Petco Animal Supplies Inc. has agreed to settle a $1.75 million consumer protection lawsuit, prosecutors in San Mateo, Marin and three other counties announced Wednesday.
The settlement stems from a lawsuit filed in San Diego Superior Court that alleges Petco overcharged its customers and improperly cared for some animals. Petco paid more than $850,000 in 2004 to resolve a similar case brought by California prosecutors.
"In addition to correctly charging customers, it is vital that any pet store assure the animals offered for sale receive proper care," District Attorney Ed Berberian said in a statement. "I am pleased that Petco has established policies and procedures to assure animal care is always a top priority."
Investigators from the Marin Humane Society determined that the county's Petco stores in Novato and San Rafael had not been adequately cleaned and maintained, as required by California's Pet Store Animal Care Act. Animal welfare inspectors also found that in some instances, sick animals had not been identified and removed from sales floor habitats.
"We have definitely seen a pattern develop from Petco with regards to improper animal care, and we are happy about this injunction," said Carrie Harrington, a spokeswoman for the Marin Humane Society. "We would encourage the public, as we always do, to carefully consider purchasing animals from pet shops, and encourage them to check with rescues and local shelters. You
Prosecutors from Marin, Los Angeles, San Diego, San Mateo and Santa Barbara counties also alleged that the San Diego-based Petco did not remove expired price tags from shelves in a timely manner, resulting in actual or potential customer overcharges. In addition, the prosecutors argued that Petco failed to adequately instruct its employees on weighing and charging for bulk sale items.
The case followed inspections of Petco stores throughout California from 2005 to 2008. The Marin Humane Society and the Marin County Department of Agriculture, Weights and Measures participated in the investigation, as did the California Department of Agriculture Division of Measurement Standards and other county animal control and humane societies throughout the state.
A Petco spokesman could not be reached for comment Wednesday. The company has agreed to the settlement without admitting liability, and spokesmen have said Petco will promptly remove expired price tags from shelves, change the way some animals are cared for and pay civil penalties and costs submitted by prosecutors and investigators.
The company also agreed to annual, third-party audits to ensure compliance.