UPDATE 11/22/22: The lawsuit has been amended with another complainant who claims she was sold a sick puppy by Petland Webster. Additional claims may be added to the lawsuit in the coming weeks if more potential plaintiffs come forward.
When Stephanie Gonzalez and her 7-year-old son went to the Petland store in Webster, Texas, they were drawn to a Boston terrier puppy they later named Tyler. In a lawsuit filed today against the Petland store and its owner, Ms. Gonzalez alleges that she was explicitly told by a Petland salesperson that the puppy was “perfectly healthy,” had been seen by a veterinarian in the store and came from the “top 2%” of breeders. The lawsuit also recounts how she was told that all veterinary care that Tyler needed would be paid for under Petland’s warranty, and how this made Ms. Gonzalez feel comfortable in paying the purchase cost of $5,000 for Tyler.
Sadly, Tyler was not healthy, the lawsuit claims. Almost immediately after bringing Tyler home, he began to show symptoms of illness, including diarrhea and lethargy. Ms. Gonzalez brought Tyler to a veterinarian, who diagnosed him with giardia, a highly contagious parasitic disease. The lawsuit alleges that the veterinarian who treated Tyler told Ms. Gonzalez that she had diagnosed Tyler with giardia while he was still at the Petland store, despite the fact that the Petland salesperson had not mentioned anything about the condition. In fact, the salesperson had told her the dog was “perfectly healthy.” In the end, Ms. Gonzalez had to bring Tyler back to the vet repeatedly to be tested and treated for the disease, which stayed in his system for many months.
Thankfully, Tyler has recovered. But the sense of Petland’s deception lingered, as Ms. Gonzalez later learned that, far from coming from a “top” breeder, Tyler actually came from a large commercial puppy broker called Blue Ribbon Puppies that resells puppies from dozens of different puppy mills. This facility has been linked to disease outbreaks among people who handled sick puppies from Petland stores and Blue Ribbon.
As sad and infuriating as Ms. Gonzalez’ story is, it does not surprise us. We have repeatedly seen the heartbreak caused when consumers purchase sick puppies from Petland stores, after being assured that the puppies were healthy and bred by responsible breeders. Our undercover investigations of Petland and consumer complaints reveal the same scenario time and time again: Petland sales staff deceiving consumers into believing the dogs they sell are raised humanely, backed by purportedly prestigious breed club registrations, vet-checked and guaranteed healthy by multiple purported warranties, which turn out to be worthless.
In reality, Petland stores regularly sell sick puppies obtained from puppy mills, including dealers who have been cited for violations of animal welfare laws. And while many pet stores around the nation have transitioned over to a more humane business model by no longer sourcing and selling puppies from commercial breeders, Petland doubles down on its outdated model by lobbying against such laws.
Fortunately, a growing number of Americans are becoming aware of, and raising their voices against, such practices. Some localities with Petland outlets have moved to prohibit sales of puppy mill dogs in pet stores.
It is clear that Texas citizens care about this issue. With the passage of local ordinances in Dallas and Houston this year, every large city in Texas now prohibits the sale of puppies in pet stores. In October, New Braunfels passed its humane pet store ordinance, bringing the state total of local ordinances like this to 14. Last year, the Texas House of Representatives voted for a bill to stop the sale of puppies in pet stores statewide. That effort fell short in the Texas Senate, but we expect the issue to emerge again in the 2023 legislative session, and, for the sake of keeping dogs healthy and happy by fighting inhumane puppy mills, we’re committed to working for a win.
With this lawsuit, we hope Petland will be held accountable for the harm it has caused Ms. Gonzalez, and we hope that the chain will be deterred from harming other animals and families in the future.
If you or someone you know purchased a sick or otherwise unfit animal from a Petland store in Texas, you can contact the trial firm of Sico Hoelscher Harris LLP at 361-653-3300. You may also submit a complaint to us about any Petland store or other puppy seller by filling out our Puppy Buyer Complaint Form.
Ms. Gonzalez is represented by the Texas trial firm Sico Hoelscher Harris LLP, and attorneys in our Animal Protection Law department are assisting with the case.
Follow Kitty Block on Twitter @HSUSKittyBlock.