CHARLESTON – At least one West Virginia resident has joined in a class-action lawsuit filed against Petland, a national retail pet store, and Hunte Corporation, an alleged broker between so-called "puppy mills" and Petland.

The lawsuit, brought by The Human Society of the United States, seeks to recover damages for people who bought dogs from Petland that were allegedly products of puppy mills.

The complaint alleges that Petland and Hunte have conspired to sell unhealthy dogs to consumers while misrepresenting the dogs as the "finest available." Petland has about 140 retail locations in 31 states.

There are six named plaintiffs in the lawsuit -– Jodell Martinelli, Stephanie Booth, Melia Perry, Abbigail King, Nicole Kersanty and Ruth Ross. The Humane Society says there are other plaintiffs from at least 20 states.

The Humane Society adds it's been getting telephone calls from people wanting to join the lawsuit, filed in federal court in Phoenix, Ariz. federal court. The complaint was brought after eight months of investigation, the Humane Society says.

The complaint lists one West Virginian as a member of the growing class of plaintiffs.

Identified only as "Travis of Madison," the man said he and his wife bought a teacup Yorkie for their daughters for Christmas.

"The dog never made a sound on the 30-minute drive home, so we were able to keep her hid," Travis wrote in a Nov. 22, 2008 statement. "Little did we know that the reason the dog was quiet was because she was sick."

Travis said they took the dog to the veterinarian, who prescribed glucose gel. Travis said the family administered the gel adamantly, but the dog continued to get worse.

During the family's final trip to the vet, they were told that the dog needed to be sent to an emergency animal hospital. Travis said the family couldn't afford this because it already had spent $2,800 on the dog. So, the family called Petland.

"They told us to bring the dog in and they would care for her," Travis said. "A few days later we were told (the dog) passed away. Our children were heartbroken and they tried to blame us. However, we had documentation from the vet."

Travis says Petland agreed to replace the Yorkie with a Chihuahua. But the new dog was only worth $1,400, Travis said.

The plaintiffs are being represented by the law firms Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro LLP, of Phoenix, and Saltz Mongeluzzi Barrett & Bendesky of Philadelphia.

More News