LARGO, Fla. — A New Port Richey family has been waiting 10 months for a refund from Petland Largo after their two-month-old Siberian Husky puppy died 10 days after purchase. Florida’s so-called “Pet Lemon Law” requires pet sellers to pay the veterinary bills — up to the full price of the puppy — if they get sick within two weeks of leaving the store.
The Auclair family and their two children, Abbi and Reno, fell in love with the puppy they named Ozzie the day they met him in December 2019. The bill for the Husky, including supplies and tax, totaled more than $5,000.
A veterinarian had signed off on a health certificate two days before Erin Kelley-Auclair purchased the dog. But within a day of bringing Ozzie home his new family noticed something was off.
“We brought him home and it seemed like he was tired a lot,” Kelly-Auclair said.
By day four Ozzie started wheezing, Kelly-Auclair said. During a routine follow-up visit to with Petland’s veterinarian Kelly-Auclair said she mentioned Ozzie’s breathing but claims the vet told her the puppy was going through an adjustment phase.
Days later their pup started foaming at the mouth and collapsed in the family's driveway. The Auclairs rushed Ozzie to a local animal hospital. He died later that day. The veterinarian who treated Ozzie listed bronchopneumonia, or an underlying heart condition, as the cause of death.
“Showing up at home without the dog to my children, it was awful, awful,” Kelly-Auclair said.
Kelly-Auclair said she made several trips to Petland Largo and filed a claim with their warranty servicer Pet Solutions but hasn’t been reimbursed for the bills to treat Ozzie.
Florida statute 828.29 regulates the sale of dogs and cats including health requirements and consumer guarantees, such as reimbursement of vet bills and returns and exchanges of animals who are determined to have been “unfit” for sale by a veterinarian.
The I-team has investigated complaints involving Petland Largo not paying vet bills over the last two years. State regulators report they've received half a dozen complaints, not including the Auclairs’, since 2019. Several involve the company delaying or denying medical payments for sick pets.
Call for Action contacted Petland’s attorney on behalf of the Auclairs. In an email, Attorney Juan Planas told ABC Action News, “I have already confirmed with Petland and for sure they are getting a refund for the dog, but we are going over everything to see if there are other things they would be entitled to.”
Petland says that only about 3% of the puppies they sell become very ill and that the death of a customer’s puppy is an extremely rare event.