PARK SLOPE — They've been branded the Cruella De Vils of Brooklyn.
A Sheepshead Bay couple is suing a pet placement agency and a group of animal lovers, claiming they were vilified as "puppy killers" after they decided to return a pooch they adopted.
Robert Vaynberger and Sarah Kapach say in a lawsuit that a network of doggy do-gooders unleashed an online smear campaign in February 2012, accusing them of cruelly dropping a 6-month-old puppy on the ground and allowing it to bleed to death.
Vaynberger and Kapach's trouble began last year after the death of their puppy Charlie, a Prince Charles Spaniel, according to the Feb. 13 lawsuit filed in Brooklyn Supreme Court. The couple claims that Charlie died after he accidentally fell and contracted pneumonia when he was taken to the veterinarian.
The pair decided to adopt a new dog and came across an ad for Ethel, a Shih Tzu puppy whom the agency In Our Hands Rescue was trying to place in a home. Vaynberger and Kapach explained to Jennifer Lamb, the rescue group's founder, what had happened to Charlie and got approval to pick up Ethel, who was being housed in Park Slope by volunteer Jillian Levine.
The morning after adopting the pooch, the couple, still grieving over Charlie, decided it was too soon to have another dog.
When they returned Ethel to Levine on Feb. 25, 2012, the volunteer "expressed annoyance," the lawsuit says. That same day the couple's reputation went to the dogs as emails and Facebook postings alleging they abused and killed Charlie began circulating among animal adoption groups, the lawsuit claims.
"Apparently this couple adopted a dog that was less than six months old and they threw it in the air and let him hit the ground several times. And when the dog started bleeding out its nose, the couple decided they couldn't get it vet care because they would be in trouble for abuse," read one posting on the Internet, according to the lawsuit.
The postings also linked to Vaynberger and Kapach's Facebook pages and warned that the two may try to adopt a dog through a New York shelter.
"The defendants, individually and together, engaged in a campaign and concerted effort to intentionally cause emotional distress and to cause severe damage to [the plaintiffs'] reputations," the lawsuit says.
The postings about the couple still showed up in Google searches on Tuesday.
"The damage to their reputations are unknown," said Joseph Deliso, Vaynberger and Kapach's lawyer.
Deliso said that the postings could ruin job opportunities if would-be employers search their names online.
"If your name comes up as a puppy killer, are they going to give you a job?" he said, adding that Vaynberger is studying to be a physical therapist.
The lawsuit names Lamb, Levine and three others as defendants. It claims that Lamb and Levine were the only ones who knew about the death of Charlie.
Lamb denied that she and Levine posted or passed on any information about Vaynberger and Kapach.
"This is so crazy. I don't even know where to begin," Lamb said.
She added that her only interaction with the couple was connecting them with Ethel. Lamb says the warnings came from other animal care groups and that she started getting the warnings about Vaynberger and Kapach an hour after they returned the dog.
"We were just relieved that our dog was fine. We never spread it. We never told anybody about it," Lamb said.