What started as a single email three months ago, has now led to more than 50 people complaining to the Let Joe Know team about Cox Family Doodles. They each say they gave the Mesa dog breeder an average $500 refundable deposit for a dog but can't get the dog, a refund, or an explanation.
For weeks, the owner Elise Cox gave us a list of excuses saying COVID was to blame, then a hate group was bullying her. She said refunds would be given in time.
But that hasn't happened.
Though customers have sued the business and filed complaints with the state, Cox Family Doodles appears to be open to new customers. The website shows deposits being collected for a "notification waitlist" for $200 each and this time they are non-refundable.
Despite that, and the breeder taking in around $25,000 in deposits from just the 50 customers we spoke with, Cox Family Doodles has only refunded one of them.
Another person sued the business in small claims court, while nine others showed us they filed complaints with the state Attorney General's Office. However, these last-ditch consumer protections aren't getting people their money back.
The person who sued did win a judgment against Cox Family Doodles, for the $500 plus court fees. But now, almost two months later they have not been paid and are left trying to navigate the collections process on their own.
It was the same thing for those who contacted the Attorney General. Some received letters saying the AG would request a response from the business but have not gotten that. Others received letters saying there was a "lack of clear facts" and that it was a civil versus criminal matter.
We pushed the AG - asking if they are investigating Cox Family Doodles and how many complaints does it take for them to do so?
They sent us this statement:
All consumer complaints are confidential under ARS 44-1525. Therefore, I can't confirm or deny consumer complaints about a specific company.
Here are some general consumer tips for viewers:
- Be very cautious about buying a pet over the internet. Just because you see a picture or video of a cute animal doesn’t mean that you’ll get that animal when you send money to a stranger.
- Research the breeder online. Check reviews on Google and Better Business Bureau. If you find several negative reviews, that’s a red flag.
- Ask to pay with a credit card, as you have more recourse if you have issues.
- If a seller asks you to pay via wire transfer or gift card, beware—it is nearly impossible to recover money sent through these methods.
- Before you choose a pet, do your best to visit the breeder's operation in person.
- Do not pay a significant amount or anything if possible, without seeing and getting possession of the pet.
- Ask questions and ensure the breeder has veterinary paperwork. Call the veterinarian independently to verify the relationship.
- If you visit a breeder or seller and find potential animal cruelty, contact the seller’s local animal control agency.
- If you believe you’ve been a victim of consumer fraud, file a complaint with our office.
Now the Attorney General has sued businesses hurting consumers and they do have statutes to follow, but it seems those statutes need to change if they are not able to offer help to all these people with nowhere to turn.