“Wizard of Claws” dog seller James Anderson, who shut his business four years ago amid numerous allegations of wrongdoing and a lawsuit by the Florida Attorney General’s Office, is back in business in Fort Lauderdale under a new name and again is involved in a legal controversy.
Anderson’s new businesses, the Puppy Collection and the Teacup Puppies Store, are the target of a federal lawsuit alleging that he has engaged in unfair and deceptive trade practices.
Also, a former customer of Anderson’s claimed in an interview that Anderson stocks sick dogs.
Competitor Eleonora Bonfini sued Anderson recently, alleging he violated a permanent state injunction when he infringed on Bonfini’s federal trademarks, causing unfair competition.
In 2010, Anderson and his wife Gilda consented to a judgment and permanent injunction after the late Broward Circuit Court Judge Cheryl Aleman found that they and Wizard of Claws had violated state law by misrepresenting to customers the source, pedigree and adult size of their dogs. Many had bought puppies believing that they would stay “teacup-size” into adulthood.
The Wizard of Claws case, highlighted by allegations that the pet store sold unhealthy dogs that were mass-produced at puppy mills, made headlines across South Florida.
The injunction was the end result of about 17 lawsuits filed against the Andersons, including suits brought by the attorney general and the Humane Society of the United States.
The Humane Society’s suit was the first of its kind in its history.
A year before the injunction was finalized, the Andersons filed for bankruptcy and the national Humane Society removed more than 30 puppies from their store.
The injunction ordered the Andersons not to use the words “teacup puppies” and “puppy boutique” or several variations of those names in any future businesses or websites.
Bonfini’s business, TeaCups, Puppies and Boutique, is at 9003 Taft St., Pembroke Pines. Her website is www.TeaCupsPuppies.com. She has registered the store’s name and a picture of a puppy sitting in a teacup as trademarks.
Anderson’s Teacup Puppies Store is located at 4001 N Federal Highway. His many websites include www.TeacupPuppiesBoutique.com, www.TeacupPuppiesStore.com, and www.PuppyBoutiqueStore.com. Anderson also shows photographs of puppies sitting in teacups on one of his websites.
Anderson’s wife’ Gilda, is not connected with Anderson’s new business and is not being sued.
Roberto Stanziale, Anderson’s attorney, said in an interview that the words and picture that Bonfini claims are hers couldn’t be trademarked because they are generic. The Fort Lauderdale attorney labeled the suit “sour apples” because Anderson “is very competitive in the market”
“Each one of those words is so pervasive in the industry that to say that they have exclusive use of those words is silly,” Stanziale said, adding that Anderson is in compliance with the injunction.
Bonfini’s attorney, Miriam Richter, said in an interview that in addition to the trademark infringements, Anderson is misleading customers into believing that are dealing with Bonfini’s company when they order dogs from him. Between 20 and 30 customers have complained recently to Bonfini about Anderson’s misrepresentation.
Richter said Bonfini noticed something was amiss during last Christmas’ shopping season when her business dropped by $50,000. Bonfini also heard reports about how Anderson was allegedly misrepresenting his store as her business.
Richter said several customers have given her client statements about the misrepresentation. Two women said they each deposited $2,000 with Anderson’s business to buy puppies after Anderson’s employees told them that they were at Bonfini’s store. After they realized that they had been misled, one woman stopped payment through her credit card company and the other woman demanded a refund from Anderson, Richter said.
Morgan Rohrhofer purchased a Boston terrier puppy for more than $1,700 from Anderson’s store in May. Within days of the purchase, the puppy got sick. A veterinarian diagnosed the puppy as having giardia, an intestinal parasite. Dogs become infected by coming in contact with contaminated food, soil, or water.
Rohrhofer sent Anderson an email to complain. “According to the vet he contracted the parasite from where he was picked up given the short amount of time between departure from Teacup Puppies and showing of symptoms,” she wrote.
Rohrhofer said in an interview that she spent nearly $400 in vet bills. Anderson’s business reimbursed her only more than $200. She said her now 5-month-old pup, Blake, is still ill and on medication.
Puppies at Anderson’s store were kept in cramped glass cages with three to six dogs per cage, she said,” she said. She saw the puppies “crapping on each other,” she said. “That’s how [Blake] got giardia…I’m so glad that I got him out of that situation. It’s so terrible.”
Rohrhofer said her Boston terrier came from RCW Kennels located in Elk City, Kan.
The Humane Society of the United States in a 2007 video report listed RCW Kennels as a puppy mill. The puppies lived in “worn out wire cages exposing dogs to sharp edges,” the report stated, adding that a Kansas state inspector in 2006 reported that the “urine ammonia smell was so strong in an unventilated building that it burned her nose and eyes.”
The Florida injunction states that James and Gilda Anderson may not acquire animals from breeding facilities that they know “or have reason to know” that the animals were kept “in substandard conditions…”
Attorney Stanziale said his client does not buy puppies from suppliers who raise animals in substandard conditions.
“Mr. Anderson is under scrutiny every month about where he purchased the puppies,” he said. The injunction requires Anderson to report his business activities monthly to the state Attorney General’s Office.
Stanziale questioned the Humane Society’s objectivity in labeling RCW Kennels a puppy mill, claiming that the society “has its own interest.” He said the Humane Society wants to steer people to shelters and away from retail stores that sell “beautiful” dogs.
“There is no way in a million years you can sell thousands of puppies that one won’t be sick,” Stanziale argued. “Where would you want to buy a puppy? I would want to buy a puppy from a guy who is being monitored by the state of Florida.”
Molly McFarland, deputy press secretary for the Florida Attorney General, said in an email that her office is not investigating Anderson for any alleged injunction violations.
“Should consumers believe that this company and its owners are in violation of the injunction filed…under the previous administration, we encourage them to contact our office…,” she said.