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AG Nessel Files Lawsuit Against Hillsdale County Puppy Mill

LANSING – As part of her promise to crack down on puppy mills, Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel filed a lawsuit late last week against Hillsdale County puppy mill operator Paul Steury. The lawsuit was filed following an investigation of Steury after allegations were made that he was running an inhumane and unsanitary puppy peddling operation.

The Attorney General learned of Steury’s operation through complaints referred to her department by Monroe County Animal Control and the Humane Society of the United States. The complaints alleged that Steury was selling sick puppies and adult dogs and providing false documentation of the breed, age, health, and vaccination histories.

The AG’s inquiry also revealed a sickening discovery. While being questioned during investigative testimony, Steury admitted to killing at least six young dogs simply because he could not sell them.

“This man’s actions are simply incomprehensible,” said Nessel.  “In many Michigan households, pets are treated as another member of the family. Puppy mill operators cannot continue to boldly take advantage of Michigan consumers and their love for animals with no regard for the health or welfare of the dogs they’re selling.”

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.

According to Nessel, the Michigan Humane Society has worked closely with the Department throughout the investigation, recently recovering more than 33 dogs from Steury.  The dogs have undergone medical and behavioral evaluations to determine the placement that is best for each animal and the MHS has already been able to place the majority of dogs in to loving homes.

“Oftentimes these dogs are in conditions where their natural instincts to run, jump and play can be suppressed and many miss the critical socialization window for connecting to humans,” said MHS President and CEO Matt Pepper. “One of the cruelest elements of the puppy mill industry is that it reduces these amazing companion animals into a commodity – a thing to profit from rather than a being that can experience join and pain in similar ways to humans.”

Nessel’s office was granted investigative subpoenas and both Steury and an associate were questioned. While the associate played a minor role in the puppy mill operation, the Attorney General alleges that Steury 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 that they do not have;
  • 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;
  • Representing a 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.

The Attorney General is seeking injunctive relief along with fines against Steury. A copy of the lawsuit can be found here.

In addition to the legal action taken by Nessel, her Consumer Protection Division recently 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.

Concerned residents are encouraged to call the Michigan Humane Society at 313-872-3401 or file a complaint with the Attorney General.