Between November 2018 and March 2019, the Humane Society of the United States carried out a hidden camera investigation at the Petland store in Fairfax, Virginia. The investigation, documented on hidden camera, found that sick or injured rabbits in the Virginia store were dying without receiving veterinary care, and that many of the rabbits appeared to be coming from an inhumane breeder without a USDA license. Petland is the largest chain of pet stores in the U.S. that still sells puppies and rabbits.
“It’s heartbreaking to see gentle rabbits treated as if they are no more than stuffed toys. No pet deserves to be treated like a disposable product, and it’s time for Petland to change its business model to reflect that,” said John Goodwin, senior director of the Humane Society of the United States’ Stop Puppy Mills Campaign. “Our previous investigations have linked Petland to cruel puppy mills. This newest investigation has linked them to a rabbit mill as well.”
Key findings from the investigation include:
With a hidden video camera, the HSUS investigator documented at least 14 dead rabbits piled up in Petland’s freezer in January 2019 alone. The 14 rabbits had accumulated over a two month period.
Several employees indicated that it was a regular store practice to let sick or injured rabbits die rather than providing veterinary care. One employee told our undercover investigator that when rabbits get sick, “we just let them die.” Another employee told the investigator, “they’re not checked by a vet,” and “the sick ones just kind of die out.”
Our undercover investigator found a dead rabbit in a plastic basket under a table in a back room. When the investigator asked an employee why the dead rabbit was there, the employee stated, “that’s where we hide them.”
On another day, a customer brought back a dead rabbit named “Moon,” saying the animal had had several seizures very shortly after purchase and then died. Moon’s body was added to the freezer, where many other dead rabbits were piling up. There appeared to be no concern on the store’s part about what had caused Moon’s death, or the deaths of any of the other bunnies.
In March 2019, the Humane Society of the United States linked Petland’s rabbits to Wagner’s Farm in Centreville, Maryland. On the property, investigators found approximately 200 rabbits kept in dirty and crowded conditions. The conditions were similar to what the HSUS finds in puppy mills, but in this case, it was a rabbit mill. Some of the rabbits appeared to be injured, and at least one was seen laying across the top of a cage, dead.
Wagner’s Farm’s owner acknowledged to the investigator that he sells about 60 rabbits a month to the Fairfax Petland, a volume of sales that would require him to obtain a USDA license and follow specific standards of care. Yet we found no indication that Wagner has a USDA license.
Families who are considering getting a rabbit as a pet this time of year are encouraged to research the animal’s needs very carefully, and consider adopting from a shelter or rabbit rescue group.