LOS ANGELES — Hollywood-backed animal rescuer Marc Ching faces new criminal charges alleging that he falsely advertised and misbranded products he sold at his pet food store, marking the latest fallout from a Los Angeles Times investigation that exposed troubling practices at his business and charity.
Los Angeles prosecutors added four misdemeanor charges against Ching after an investigation by the California Department of Public Health found, among other things, that his pet food was processed and held under unsanitary conditions, said Rob Wilcox, a spokesman for the city attorney's office.
"He is alleged to have made false and misleading claims on his website, as well as on the pet food labels he used," Wilcox said. He declined to elaborate.
Ching, 41, now faces one misdemeanor count each of practicing veterinary medicine without a license, manufacturing and packaging pet food without a license, unlawfully selling products that were falsely advertised, unlawfully selling food that was adulterated and unlawfully selling food that was misbranded, and two counts of false advertising.
If convicted of the seven charges, Ching faces up to 6 1/2 years in jail and $13,500 in fines, Wilcox said. At a brief court hearing Wednesday, his arraignment was postponed to March, according to the courtroom clerk. Ching's attorney declined to comment on the charges.
It's not the first time Ching has been accused of misleading his customers. In April, the Federal Trade Commission accused him of making false or deceptive claims that an herbal supplement he was selling could treat COVID-19 and that some of his other products could treat cancer. Ching denied wrongdoing. In July, he agreed to a settlement in which he is barred from making baseless claims that his products can treat COVID-19 or cancer.
The criminal case in Los Angeles comes after a Times investigation earlier this year uncovered years of complaints by veterinarians that Ching persuaded pet owners to ignore prescribed treatment regimens and instead give their sick dogs and cats products he sells at his shop, the Petstaurant.
More than a dozen L.A.-area veterinarians and other pet care providers told The Times that Ching's actions threatened to harm — and in some cases did harm — pets diagnosed with conditions that included kidney disease, heart failure and cancer. Their accounts date as far back as seven years.
Five of them said they complained about Ching to the California Veterinary Medical Board, alleging he was practicing veterinary medicine without a license. Ching, who describes himself as a fourth-generation herbalist and nutritionist and operates Petstaurant stores in Sherman Oaks and the Westside, is not a veterinarian. The vets said the board at the time took no action.
The Times also exposed troubling financial practices by Ching's animal rescue charity, the Animal Hope and Wellness Foundation, and raised questions about his rescue efforts overseas. The newspaper found evidence contradicting claims about the authenticity of some of the gruesome videos he shot of animals being tortured and killed in horrifying ways, including by blowtorch, at slaughterhouses in Asia.