An HSUS undercover investigator who worked 40 shifts as a kennel attendant at a Petland store in Novi, Michigan, documented sick puppies, dangerous conditions and improper care with a hidden camera. The investigator witnessed puppies being delivered in unmarked vans from out of state, transported in stacked crates in the dark. Puppies with bloody feces were made available to the public for purchase.

Transportation documents revealed that the Petland store has sourced puppies from problematic puppy mills, at least five of which have been included in the HSUS Horrible Hundred report due to state and federal inspection records documenting egregious or repeated animal care violations. Researchers obtained transportation paperwork linking at least 11 additional Michigan stores to known puppy mills.

Issues at Petland Novi included:

Some puppies suffered from wounds, congenital defects, hacking coughs, eye and nasal discharge, or vomiting and diarrhea. Others were lethargic, shivering or refused to eat. Some puppies had bloody feces but were available for purchase, despite store staff being aware of these veterinary issues.

  • A Petland manager indicated that Freeman Raber in Ohio was one of their steadiest puppy suppliers, and had been sending the store puppies for about a decade. Raber was in the HSUS 2023 Horrible Hundred report after a state inspector cited him for improperly doing his own surgical procedures on several litters of puppies; the state report described the violation as “egregious.”
  • Several puppies arrived at the store with obvious abdominal wounds. The consulting veterinarian described some of the wounds as repaired hernias, but in some cases, the incisions were opening back up and seemed infected. Some of the other puppies had issues such as abnormal masses, soft spots on their skulls, and other signs of congenital defects.
  • On several occasions, puppies fell out of their stacked cages and hit the hard floor. Conversations with Petland employees indicated this was a recurring problem and had led to broken bones.
  • The HSUS investigator recorded as puppies were unloaded from stacked metal cages in dark, crowded distributor vans with out-of-state tags. One of the workers used a flashlight to pick out the dogs who were going to Petland; the other dogs would be delivered to additional pet stores on the route. One of the van workers complained openly about having to go back to Illinois to pick up “more of these f**king yipping dogs.”

“From a bleak start in a puppy mill, an interstate drive in a darkened, crowded van, and then suffering from illnesses and unsafe conditions on a sales floor… that is no life for a puppy,” said Blake Goodman, Michigan state director for the Humane Society of the United States. “No Michigander would knowingly put their beloved family pet through that, which is why we must put a stop to the retail sale of puppies in pet stores. Our state has a chance right now to do this by passing HB 4838 into law—further shrinking the number of stores where Midwest puppy mills can legally sell their puppies and helping shutter the industry across our region once and for all. And Michiganders can make a difference on an individual level right now by refusing to buy a puppy from a pet store this holiday season—if you’re looking to add a new pet to your family, adopt from your local shelter or visit a responsible breeder in person.”

The investigation in the Novi store, which took place from July to September, is one of a total of 10 Petland stores that HSUS has investigated undercover since 2018. The investigations consistently found sick and dying puppies in the stores and deceptive sales tactics resulting in customers paying thousands of dollars to save their new, sick puppy. The chain has sold puppies sourced from puppy mills that have been cited by state or federal inspectors for filthy conditions, exposure to extreme temperatures, failure to provide proper veterinary care for puncture wounds, infections and other issues.

HSUS researchers reviewed paperwork for 12 puppy-selling stores in Michigan altogether, discovering that each of the stores were selling puppies from out-of-state puppy mills, many of which had state or federal violations for issues such as dogs with bleeding wounds, and sick, injured, dirty or matted dogs. HSUS researchers found that pet stores in Michigan were sourcing puppies from more than 160 different out-of-state commercial breeders, also known as puppy mills.

The investigation proved what animal advocates have been saying for decades: puppies don’t belong in pet stores, and most of the puppies in stores come from puppy mills. Responsible breeders do not sell to pet stores, because they want to meet the people who take home their puppies.

HB 4838, introduced in June 2023, would end the sale of puppies, kittens and rabbits in retail stores across the state, pushing the public toward more humane sources of puppies, such as small, local breeders, reputable pet rescue groups and animal shelters. The bill has 32 co-sponsors in the House. Sixty pet supply stores that do not sell puppies have endorsed the bill, which is nearly four times more than the number of stores that sell puppies in the state. Seven other states have passed laws ending the sale of puppies in pet stores. 

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