Hamilton Place Pet Store Charged With Mistreatment Of Animals Graded “F” By Better Business Bureau

Sunday, June 27, 2010 - by Judy Frank

The Hamilton Place pet store, from which more than 80 animals were removed on June 15, received an F on its report card from the Better Business Bureau in Chattanooga, according to BBB documents.

The Pet Company #29 “is not a BBB Accredited Business,” the consumer protection organization noted in an online report on the pet store, which is the subject of investigations by both the Tennessee Department of Agriculture and McKamey Animal Center of Chattanooga.

The failing grade given the pet store by BBB is unrelated to the recent investigations.

"BBB has no information regarding government actions at this time,” according to the online report.

However, the organization noted, Chattanooga’s BBB received two complaints involving the pet store over the past 36 month.

In one instance, the company did not even bother to respond, the local BBB reported.

According to the Better Business Bureau of New York, The Pet Company is one of several names under which the corporation United Pet Supply Inc. – headquartered in New Windsor, N.Y. – operates.

United Pet Supply, like its Chattanooga subsidiary, is not a BBB accredited business, the report out of New York indicates.

The corporation operates under a variety of names, it notes, including Docktor Pet Centers; Doctor Pet Centers (several locations); The Pet Company; and United Pet Supply.

Under those various names, United Pet Supply Inc. reportedly operates 27 pet and pet supply retail stores in the eastern United States, from New England to Atlanta.

Steve Zerilli, listed as president of the corporation, also is active in organizations such as the Pet Industry Joint Action Council, according to the publication “The Kennel Spotlight: An in-depth Look At The Heart of the Professional Kennel Industry.”

On Sept. 28, 2007, according to a Kennel Spotlight ad, Mr. Zerilli and PIJAC’s general counsel and executive vice president, Marshall Meyers, were scheduled to give a joint presentation to attendees at the Breeder Educational Conference.

Their topic: “Animal Care Guidelines for the Retail Pet Industry.”

Not in the audience, apparently, were the regulators and pet welfare representatives who have filed numerous complaints over the decades against Mr. Zerilli’s United Pet Supply Inc. and its subsidiaries, particularly for mistreatment of the animals they sell.

In 1993 one of those subsidiaries – Docktor Pet, which had 300 franchises just a few years earlier – filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy or liquidation.

Docktor Pet’s financial woes grew out of nationwide bad publicity – including exposes by the television show 20/20, Life magazine and People magazine – featuring an investigation by the Companion Animal Protection Society into the retail chain’s ties to puppy mills and its widespread neglect and abuse of animals.

Docktor Pet’s parent organization, United Pet Supply Inc., has rebounded from that financial blow, however.

According to a report by BNET Industries, United Pet Supply has eight employees and did $15 million in sales during the latest fiscal year.

While United Pet Supply’s headquarters are in New Windsor, N.Y., “Our records show it was established in 1977 and incorporated in Delaware,” BNET noted.

Meanwhile, at Hamilton Place Mall in Chattanooga, The Pet Company # 29 was the subject of one complaint to the local Better Business Bureau regarding sales practices.

The company addressed the complaint issues, BBB noted, but “The consumer failed to acknowledge acceptance to BBB.”

The bureau also received a complaint involving issues with refunds or exchanges at the pet store, its report said.

In that case, it noted, “Company failed to respond to BBB to resolve or address the complaint issues.”

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