Since our undercover footage is now in the hands of New York City authorities, we can reveal what our investigations team discovered over the course of six weeks at a pet store called American Kennels on the Upper East Side of Manhattan.

Between October and early December, our investigator documented heartbreaking mistreatment of the shop’s puppies, many of whom were persistently sick. While undercover, our investigator repeatedly asked management to take one terribly ill toy goldendoodle to a veterinarian for urgent care. Instead, she was left alone in a cage in the store’s sick room for most of a holiday weekend and, on the Sunday following Thanksgiving, the puppy was found dead in her cage.

Our investigators turned their findings over to local authorities, and the city is currently reviewing our evidence.

Other puppies were suffering with symptoms of upper respiratory infections, skin disease, hair loss and discharge from the eyes, nose or ears, but most of the sick dogs were only being treated with ad hoc remedies in the store, including force-feeding, subcutaneous fluids and medicated baths. Some of the sick puppies were kept in a cold basement room, hidden from public view. Others were kept in cages that were far too small. Sometimes the puppies were found standing in cages that were smeared with feces from end to end.

One customer who had paid $4,000 for a sick Chihuahua at American Kennels came back to the store after having the sick pup “treated” by the store’s haphazard methods. The puppy was still sick. The customer railed against the store for selling sick dogs to customers while store personnel desperately tried to quiet her.

A chocolate shih tzu at American Kennels who was sick with nasal and eye discharge and wasn’t taken promptly to a veterinarian.

What we witnessed at American Kennels is heartrending but, sadly, not rare. In 2017, another Humane Society of the United States investigation of a Manhattan pet store called Chelsea Kennel Club found similar mistreatment and led to the store closing down just a few months later. The store’s former owners were eventually fined approximately $4 million for failing to provide proper care to sick dogs and for knowingly selling sick puppies to the public. Many other pet stores in New York have been fined or investigated by local authorities for similar issues.

We are asking authorities to check on some of the other sick puppies in the American Kennels store. These poor dogs include a shih tzu with signs of a severe skin infection and hair loss who had been at the store more than a month with no improvement and was being kept in a cold basement; a female wirehaired dachshund who was coughing for a week; and a Pomeranian, corgi, Maltese, Jack Russell terrier and many other dogs with signs of upper respiratory infections and nasal discharge who didn’t seem to be receiving proper care, many of whom were in the public areas of the store and available for customers to purchase as of December 3, the last day our investigator worked in the store.

A toy poodle at American Kennels who developed an abscess after a pet store worker injected her with fluids. Instead of taking her promptly to a vet, a pet store worker rubbed a crushed antibiotic pill on her wound.

Our researchers also linked the store to documented puppy mills, including at least three breeders who were previously listed in our Horrible Hundred reports, which expose puppy mills. They also uncovered suspected violations of city laws. In apparent violation of New York City’s pet shop law, American Kennels purchased puppies from at least three brokers (resellers) who hold B licenses with the U.S. Department of Agriculture; city law requires pet stores to purchase dogs only from licensed breeders, not brokers. Some pet store staff also refused to share information about the breeders of store puppies to prospective customers who asked, another apparent violation of the law. 

What you can do to help

While we wait for the authorities to review our evidence, there’s more that citizens can do to stop pet store cruelty.

  • New Yorkers can urge their lawmakers to support an end to the sale of puppies in pet stores statewide. The Puppy Mill Pipeline Act, A.4283/S.1130, passed the New York Senate this year, and next year will continue to be considered in the legislature. If it passes, New York will join five other states that have already passed similar laws.
  • New Yorkers who purchased a sick puppy from American Kennels, or any other store in New York, can report it to the New York State attorney general’s office and local authorities. People in any state who purchase a sick puppy from a pet store can let us know using our online form.
  • If you decide to purchase from a breeder, make sure to visit the breeder in person. Responsible breeders never sell their puppies online or through pet stores because they don’t want them to end up at places like American Kennels.
  • As always, we encourage anyone who wants to add a puppy to their family to consider adoption from a reputable shelter or rescue group first.

As chilling and disheartening as these discoveries at American Kennels are, I am encouraged that there is growing awareness of the inherent cruelty involved in puppy mills and the pet shops that perpetuate these massive breeding operations. With every investigation, Horrible Hundred report published and legislation we help to pass on the state and local levels, we are getting closer to ending the indefensible puppy mill industry.

Follow Kitty Block on Twitter @HSUSKittyBlock.