Between July and August 2019, a hidden-camera investigation conducted by the Humane Society of the United States in the Frisco, Texas, Petland store uncovered both animal mistreatment and rampant disease. Citations for alleged violations of the city animal control ordinance are reportedly pending against the Frisco Petland store, according to an animal control official, after the HSUS investigators presented documentation of sick puppies and described puppies too sick to eat or suffering from severe vomiting and diarrhea.
Key findings from the Frisco Petland investigation include:
- An injured rabbit was placed in a cardboard box in a back room instead of being taken to a veterinarian. The HSUS investigator asked an employee, “What happens if he doesn’t get better?” and the employee answered, “They freeze them.” She added, “So don’t look in the freezer [if] you’re grossed out by dead things.” The HSUS investigator checked the freezer the next day and found a rabbit dead inside.
- Some puppies appeared to be noticeably underweight with their ribs showing, and many puppies routinely suffered from issues such as coughing, wheezing, bloody diarrhea and vomiting. Rather than take the puppies to a veterinarian for diagnosis, staff often attempted to treat them with guess work home remedies such as probiotics and cough syrup, often at the direction of the store owner or kennel managers. Frail puppies so sick that they refused to eat were routinely force-fed, sometimes for a week or more, instead of being brought to a veterinary hospital for diagnosis and treatment.
- When puppies who had been sick showed signs of improvement, they were put out front for sale, but people who purchased the puppies were not always told that their new pet had recently been ill or had been given medications by Petland staff. When asked, an employee told the HSUS investigator that the store didn’t give these records to buyers because they “might reject” a puppy who had been sick.
Puppy cages were overcrowded, and the store sometimes had more than 100 puppies on site at a time. They were often in cages so small that there wasn’t enough space for every dog to lie down without laying across another puppy.
“Our investigations into various Petland stores have revealed mistreatment of puppies and rabbits, and a disturbing trend of consumer deception,” said John Goodwin, senior director of the Humane Society of the United States’ Stop Puppy Mills campaign. “It’s distressing to realize that personnel without veterinary credentials are once again attempting to treat serious illnesses with guess work and home remedies. It’s time for Petland to change its business model to stop selling puppies and rabbits.”
The Frisco investigation was abruptly cut short after the HSUS undercover investigator was diagnosed with campylobacter, a bacterial infection that can be spread from animals to humans. An investigation by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently linked more than 100 human cases of campylobacter infections to puppies in Petland stores. Yet, our investigation found that Petland does not routinely test its puppies for the disease. During her employment at Petland Frisco, our investigator did not see any stool samples preserved for testing, even though many of the puppies were suffering from acute or bloody diarrhea, a common symptom of campylobacter infection and other serious diseases.
The Frisco investigation was the HSUS’s seventh undercover investigation of a Petland store in less than a year. Investigations revealed sick puppies in the back rooms of all seven stores and dead animals in the freezers of five of stores. These concerns over the treatment of rabbits at the Frisco store mirror problems found at other Petland locations, including the store in Fairfax, Virginia, which closed in April after our investigation led law enforcement to a dead puppy and more than 30 dead rabbits in the store’s freezer.
- Kirsten Peek