Lovie Langston’s complaint came to our Stop Puppy Mills team in December 2022. “I am paying $7,000 for ashes,” she stated. Langston said she purchased a Maltese puppy whom she named Ziva Girl as a holiday gift for herself and her family at the Petland (Bellaire) store in Houston, Texas in November 2021. Sickly from the start, Ziva only lived about a year, but the bills related to her purchase and treatment lasted much longer. So did her family’s pain.

The whole family “fell deeply in love with her,” Langston said of Ziva in her online complaint concerning Petland. “I asked them several times was she healthy? They replied ‘yes,’” Langston wrote. But as soon as Ziva came home with Langston she began to show signs of illness, shaking uncontrollably. Langston received some veterinary care advice over the phone and the shaking stopped, but a few days later, Ziva was sick again. Langston and her family rushed Ziva to a veterinary hospital where they learned the puppy had hypoglycemia and had previously been operated on for a hernia. Langston was told that Ziva’s stitches were infected. “Had I not brought her in she would’ve died.”

Langston’s worry was compounded when Petland refused to help her. “The next day I took her back to Petland and asked for a refund and they denied my request.” Ziva only became sicker, Langston reported, and “had countless seizures and became lethargic non-stop. I ran into a financial hardship caring for her as well as trying to keep up with her payments.” Langston said her family had to move because of all the bills – not just for the veterinary care, but for the purchase price and outrageous loan terms, adding up to many thousands of dollars. Petland had signed Langston up for multiple loans at purchase, one of which carried an interest rate of 133%, which the salesperson never disclosed.

The family’s sacrifices were for naught. About a year after the Langston family acquired Ziva, she passed away from her last seizure. “The hurt and mental trauma my family is suffering from this has cost a great depression for us all. We loved her so much in spite of her illness and our restless nights. I asked Petland numerous times if they could help with her bills [but] they refused to. Even after death they refuse. I am paying $7,000 for ashes, it’s not fair. This was just a scam if you ask me.”

Again and again, the Petland business model deals out misfortune to animals and consumers. In November, I wrote about a lawsuit against another Texas Petland store, Petland Webster. Stephanie Gonzalez had visited that store with her young son and purchased a Boston terrier puppy named Tyler after being assured he was “perfectly healthy.” But Tyler suffered from giardia, which is contagious to humans and took months to treat. Tyler survived, but Gonzalez later learned he had come from a puppy mill, not from a top- tier breeder, as Petland claimed.

Attorneys from our Animal Protection Law department are working with a Texas trial firm to represent Gonzalez and other consumers who purchased sick puppies at the Petland Webster and Petland Woodlands stores.

Like my colleagues who first learned about her from Lovie Langston, I am outraged by Ziva’s fate. It was tragic for Ziva and for the Langston family, who were grossly taken advantage of in the situation. We are grateful to them for sharing their story, and it reinforces our determination to continue to expose the cruel link between puppy mills and pet stores.

If you or someone you know purchased a sick puppy from a pet store in Texas, or any other state, please fill out our complaint form at humanesociety.org/puppycomplaint. And join us in urging all those who are thinking of getting a pet to visit their local animal shelters and reputable pet rescue organizations first. There is nothing good to be said of a commercial enterprise so indifferent to the principles of compassion and decency as the one that visited this harm on Ziva and the Langstons.

Follow Kitty Block on Twitter @HSUSKittyBlock.