While only 1% of the budget of the Humane Society of the United States goes to pet shelters, people often ask us, where does the money go? A lot of it goes to pay the salaries of lawyers. HSUS has dozens of lawyers on staff, including two lawyers who, along with HSUS, recently settled a federal racketeering and bribery lawsuit brought against them for up to $15.75 million. In other words, donations fund legal activism that may bear no fruit.
One such case was a lawsuit against a Florida-based company called Purebred Breeders. Purebred sells puppies online and works with vetted breeders to place puppies with customers. HSUS has backed litigation against Purebred, supporting a lawsuit from some customers who complained that they were allegedly sold sick dogs. That suit was thrown out about two years ago by the Circuit Court for Miami-Dade County, and the plaintiffs appealed. Last week, a court of appeals in Florida upheld the dismissal.
What’s notable is that the circumstances of the dismissal were upheld. Purebred had claimed in its motion to dismiss that the HSUS-backed lawsuit was essentially a P.R. stunt, hemming and hawing without actually making any relevant claims. (After all, in this country, someone accused of a crime or defending a lawsuit is often assumed guilty in the public’s eye before the trial begins.)
More poignantly, Purebred argued in its motion to dismiss that “there is not a single allegation that even one of the puppies purchased by Plaintiffs came from any of the alleged puppy mill breeders named.” The judge agreed with this and other points and tossed the suit.
As we understand it, the plaintiffs are still eligible to refile their claims individually, as they were after the lower court’s dismissal, but they may not file suit as a class. That might be an annoyance to the lead attorney in the case, Florida trial lawyer Ted Leopold, whose specialty is “mass torts.” Translation: A trial lawyer who uses class actions to sue the bejeezus out of people, raking in a hefty cut along the way. Maybe he was hoping to get a new Audi or two out of the suit.