WASHINGTON—December is one of the most popular times of year to bring a new puppy into the family, but what many shoppers do not know is that most of the puppies sold in pet stores come from puppy mills, and many are very sick. The Humane Society of the United States has documented the treatment of dogs at two Petland locations in advance of the holiday shopping season and is issuing a warning to consumers about the national chain’s practices.
“As the holiday season reaches fever pitch, the Humane Society of the United States urges consumers never to buy a puppy from a pet store because many are unhealthy and most of them come from inhumane dealers known as puppy mills,” said John Goodwin, senior director of Stop Puppy Mills Campaign for the Humane Society of the United States. “Responsible breeders don’t sell to pet stores, because they want to meet the families who are taking home their puppies. This investigation once again shows the poor conditions of many of these animals at pet stores who are sold to innocent consumers looking to bring home a new family member.”
Petland has been sued numerous times by consumers who alleged the store sold them sick puppies and didn’t fully cover their veterinary costs. The Humane Society of the United States has received more than 1,200 complaints about sick Petland puppies purchased from numerous Petland locations since 2006.
Between September and November, 2018, the Humane Society of the United States conducted an undercover investigation at two Petland stores—one in Kennesaw, Georgia, near Atlanta, and one in Las Vegas, Nevada. Petland, Inc. is the largest chain of puppy-selling pet stores in the U.S., with more than 80 locations.
At both the Kennesaw and Las Vegas locations, the investigation revealed sick puppies kept in barren isolation rooms out of sight of customers, including puppies who were coughing, lethargic or had mucus coming from their noses. Cages were often crowded, puppies were not let out for regular exercise, and the HSUS believes that some of them had likely been in the store for months. Truckloads of puppies arrived weekly to both stores from out-of-state brokers—a common practice at most of Petland’s stores.
Among the other findings that the investigators found while going undercover as employees:
A Petland employee told the Humane Society of the United States undercover investigator that she sometimes came into work and found puppies who had “passed away.” The employee said it had happened about three times during the four months she had been working there.
After hearing about puppies who had died at the store, the investigator became suspicious about a black plastic bag in the freezer. When no one was looking, she opened the bag and found a dead puppy inside.
A large-breed puppy who was labeled a “jumper” was kept in a stacked cage high off the ground. An employee dropped the puppy while trying to take him out of his cage, and the puppy was seen repeatedly screeching in pain.
In-store veterinary examinations on puppies were sometimes as short as 15 seconds, with kennel staff providing many of the in-store drug treatments. Some employees told our investigator they were instructed by a supervisor to give puppies with poor appetites a concoction from a bottle labeled simply “The Cure,” which did not have a professional label and had no ingredients or dosages listed on it.
Some puppies came from a distributor in Indiana called Blue Ribbon Puppies, which was linked to an outbreak of a drug-resistant disease by the CDC last year. The drug-resistant disease, Campylobacter, infected more than a hundred people, most of whom contracted it through Petland puppies, according to the CDC’s outbreak advisory. Shipping documents obtained by HSUS indicate Blue Ribbon Puppies sold 161 puppies to the five Petland stores in Georgia over a three month period alone.
A very sick Maltese puppy was kept alone in a cage in a back room for about a month. One employee told the undercover worker that he had a defect described as a “hole in his throat” and they were waiting for him to die. When the undercover investigator found out he was about to be sent back to the distributor (Pinnacle Pet in Missouri), the investigator asked the manager if she could buy the puppy herself so he would be in a caring home for the holidays. The manager refused, and instead sent the puppy back to the dealer for a refund. The incident flies in the face of Petland’s claim that “every puppy finds a home” at Petland.
The undercover employee filmed a bird with a broken wing and another bird with a head injury, both of whom were stored in a glass aquarium in a back room. Other birds had mutilated themselves by plucking out feathers.
Some of the puppies were linked to a Missouri distributor, Pinnacle Pet, where nine puppies died after being left on a hot truck in 2015. Shipping records obtained by HSUS indicate Pinnacle Pet sells hundreds of puppies to Petland stores all over the country.
In February 2017, a veterinarian who had worked with the Kennesaw, Georgia, Petland store for almost 10 years, Dr. Michael Good, wrote a witness affidavit detailing the problems he saw in Petland’s puppies: “There was no way for me to save all of the animals from death and prolonged illness because they were already incredibly sick when they arrived at the store,” he wrote. Dr. Good told ABC News he had seen numerous dead animals in the freezer at Petland Kennesaw in Georgia – the same store where our undercover employee found the dead puppy in the freezer in October 2018.
The Humane Society of the United States recommends considering adoption from an animal shelter or rescue group first, or purchasing only from a breeder who will let you see where the puppy was born and raised. For more information, visit humanesociety.org/puppy.