the staff of the Ridgewood blog
Paramus NJ, Attorney General Christopher S. Porrino and the Division of Consumer Affairs today announced that pet shop owner Vincent LoSacco and his “Just Pups” Stores have agreed to permanently stop selling animals in New Jersey and pay $326,000 to settle allegations they misled customers about the health of the puppies they sold, failed to reimburse consumers for animals that got sick or died, and committed dozens of other acts of consumer fraud.
Under a settlement with the Division of Consumer Affairs, Just Pups is permanently prohibited from conducting business in New Jersey, and LoSacco is permanently barred from advertising or selling animals in the state in any capacity, including, among other things, as an owner, employee, consultant, or independent contractor at a pet store, kennel, or breeding establishment, either in a paid or unpaid position.
“We’re pleased to finally close the book on Vincent LoSacco’s long and troubled history of selling puppies in this state,” said Attorney General Porrino. “By permanently banning him from New Jersey’s pet sales industry, we are not only protecting consumers from fraud, we are shielding families from the heartache of unwittingly purchasing a sick puppy and then being forced to choose between paying costly vet fees or losing their pet.”
“Buying a puppy is an emotional investment as well a financial investment. We will not allow unscrupulous pet stores to deliberately deceive consumers in this very important purchase,” said Steve Lee, Director of the Division of Consumer Affairs. “As this action shows, we will vigorously enforce the laws in place to protect consumers from suffering the emotional and financial cost of purchasing a puppy suffering from an undiagnosed or undisclosed illness.”
The settlement resolves allegations contained in the First Amended Complaint filed by the State in September 2016. The Complaint alleges that Lo Sacco and Just Pups violated New Jersey’s Consumer Fraud Act (CFA), Pet Purchase Protection Act (PPA), the Pet Regulations and the Advertising Regulations, by among other things:
Selling sick or defective animals to consumers from stores in East Brunswick, East Hanover, Emerson, and Paramus.
Misrepresenting as healthy and selling dogs suffering from Kennel Cough, Parvo, Bronchitis, and Giardia.
Failing to reimburse consumers for veterinary fees associated with the treatment of sick or defective dogs, even after receiving veterinary certifications that the animals had been unfit for sale.
Failing to refund the purchase price plus sales tax of an animal that died due to congenital or hereditary cause, within six months of delivery to consumer.
Misrepresenting that dogs are healthy when such was not the case.
Failing to have an animal that was examined more than 14 days prior to purchase reexamined by a veterinarian within 72 hours of delivery, as required by law.
Misrepresenting on the Just Pups website that Just Pups can prove that all of its puppies are free from adverse health symptoms, when such was not the case.
Selling an animal within the State of New Jersey without a completed animal history and health certificate.
The settlement also addresses the State’s concern that LoSacco violated the PPA in connection with his East Hanover store by accepting deposits and/or other payments from numerous consumers prior to Just Pups and LoSacco having the puppies examined by a New Jersey-licensed veterinarian.
In addition to permanently enjoining Just Pups and LoSacco from any involvement in the sale, advertising, breeding or kenneling of animals in New Jersey, the settlement requires them to pay a civil penalty of $290,000, $30,163 in restitution to consumers, and $5,876 in reimbursement of investigative costs. Under the terms of the settlement, the $290,000 civil penalty will be suspended if the defendants meet the terms of the agreement.
The allegations against LoSacco and Just Pups stem from the Division’s statewide inspections of pet shops to ensure compliance with the PPA, which took effect in June 2015.
Just Pups stores in East Brunswick, East Hanover, Emerson, and Paramus were among 26 pet stores cited for noncompliance.
In the months following the Division’s inspections, LoSacco came under fire from authorities in the towns where his stores were located.
State and local authorities charged him with more than 400 counts of animal cruelty and neglect in connection with his stores in Paramus and East Brunswick, including charges investigators found a gravely ill, emaciated puppy in a cage in the East Brunswick store that later died, and that he left 60 puppies unattended in small crates inside a cold van parked outside his Paramus store in April. LoSacco was also charged with hundreds of health code violations in connection with all four stores.
In March 2016, the Just Pups store in East Brunswick was closed permanently when the town council revoked LoSacco’s shop owner’s license. Just Pups in Paramus closed permanently in May 2016 when LoSacco did not attempt to renew his business license there. The Emerson store was permanently closed in July 2016 when the borough council voted against renewing his business license. The final Just Pups location, in East Hanover, was permanently closed in March 2017 when the town council voted not to renew LoSacco’s business license. The vote came a month after the store was placed in quarantine by the East Hanover Board of Health amid allegations that LoSacco had illegally transported puppies to his store from out of state without medical clearance.