HSUS undercover investigation reveals more sick, dead puppies at Petland stores

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Story first published by Humane Society

The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) is releasing this report and hidden camera footage of investigations carried out at Petland stores, including three new investigations in Sarasota, Florida; Novi, Michigan; and Tyler, Texas. As with their previous investigations of the national pet store chain, they again found animals at Petland stores with illnesses ranging from seizures to respiratory infections, diarrhea and vomiting. At some stores, puppies died without being taken promptly to a veterinary hospital for severe illnesses.

Also during their investigations, the stores did not regularly provide proper training to employees about zoonotic diseases, such as the campylobacter infections that have been linked to some Petland stores and their puppy suppliers.

In the Tyler store, a brown Chihuahua named Jade started having seizures, but wasn’t taken to a veterinary hospital for almost a week. When she finally went to a veterinary hospital, she was unable to recover and was euthanized. A Petland staff member told the investigator that the store’s owner rarely took sick puppies for care, stating: “He doesn’t want to pay that extra money.”


A sick puppy at the Novi, Michigan store. Photo by the HSUS

[Read: Petland investigation report]

Their investigators also found a deliberate attempt to keep consumers in the dark about contagious diseases that can be deadly for puppies, like parvovirus. When the Sarasota store was notified by a customer that a puppy recently bought there was diagnosed with parvovirus, staff members frantically cleaned the store. But the store didn’t reveal the risk to other consumers and continued to sell puppies that may have been exposed to the disease.

Here are some of the many heartbreaking discoveries their investigators made:

  • In the Tyler, Texas store, the undercover investigator found the body of a black and white shih tzu puppy in the freezer. “Panda” was one of a litter of three puppies who had originally appeared healthy but got sick after being put in a back room with other sick animals due to overcrowding in the store. One of the sick dogs was taken to a veterinarian and one recovered in the store but Panda died. A staff member in the Tyler store described how staff members provided ad hoc veterinary care to gravely ill puppies. She discussed a male Chihuahua who, she said,” looked like it was dead. It would roll over and its head wouldn’t follow its body and it couldn’t stand up.” When the investigator asked, “What’d you guys do?” the staff member answered that Petland staff “injected it with saline.”
  • In the Sarasota store, puppies were frequently sick, exhibiting explosive diarrhea or respiratory problems. But employees, under pressure to sell as many puppies as possible to earn commissions, sometimes showed sick puppies to customers. The investigator also saw a dead hamster who had been left in a drawer in the back room. As an employee placed the hamster in the store’s freezer, our investigator asked what else was in it. The other employee informed her, “We don’t mess with the freezer for good reasons,” and slammed the door shut.
  • In the Novi, Michigan store, customers regularly called with complaints about sick puppies they had purchased. On one occasion, the investigator watched Petland employees talking to three people who called about sick puppies during a single shift. At the same store, a staff member revealed that she had contracted campylobacter (a drug-resistant strain of the disease was recently linked to Petland puppies during a Centers for Disease Control investigation) and had been hospitalized for four days. The store was recently sued for the third time in recent years after a customer in the Novi store became ill with campylobacter; he too was hospitalized. At one all-staff meeting at the Novi store in March 2019, the store’s owner suggested that a new arbitration clause in purchase contracts would discourage consumers with sick puppies from filing lawsuits, saying, “They can’t take us to court.”

In December 2018 and April 2019, the investigators documented similar problems at Petland stores in Kennesaw, Georgia (2018); Las Vegas (2018); and Fairfax, Virginia(2019). It is clear that Petland has become a sad example of corporate dysfunction, low animal welfare standards, disregard for consumers and betrayal of the human-animal bond. Its sourcing and transport of puppies produce a perpetual cycle of misery and disappointment. Each year, thousands of dogs Petland acquires from a variety of sources are shipped from distant states on large cargo trucks and are exposed to stress and disease.

They have also found that Petland puppies come from a number of problematic suppliers, including some who appeared in their 2019 Horrible Hundred report. These suppliers include Tiffanie’s LLC in Missouri, where state inspectors found 35 puppies had died in a six-month period, some of them from parvovirus, and Blue Ribbon Puppies in Indiana, which has been linked to puppies with multi-drug-resistant campylobacter and canine distemper. They found that at least 10 different Petland stores purchased from Tiffanie’s LLC within a single month in 2019.

[Read: Diary of an Investigator: Tyler, Texas, Petland]

But Petland doesn’t seem to be paying any attention and has refused to replace its defective business model for one that takes the humane approach. Worse, it’s become an active opponent of our reform efforts to clean up the puppy mill trade around the country.

Consumers, and dogs, deserve much better and Petland needs to clean up its act right away by ending the sale of puppies, kittens and rabbits in all of their stores. If you’re in the market for a new pet, please visit an animal shelter or work with a reputable rescue group, to find healthy, vaccinated puppies and other pets. If you want to buy from a breeder, work with one you have met in person and carefully screened.

Bringing an end to the suffering and poor treatment of puppy mill and pet store animals is one of our core commitments at the HSUS. We won’t rest until we’ve brought the curtain down on the kinds of horrors our investigation uncovered. We’re counting on you to stand with us and help us spread the word.

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