Hollywood-backed animal rescuer Marc Ching failed to speak out in favor of unlicensed veterinary medicine in one case after a Times investigation revealed unsettling practices at his pet shop and charity.
Los Angeles prosecutors alleged Ching, the owner of pet food store Petstaurant, put the lives of sick pets at risk by encouraging their owners to treat them with herbs and diets rather than traditional medicines.
“Just as you would not want an unauthorized doctor to medicate you or a loved one, unauthorized veterinary practice is an equally serious problem for our loved ones,” said City Atty. Mike Feuer said in a statement announcing Tuesday’s plea. “It’s about health and safety.”
Six other wrongdoing charges – including one each of the manufacture and packaging of unlicensed pet food, the unlawful sale of products that have been falsely advertised, the unlawful sale of adulterated food, and the unlawful sale of false-branded food, and two false advertisements – were rejected.
Ching, a former inmate who has grown into one of the most prominent leaders in the animal rights community at home and abroad, was sentenced to 12 months probation and a $ 1,000 fine. He also agreed not to make false or misleading statements to promote his business, prosecutors said.
Ching’s lawyer was not immediately available for comment.
City prosecutors filed charges after an undercover operation by the California Department of Consumers found Ching diagnosed diseases and prescribed treatments without a license, prosecutors said. The investigation was requested by the California Veterinary Medical Board.
Prosecutors also alleged that the Petstaurant website contained false statements, including unproven instructions on how to treat various diseases such as skin dermatitis and ear infections.
The charges follow a Times investigation that uncovered years of veterinary complaints that Ching persuaded pet owners to ignore mandatory treatment regimens and instead give their sick dogs and cats products he found in his store in Sherman Oaks, Los Feliz and the Westside was selling.
More than a dozen LA area vets and other zookeepers told the Times that Ching’s actions endangered – and in some cases even harmed – pets diagnosed with conditions such as kidney disease, heart failure and cancer. Your accounts go back up to seven years.
Five of them said they had complained about Ching to the California Veterinary Medical Board, claiming that he was practicing veterinary medicine without a license. Ching, who describes himself as a fourth generation herbalist and nutritionist, is not a veterinarian. The vets said the board had not taken any action at the time.
The Times also revealed troubling financial practices by Ching’s animal rescue charity, the Animal Hope and Wellness Foundation, which has raised millions in donations with the help of celebrities like Joaquin Phoenix, Bill Maher and Whitney Cummings. The news agency found evidence contradicting claims about the authenticity of some of the gruesome videos Ching recorded of animals being horribly tortured and killed, including by a blowtorch, in slaughterhouses in Asia.
In a previous interview and email statements, Ching and his lawyers said that he has always been honest about his work abroad, the videos are real, and he has never misused foundation funds or harmed animals.
Last year, the Federal Trade Commission accused Ching of making false or misleading claims that a herbal supplement he sells could treat COVID-19 and that some of his other products could treat cancer. Ching denied doing anything wrong. He agreed to a settlement prohibiting him from making unsubstantiated claims that his products can treat the coronavirus or cancer.