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Chicagoland Pet Stores Investigation Links Dozens of Puppy Sellers to Puppy Mills

Investigation also reveals pet stores’ non-compliance with Illinois law and reliance on breeders with repeat violations of the Animal Welfare Act


CHICAGO (Dec. 11, 2012)—During the busiest puppy buying season of the year, The Humane Society of the United States released an undercover investigation of pet stores in the Chicago area, linking many of them to inhumane commercial breeders known as puppy mills. The investigation found that employees repeatedly gave strong assurances that stores did not buy from puppy mills, but documentary evidence showed otherwise.

"This investigation drives home the heartbreaking lesson that consumers can unwittingly support the vast cruelties of puppy mills if they patronize pet stores in search of a puppy," said Melanie Kahn, senior director of the Puppy Mills Campaign for The HSUS. "Again and again, The Humane Society of the United States finds pet stores won't tell consumers the truth. The only way to confidently add a pet to the family this holiday season or anytime is to avoid pet stores or internet sites."

This investigation was the latest of three conducted in large U.S. cities to show the very same thing—stores claiming that they did not rely on puppy mills when, in fact, they did. By refusing to admit the source of animals they sell, these store employees tacitly acknowledge that puppy mills are unacceptable facilities that cause great suffering to breeding dogs.

Over a three day period in October, an HSUS investigator and a local Chicago resident visited 12 Chicagoland pet stores. HSUS investigators made trips to many of the stores’ breeders as well.

The investigation found:

  • HSUS footage revealed many of the breeding facilities that supply Chicago-area pet stores are puppy mills, where hundreds of dogs are confined in cramped wire cages solely to produce puppies for the pet trade. One of the breeders had almost 1,000 dogs and puppies on her property.
  • Some breeders found selling to Chicago-area pet stores have a record of repeat violations of the federal Animal Welfare Act. USDA inspection reports contained reports of significant animal care violations, including sick and injured dogs who had not been treated by a vet, underweight animals, puppies with their feet falling through the wire floors, puppies with severe eye deformities, piles of feces, and food contaminated by mold and insects.
  • In addition to the 12 stores visited in person, HSUS staffers followed the paper trail for puppies sent from puppy mills to dozens of other Chicagoland stores, linking almost all of them to puppy mills or brokers for puppy mills.
  • More than 2,000 puppies were shipped to Chicago-area pet stores during an approximate 6-month period, most of them from notorious puppy mill states such as Missouri, Iowa, Oklahoma, Kansas, Ohio and Indiana.
  • Illinois pet store inspection records obtained by The HSUS reveal that one of the stores visited is, itself, a puppy mill, with approximately 60 adult dogs kept in small, stacked wire cages in a back room in addition to the dozens of puppies for sale. "Puppy Parlor" aka "Poochie Puppy Parlor" in Lisle has been the subject of 19 complaints to the state department of agriculture over the past two years, and was quarantined for a week last year due to an outbreak of parvovirus that killed at least six puppies.
  • During The HSUS's visits it appeared that eight of the 12 stores did not fully comply with a state law passed in 2010 requiring pet shops to "post in a conspicuous place in writing on or near the cage of any dog or cat available for sale the […] name and address of the animal's breeder" and other information about the puppies for sale. The law was intended in part to help consumers avoid purchasing puppies from puppy mills.

Almost 2,000 pet stores nationwide and more than 80 in Illinois have signed an HSUS pledge not to sell puppies, demonstrating that it is possible to have a successful pet-related business without supporting puppy mills.

See the full investigation report here.

The HSUS encourages adoption from local shelters or rescues as a first choice, and also provides tips on finding responsible breeders: www.humanesociety.org/puppy.

Media Note: Video from inside the stores and video, still photos and USDA reports from breeders are available via the contact below.


Media Contact: Niki Ianni, 301-548-7793, nianni@humanesociety.org

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

The Humane Society of the United States is the nation’s largest animal protection organization, rated the most effective by its peers. Since 1954, The HSUS has been fighting for the protection of all animals through advocacy, education and hands-on programs. We rescue and care for tens of thousands of animals each year, but our primary mission is to prevent cruelty before it occurs. We're there for all animals, across America and around the world. Celebrating animals and confronting cruelty -- on the Web at humanesociety.org

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