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Majority of Maryland Puppy-Selling Stores Found Violating Consumer Disclosure Law

HSUS undercover investigation

  • Bella was bought from a pet store in Glen Burnie, Md. She became ill a week later and died of parvovirus when three months old. The HSUS

  • This Rottweiler pup was so sick that investigators called animal control. The agent seized the puppy and fined the owner of the Capitol Heights, Md., store. ReLove, Inc.

Nine out of the 12 pet stores in Maryland known to sell puppies were found to be apparently not complying with a Maryland law that took effect a year ago to protect dogs and consumers.

During a two-week undercover investigation [PDF] in September, undercover investigators from The Humane Society of the United States and Baltimore-based ReLove Animals, Inc. visited the stores to see if they were complying with a new state law (Md. Code, Bus. Reg. §§ 19-701 to 707), which requires the stores to post certain information about their puppies' origins conspicuously on each cage. The law was designed to give consumers more information about where the dogs were raised, and help them avoid buying puppies from puppy mills.

In one especially problematic pet store, Genesis Pets of Capitol Heights, investigators found that not only did the store fail to post any information on the puppies' cages, but one Rottweiler puppy was so ill and underweight that ReLove Animals, Inc., contacted local law enforcement immediately. Prince George’s County Animal Control responded and seized the sick and malnourished puppy. When ReLove Animals, Inc., called Animal Control for an update a few days later, they were told that Animal Control had taken the puppy to a veterinarian, who diagnosed the puppy with coccidia and pneumonia. To The HSUS's knowledge, the puppy now remains in custody of animal control.

Read the report on the pet stores investigated [PDF] »

Julianne Brown of ReLove Animals, Inc. said: "ReLove has documents linking numerous puppy mills to Maryland pet stores, but most of them won't post any of that information on the puppies' cages. We have to wonder what these stores were trying to hide."

The new law was introduced last year by Del. Nic Kipke, R-Anne Arundel, and Sen. Catherine Pugh, D-Baltimore City, and requires pet stores to disclose basic information about the origin of the puppies they sell. It also enables people who purchase a sick puppy from a pet store to receive a refund for veterinary expenses up to the purchase price of the puppy. The law passed by overwhelming bipartisan votes last year, and went into effect on October 1, 2012.

The investigators were specifically looking to see if the stores were complying with a disclosure portion of the law, which requires stores to post "conspicuously on each dog's cage" the "state in which the breeder or dealer of the dog is located" and "the United States Department of Agriculture license number of the breeder or dealer, if required."

The HSUS provided its findings to the Maryland Attorney General's Consumer Protection Division, which oversees enforcement of this law.

"Buying a pet can be one of our most important and exciting purchases," said Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler, who strongly supported the legislation's passage. "Consumers deserve to have accurate information, as required by law, about where puppies come from to ensure they are purchasing a healthy pet that was raised in a humane environment."


  • Puppy mills are large-scale commercial breeding facilities that often neglect the basic health and welfare of the dogs in their care. While their puppies are typically sold at eight weeks of age, the parent dogs at puppy mills often spend their entire lives in small wire cages with little to no veterinary care, personal attention or exercise. Puppy mills sell puppies through pet stores, classifieds and over the Internet. The majority of dogs currently sold in pet stores come from puppy mills.
  • The HSUS estimates there are at least 10,000 puppy mills in the United States, thousands of which supply puppies to pet stores.
  • Get information on how to get a puppy from a responsible breeder, breed rescue, or shelter.
  • More than 2,100 pet stores nationwide, including 70 pet stores in Maryland [PDF], have signed The HSUS's Puppy Friendly Pet Stores pledge, promising not to sell puppies and to support homeless pet adoptions instead.

 **Photos and video of undercover investigation and contact information of an affected pet store buyer available upon request.

Media contacts

The HSUS—Cheylin Parker: 301-258-1505; cparker@humanesociety.org
ReLove Animals, Inc.—Julianne Brown: 410-808-8598; reloveanimals@gmail.com

Subscribe to Wayne Pacelle's blog, A Humane Nation. Follow The HSUS PR department on Twitter for the latest animal welfare news. 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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