Florida Internet Puppy Mill Investigation
LCA BUSTS INTERNET DOG DEALER
Read and watch the NBC Miami news story about LCA’s Breeders Direct Investigation
This case summary details findings by Last Chance for Animals’ (LCA) Special Investigations Unit (SIU) investigation of Breeders Direct (also known as Premium Breeders), an online puppy broker located in Hollywood, Florida.
LCA began their investigation after receiving a complaint in March 2009 from an individual who purchased a sick puppy from Breeders Direct (BD). Breeders Direct was a multi-million dollar internet based puppy broker. Since undertaking the investigation, LCA learned that Breeders Direct changed their name to Premium Breeders, using the website Premiumbreeders.com.
How Breeders Direct / Premium Breeders Worked
When an individual visited Premiumbreeders.com or Breedersdirect.com online, they were directed to fill out an electronic form that enables a telemarketer from the Hollywood, FL offices to call the individual and schedule an “interview” at a future date by telephone. The average BD telemarketer made about 275 of these calls a day. If the individual was not contacted in person, their telephone number stays on a rotating call sheet that the telemarketers use daily. Many times a potential customer could be on the phone with one salesperson and simultaneously receive another call from another telemarketer unaware that the company is already calling them. If the telemarketer gets a potential customer on the line, they are instructed to access their website and look at the puppy they were originally interested in. The potential customer then chooses a dog and the identification number of that dog. The telemarketer checks the puppy’s availability and then starts the sales pitch.
The BD telemarketer uses a script that accompanies a step by step computer program for each potential sale. The main part of the sales pitch is a “home check” the telemarketer conducts with the potential customer by telephone. The customer is told by the telemarketer that after they’ve conducted the home check and the customer doesn’t “qualify” for the purchase of one of their dogs, the customer would not be able to reapply for another year.
The telemarketer then proceeds with the pitch, interviewing the customer about their household income, how many pets they have, how much experience they have with dogs, allergies, etc. There is no actual screening process and the home check done by telephone is never substantiated by the company following the actual purchase.
At the end of the interview, the customer has typically become “emotionally invested” in purchasing the puppy. The BD telemarketer tells them that to hold the puppy a deposit is required. If the customer is still "game," the telemarketer transfers the phone call to a “Breed Specialist” who is really just a sales manager. The sales manager is the individual who finalizes the transaction.
Breeder’s Direct Guarantees
In the course of all BD sales calls, the company makes several over-the-phone guarantees. Each potential customer is told: “We are a family owned and operated business based in South Florida, comprised of breeders, trainers, and dog lovers.”
LCA discovered that BD is a family owned business. It’s owned by Vineet Chaabra who recently served time in Federal Prison for violating his terms of release after serving three years for illegally selling pharmaceuticals online. His girlfriend, Gwendolyn Pendland, was the manager of BD. They are in the process of having BD run by proxy by a man named Armand Kulpa. In its eighteen month investigation of BD, LCA found no evidence of breeders or trainers working at the Hollywood FL, facility.
“Because of our strict screening process for our breeders as well as potential parents we have maintained the highest customer satisfaction rating in the industry.”
LCA learned from a BD employee that the screening process for a breeder only consisted of a breeder submitting a photograph of their facility. Also BD, with the same model as Premium Breeders, received an “F” from the Florida Better Business Bureau.
BD salespeople tell their potential customers that, “50% of all puppies purchased from pet shops, backyard breeders, puppy mill breeders and online breeder directories end up having genetic or hereditary problems. These problems can cost thousands, if not tens of thousands, of dollars in vet bills.” They go on to say that episodes on “20/20, Dateline, Nightline and Oprah exposing backyard breeders and puppy mills are part of the reason the buyer should be concerned about being ripped off by unscrupulous dealers." They then ask the buyer, “Would you ever consider one of these substandard puppies as a pet for you or your family?” When the buyer responds with a “no” they reply as scripted:“Because of our dedication and commitment to the breeding industry, our goal is to give people an alternative to getting puppies from puppy mills or backyard breeders.” They add, “We are a network of only the top private breeders throughout the US and Europe and have a very thorough screening process to make sure that the puppy you get is healthy and well socialized.”
If the caller is still with them, they salesperson moves onto BD’s “Lifetime Health Guarantee.” The BD salesperson reads the following, “To ensure that you know how serious we are about the quality and health of our puppies, we actually give you a lifetime guarantee on the health of your new puppy. We also provide you with a lifetime guarantee on accidental death, theft, or loss. This is something nobody else is willing to do because nobody else takes the time to screen the breeders as thoroughly as we do. We want to make sure you get the best puppy for your home." They then ask if there’s anybody in the home with a felony record because that may put the puppy at risk for being stolen by that individual.
LCA learned through victim interviews that part of the health guarantee includes taking the puppy to a vet within 48 hours, bringing a stool sample and feeding itorganic pet food. Even when these requirements have been met, victims have experienced enormous struggles being compensated for outstanding veterinary bills, if at all. Often BD gives customers the run-around and does not return calls. Victims have an easier time getting a refund from the credit card company they used to purchase the dog.
If a customer asks them where the dog they want to buy actually comes from, they are told to say, “We work within a network of the top breeders in the country, so the puppies are raised in house with each breeder.” LCA discovered the salesperson has no idea where that puppy has been raised. In some cases it could be a small breeder, in other cases the puppy is one of dozens or hundreds at a puppy mill. If a potential customer says they want to “touch the puppy before they buy it,” the telemarketer is instructed to say, “We don’t want the puppies to be overexposed to people and/or germs at too early of an age. Much like a newborn child, their immune system is still building and we don’t want to risk the puppy’s well being. I am sure health is a concern for you as well, correct?”
Breeders Direct has been called a broiler room which sells puppies. Money was the only thing they cared about. Following LCA's undercover investigation, Breeders Direct and Premium Breeders have gone out of business.
It is through the continued financial support of people like you that LCA is able to expose these despicable operations.
ADOPT, DON’T SHOP!