BOSTON – A Shrewsbury man has been ordered to permanently stop operating an unlicensed and unsanitary pet shop out of his home and to pay more than $480,000 in penalties and damages to affected customers after falsely advertising and illegally selling dozens of sick and dying bulldog puppies, Attorney General Maura Healey announced today.
Suffolk Superior Court Judge Christine M. Roach entered a default judgment against Heath Morse barring him from ever selling dogs in the state.
In November 2018, AG Healey filed a lawsuit against Morse, whose businesses included Heath’s Legendary Bulldogs, Dream-A-Bullz, Heath’s English Bulldogs, Heath’s French Bulldogs, New England Bulldogs, and Heath’s Bulldogs, for violating both the Massachusetts Animal Health Law and the Massachusetts Consumer Protection Act.
“Mr. Morse knew he was selling people sick and sometimes fatally ill puppies,” AG Healey said. “This judgment orders him to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars and ensures that he can never again hurt innocent animals.”
Between February 2016 and October 2018, Morse sold more than three dozen dogs to Massachusetts consumers for thousands of dollars each. During that period, Morse falsely advertised on various websites and social media platforms and to numerous customers that he was a longtime bulldog breeder and that the puppies he sold were from five-star living conditions, healthy, of “show-dog quality,” American Kennel Club certified, pure bred, and veterinarian checked.
In reality, the puppies Morse sold were being kept in unsanitary conditions and had serious infectious diseases like Giardia and Parovirus, as well as congenital abnormalities, and ear and eye infections. More than a quarter of the puppies sold ultimately died, many within a few days of purchase. Morse’s false representations led his customers to later pay thousands more in veterinary bills to treat or euthanize their very sick dogs.
Despite multiple orders from the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources (MDAR) and Shrewsbury Animal Control to stop, Morse allegedly continued to misrepresent the health and condition of his puppies and operate his illegal, unlicensed pet shop.
“By not complying with state regulations and running an unlicensed pet shop, the defendant deceived consumers and put the health of many dogs at risk,” said MDAR Commissioner John Lebeaux. “We are pleased that a favorable judgment has been reached in this case and remain committed to ensuring that all Massachusetts pet shops comply with the law.”
The state’s Animal Health Law protects domestic animals in the state and their owners from the spread of contagious diseases by requiring pet shops to be licensed and inspected and to quarantine any sick animals. State laws and regulations require that anyone operating a pet shop maintain it in a sanitary condition, refrain from selling any sick animals, and follow strict isolation and veterinary-check procedures for new dogs or cats and detailed record-keeping requirements. The state’s Consumer Protection Act prohibits fraud affecting consumers, false or deceptive advertising, and other false representations in trade or commerce. The law and its corresponding regulations specifically make it illegal to fail to disclose to a buyer or a prospective buyer any fact, that if disclosed, could influence the buyer not to move forward with the purchase.
This case was handled by Deputy Division Chief Betsy Harper and Assistant Attorney General Turner Smith, with assistance from Paralegals Michelle Predi and Jessica Young, each of AG Healey’s Environmental Protection Division, as well as Michael Cahill, Director of the Division of Animal Health and Jessica Burgess, Legal Counsel, both of the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources.
For tips on buying a dog in Massachusetts visit MDAR’s website. For tips on buying a dog in Massachusetts visit MDAR’s website.