A Petland store that was the subject of an HSUS undercover investigation released this week appears to be closing down. After news of our investigation, which showed more than a dozen rabbits had apparently died at the Virginia store without medical care, and following an HSUS tip-off, police announced they had searched the store Monday, and found 31 dead rabbits and one dead puppy in a freezer at the store. Almost immediately, Petland announced it was severing its ties with the store.

Yesterday, with news cameras rolling in front of the store, a large crane took down the Petland sign. Law enforcement officials reported that they are continuing to review evidence seized Monday as well as evidence supplied by the HSUS investigations team in March. Our team is also reaching out today to offer to help remove and place all of the animals remaining in the store.

We urge Petland to swiftly obtain medical care for the sick pets in all its stores.

Petland’s decision to end its relationship with the Fairfax store following our investigation is a start, but the national pet store chain has completely skirted another important problem we found during our investigation – the fact that many of the animals at the store were sourced from an apparently unlicensed rabbit mill in Maryland.

This is not the first time we have linked Petland stores to sick animals. Less than four months ago, we released an investigation that found sick puppies and poor conditions at two of their other locations – one in Nevada and one in Georgia. Like the Fairfax franchise, these stores too were cutting corners on animal care, often letting sick animals linger instead of promptly taking them to a veterinarian. Since 2006, the HSUS has received more than 1,300 complaints from people who bought sick animals from Petland stores.

But instead of channeling its resources to taking better care of the animals and improving its supply chains, Petland has chosen to fight commonsense laws in states, including an HSUS-backed bill in Virginia, that seek to end the problem of pet mills. In fact, Petland is now supporting proposed laws in a number of states that would stop localities from banning the sales of rabbits, dogs and/or cats, often sourced from pet mills, in pet stores.

Pet stores no longer need to rely on selling animals. Large chains like Petsmart and Petco do not sell rabbits, cats or dogs, and instead focus on the lucrative market of pet supplies. Consumers are also growing more aware, and many now look toward rescues or shelters when they adopt a pet, or deal with small breeders where they can observe the conditions under which the animal was raised.

Rabbits, like puppies and kittens, need a great deal of care and attention. A pet store is not the place to meet these needs. By choosing to continue to sell these animals in their stores, and keeping problem pet mills in business, stores like Petland are bucking the tide toward a humane marketplace.