affairs to be other than it actually is.
- Failing to reveal facts that are material to the transaction in light of representations of fact made in a positive manner.
“While every dog deserves a loving home, my office will make it a priority to protect Michigan residents from Unscrupulous exploiters of pets who violate our state’s consumer protection laws in an effort to line their pockets at the expense of animal welfare,” Nessel added.
Steury and Miller have 10 days to provide the Department of Attorney General with assurances of voluntary compliance, which must include an immediate stop to their illegal practices. A copy of the notice of intended action can be read here.
In addition to the legal action taken by Nessel, her Consumer Protection Division today published a consumer alert to help dog lovers spot and stop illegal puppy mill operations. The first step consumers should take is demanding to see the mother of the puppy and the premises where the puppy is being cared for.