Attorney General files lawsuit against alleged Britt puppy laundering ring

BRITT — Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller filed a lawsuit Monday to shut down an alleged puppy-laundering ring partly operated in Hancock County.

Spokesman Lynn Hicks says the ring sold nearly 1,300 puppies. “And what puppy laundering is, basically is and effort to obscure the source of dogs and deceive customers about where the puppies are coming from,” Hick says.

He says the pure-bred puppies were sold as rescue animals by non-profit organizations to organizations outside of Iowa. “Especially places like California and Chicago, which have bans on puppy mill dogs,” according to Hicks. “You can’t in those locations, you can’t buy dogs that have come from anywhere else besides animal shelters or rescue groups.”

In addition to California and Illinois, the dogs from Iowa were also sold in Florida and New Jersey. “There is a for-profit breeder based in Britt call J.A.K.’s Puppies. And our lawsuit is alleging that they are essentially serving as the broker, and transferring these dogs through two non-profits — Hobo K9, and Rescue Pets Iowa — essentially laundering through the non-profits, selling them, and exporting them out-of-state,” Hicks explains.

The lawsuit alleges the puppies were sold from September 2016 to July 2018 for $714,510. Hicks says they want the operation stopped. “We’re asking the judge to dissolve the non-profits, number one. We are asking them to put a temporary injunction stopping all the defendants in this case from doing any business or charitable activities involving transferring animals and stopping them altogether form doing deceptive practices. And we’d also like to see some civil penalties,” Hicks says.

He says they are also seeking refunds for those who bought these dogs. “These dogs were sold for, in some cases, a few thousand dollars at pet shops in California and Chicago. They thought they were buying rescue pets — and they actually didn’t know where they were coming from,” Hick says.

The individuals names in the lawsuit are: Jolyn K. Noethe of Britt, president of Hobo K-9 as well as co-president, secretary and director of J.A.K.’s Puppies; Kimberly Dolphin of Britt, treasurer of Hobo K9, as well as co-president, secretary and director of J.A.K.’s Puppies; Megan Peterson of Wesley, a manager with J.A.K.’s Puppies and secretary of Hobo K9; Russell Kirk of Ottumwa, president, secretary, treasurer and director of Rescue Pets Iowa.

Hicks says you should know where the animal you are buying is coming from. He says it is likely not a rescue animal if they are charging you thousands of dollars. “In some cases these dogs were not spayed or neutered. Those are all red flags that this is probably not a rescue dog. Most rescue organizations charge minimal fees,” Hicks says.

The lawsuit seeks civil penalties for up to $40,000 for each violation.