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HSUS Undercover Investigation Exposes the Suffering Behind New York Pet Stores

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In anticipation of the busiest puppy-buying season of the year—the winter holidays—The Humane Society of the United States revealed the results of its latest hidden-camera investigation [PDF], exposing more than 100 New York state pet stores that supply unsuspecting consumers with puppies from inhumane large-scale commercial breeders known as puppy mills.

Many websites or employees of these stores imply or explicitly state that the puppies come only from small-scale "private breeders"—not from notorious puppy mills.

"These high-priced pet stores claim to sell dogs from small private breeders, but are actually pushing dogs from huge Midwest puppy mills with some of the worst federal Animal Welfare Act violations imaginable. Consumers are being duped into buying puppies born to breeding dogs who spend their entire lives trapped in tiny wire cages, churning out litter after litter," said Jonathan Lovvorn, senior vice president for investigations at The HSUS.

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An HSUS investigator, along with actor Lorenzo Borghese from ABC's "The Bachelor," went undercover as "shoppers" and caught sales staff at 11 New York City pet stores making misleading claims concerning the origin of their puppies. Shipping documents were also obtained for more than 100 New York State pet stores. The investigation revealed:

  • All 11 stores videotaped by HSUS investigators purchased their puppies from large-scale commercial breeding facilities, despite specific claims of "no puppy mills" or misleading statements implying that their sources were small "private breeders." When HSUS investigators filmed some of these breeding facilities they found hundreds of dogs confined to small cages.

  • More than 100 pet stores in New York that were investigated through a public records search were shown to have purchased more than 4,500 puppies from similar commercial large-scale breeding or brokering operations in Arkansas, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, and Oklahoma during approximately a four-month period in 2011. More than 3,000 puppies were shipped to New York stores from Missouri alone [PDF] during that period. Missouri is the puppy mill capital of America.

  • All of the stores visited by investigators and many of the 100 stores whose puppy transport records were examined were found to be buying puppies from suppliers with known Animal Welfare Act violations, including some with citations for filthy conditions, lack of adequate space, underweight breeding animals, dogs found in the freezing cold or high heat without adequate weather protection, or sick or injured dogs in need of veterinary care.

  • Some of the stores investigated (but none of the stores visited in person) were even found purchasing from an unlicensed, convicted animal abuser, Kathy Jo Bauck, aka Kathy Cole, whose USDA license was revoked after years of extreme state and federal animal care violations for issues such as dogs with open and bleeding wounds who had not been treated by a vet, piles of accumulated feces, and puppies found shivering in the cold in temperatures as low as 12 degrees F. Bauck was ordered to stop performing surgeries on dogs without a veterinary license in 2006, and convicted of animal cruelty and torture in 2009.

  • Seven of the stores investigated by The HSUS were buying puppies from Brandi Cheney, who was identified in The HSUS's Missouri's Dirty Dozen report last year as one of the worst puppy mill operators in Missouri. More than 500 pages of USDA inspection and enforcement reports on breeding facilities linked to Cheney reflect the facilities' failure to provide vet care to sick and dying dogs, dogs subjected to below-freezing temperatures with inadequate shelter, and dogs with such severe matting that the removal of the mats left oozing, open sores. Four additional puppy mills highlighted in the HSUS' Missouri's Dirty Dozen report were also found selling to New York pet stores.

  • One salesman refused to give breeder information to the undercover shoppers, repeating three times, "I have nothing to hide." The investigation found his store purchased puppies from Brandi Cheney.

See a full report on the investigation [PDF] .

Lorenzo Borghese became involved with this HSUS investigation through his work with Friends of Finn, a committee founded by Amanda Hearst that is made up of next-generation New York leaders dedicated to stopping the inhumane treatment of dogs in puppy mills. Borghese appeared on ABC's hit reality show "The Bachelor" and is a dedicated animal advocate who has created his own line of pet products.

Puppy mill facts


  • Dogs at puppy mills typically receive little to no medical care, live in squalid conditions with no exercise, socialization, or human interaction, and are confined inside cramped wire cages for life.

  • Dogs from puppy mills are sold in pet stores, online, and directly to consumers with little to no regard for the dog's health, genetic history, or future welfare.

  • The HSUS urges people who want to get a puppy to consider adopting from a shelter or rescue group first. If deciding to buy from a breeder, potential buyers should always visit the breeder in person to see that the dogs are treated humanely and ensure the puppies and their parents are living in spacious, clean areas.

Video, photos, and the investigation report are available to media via the contact below.


Media Contact: Jordan Crump, 301-548-7793, jcrump@humanesociety.org

Follow The HSUS on Twitter. See our work for animals on your Apple or Android device by searching for our "HumaneTV" app.

The Humane Society of the United States is the nation's largest animal protection organization — backed by 11 million Americans, or one of every 28. For more than a half-century, The HSUS has been fighting for the protection of all animals through advocacy, education and hands-on programs. Celebrating animals and confronting cruelty — On the Web at humanesociety.org.

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