Imagine spending thousands of dollars for a puppy and seeing the delight in your children’s eyes as they cuddle their new family member, only to find yourself in a veterinary emergency room days later, with your puppy on an IV, struggling to live. Worse, imagine that beloved animal dying just over three weeks later.

This is the true story of a family in Florida, who bought a new puppy for more than $3,000 last month at a Petland store in the Orlando area. “Although the purchase was costly, it didn't matter, our goal was to complete our family and to see our children's reaction when [they met] the newest member of our family,” the mother explained in an email.

But the night he came home, their new puppy kept coughing and appeared depressed. The mother told us the family was up all night monitoring the puppy’s health. By Tuesday, the puppy had to be taken to the veterinarian, who informed the family that he had bronchitis and giardia. He was promptly put on treatment but continued to get worse and wasn’t eating or drinking. He began vomiting and his breathing was troubled. They took him back to the vet only to learn that he now had pneumonia. The family reached out to us while their puppy was still in the hospital, but soon after, he died because of his illnesses.

As the owner found out later, their puppy was not the only sick one at the store. The veterinarian informed her that they were treating other puppies from Petland who were also in quarantine because of a coronavirus infection. Her puppy also had to be treated for coronavirus, a disease that can easily be prevented in puppies with adequate vaccinations. “My kids are devastated, crying every minute. They don’t even want to go to school,” she said.

This story, as heartbreaking as it is, is not new or surprising to the staff of our Stop Puppy Mills team. In addition to the horror stories of sick and dead puppies and rabbits that have emerged at seven Petland stores we have investigated undercover since last year, we have heard from hundreds of Petland customers who have their own, similar horror stories to tell.

We also heard from many other buyers, including three who bought puppies from Petland stores in Summerville, South Carolina, Monroeville, Pennsylvania, and Frisco, Texas. All three puppies were found to be suffering from severe pneumonia, and the puppy bought at the Frisco store died of his illness.

The reason why there are so many problems with puppies bought at pet stores is because most of these businesses source animals from inhumane puppy mills, where dozens of dogs are crowded together and diseases spread like wildfire. Petland has a history of buying from mills, including dealers that have been cited for Animal Welfare Act violations, and instead of cleaning house, the chain has focused its resources on battling commonsense laws designed to end the sale of puppies in pet stores.

That’s why we are working hard to expose Petland's history of selling sick puppies from questionable sources and to pass ordinances that prohibit the sales of puppies in pet stores. To date, we’ve helped pass 325 such ordinances, with 69 of them in Florida. Recently, ordinances were adopted in Tuscaloosa, Alabama; Breckenridge, Colorado; and Springfield, Illinois. Two states, California and Maryland, have also prohibited puppy mill sales in pet stores, and more are considering similar bills. We are looking forward to another successful legislative season in coming months, and to continue passing laws that crack down on puppy mill outlets where these laws are needed most.

The HSUS is laser focused on ending the abuses of puppy mills, and the pet stores who buy from them. If you purchased a sick puppy, please speak out. Our complaint form is online. The complaints we gather help us to see trends and collect data to support policy changes and legal action against those who cause immense and unnecessary animal suffering.

Help us stop puppy mills and other abuses