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Lawsuit accuses Britt agency of being a "puppy-laundering" ring

Iowa Attorney General's Office seeks to shut down Hobo K9 Rescue.

Posted: Mar. 18, 2019 12:29 PM
Updated: Mar. 19, 2019 11:38 AM

DES MOINES, Iowa – The Iowa Attorney General’s Office says it’s suing to shut down a puppy-laundering ring that operated partly in Hancock County.

The lawsuit filed in Polk County District Court names Hobo K9 Rescue of Britt, J.A.K.’s Puppies of Britt, and Rescue Pets Iowa in Ottumwa, as well as Jolyn K. Noethe and Kimberly Dolphin of Britt, Megan Peterson of Wesley, and Russell Kirk of Ottumwa.

Attorney General Tom Miller says Hobo K9 Rescue sold at least 1,290 puppies to California, Illinois, Florida, and New Jersey between September 2016 and July 2019. The puppies included Pomeranians, Shar-Peis, Alaskan Malamutes, and Poodle-Yorkies which were allegedly sold for $714,510.

“No matter where they live, consumers should not be misled about the source of the pets they buy,” says Miller. “Puppy laundering obscures the identity of breeders who may have animal welfare violations or other problems.”

According to the Attorney General’s Office, Jolyn Noeth is president of Hobo K9 as well as co-president, secretary and director of J.A.K.’s Puppies; Kimberly Dolphin is the treasurer of Hobo K9, as well as co-president, secretary and director of J.A.K.’s Puppies; Megan Peterson is a manager with J.A.K.’s Puppies and secretary of Hobo K9; and Russell Kirk is president, secretary, treasurer and director of Rescue Pets Iowa.

The lawsuit is asking for Hobo K9 Rescue and Rescue Pets to be permanently dissolved for abusing their authorities under Iowa’s nonprofit laws. It also seeks a temporary injunction prohibiting the defendants from any business or charitable activities involving conducting the transfer of animals, and a permanent injunction against deceptive practices. Civil penalties for up to $40,000 per violation and reimbursement for defrauded consumers are also being sought.

The Attorney General’s Office says Hobo K9 Rescue responded to a subpoena by stating “Our mission is to help unwanted or undesirable canines and/or felines find their forever homes.” But they are accused of selling pure-bred puppies, not older dogs, to out-of-state pet shops. The lawsuit claims that in one case, Park Pet Shop in Chicago "adopted out" a “rescued” Goldendoodle puppy from Hobo K9 for $3,599.99.

The lawsuit also alleges Hobo K9 transferred money to J.A.K.’s to pay for the puppies, stating “Because Defendants Noethe, Dolphin and Peterson are officers in both Defendant Hobo K9 Rescue and Defendant JAK’s Puppies, it appears they must claim to ‘rescue’ puppies from themselves — or from the for-profit puppy mill industry in which they participate.”

Further, the Attorney General’s Office claims the defendants started a “brand-new sham charity” called Rescue Pets Iowa Corp. in December 2018 after an investigation began and exported several purebred and designer puppies to California and other states. Documents reportedly with the signature of Noethe show a link between Rescue Pets and the other defendants.

California’s statewide ban on the sale of “puppy mill dogs went into effect January 1, 2019, yet the lawsuit alleges the defendants continued to ship their “rescue” dogs to California using sham entities.

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