A West Virginia television station reported earlier this week that local police seized a dog at the private home of a manager of a Petland store in South Charleston. Unfortunately, one of his dogs had already been found dead—a Great Dane left outside in the freezing cold and chained beside a dog house. One neighbor, Rhonda Pauley, told the TV station, "No dog can stand to be outside 24-7 in this kind of weather." Another neighbor, Rebecca Rickaby, said, "I find it repulsive that a human being could do this."
WOWK/West Virginia Media
A dead dog is found at the home of a former Petland manager.
The store has since terminated the man, but it’s not a story that inspires confidence in the animal welfare claims of Petland employees and executives.
In fact, the same Petland employee involved in this incident was in the news right after The HSUS broke its investigation of Petland. He responded to The HSUS’s charges and assured consumers that Petland maintains the highest welfare standards.
We now know his claims were just empty rhetoric, since his own animal care standards appear to be deplorable. But our fear is that he’s not the only one from Petland guilty of empty rhetoric and false assurances.
As blog readers know, The HSUS conducted an eight-month investigation of Petland, connecting the sale of puppies at the retail outlets we investigated to puppy mills throughout the Midwest.
On Monday, Petland posted an “open request to HSUS for documentation”—in short, implicitly trying to cast doubt on the reliability of our claims.
Petland’s letter professes dismay that The HSUS has uncovered “substandard” facilities and demands that we turn our documentation over to them. Yet much of what we uncovered is already available to them on our website or through U.S. Department of Agriculture inspection reports.
But we want to make it easy. We suggest that Petland executives go to the following video, where the names and locations of several facilities supplying to Petland are identified. We can prove that each of those puppy mills, and many more, are linked directly to the Petland stores investigated. If Petland has any doubts, it can ask its outlets for their puppy-buying records.
Petland claims that some of the breeders in The HSUS’s video report are on its “do not buy” list. But list or no list, our investigators found that some of the company's stores had purchased from them. In fact, we found that at least two Petland stores bought puppies from Kathy Bauck in Minnesota, nine stores bought from MAM Kennel in Missouri, at least two stores bought puppies from Darlene Koster/Rainbow Ranch Kennels in Kansas, two stores bought from Styck Kennels in Missouri, and three stores bought puppies from Wanda Kretzman/Clearwater Kennels in Minnesota. All of these breeders' facilities are shown on our video. Since the initial report aired, we have continued to collect documentation on still more puppy mills and puppy mill brokers selling to additional Petland stores.
Petland claims that we could not have traced 17,000 puppies in eight months to just 21 stores. In fact, we investigated the sources of puppies shipped to 76 different Petland stores—more than half the Petland stores in the country. The 21 stores we mentioned were just the ones that our investigators visited in person, while dozens of other stores were linked to puppy mill dogs through transport and health records and other documents. And every store visited gave the same empty rhetoric—that Petland only deals with the best breeders in the country. Perhaps a better question is this: What is Petland’s definition of a good breeder? For me, an operation that keeps dogs in small cages or pens for years on end is most certainly not a good breeder.
One of the Petland suppliers HSUS investigators visited.
While federal law does not bar operating a puppy mill, USDA does occasionally inspect these operations. Many of these mills are so shoddy that they have been cited for violating the minimum care standards prescribed in federal regulation, and we prepared a listing of violations from mills who supply Petland. Every humane care violation we mentioned in our investigative report was taken directly from USDA inspection reports. Petland almost certainly does not have a parallel inspection program, and it appears that Petland has not even reviewed the USDA records of at least some of its suppliers.
If Petland wants transparency, we think it would be a good move for Petland to post the source of every Petland puppy for the last 12 months on its website, along with the date of Petland’s supposed inspections of these facilities.
The fact is, every Petland breeder we visited as part of our investigation is a puppy mill: a facility where breeding dogs were found confined continually to cages or pens with little or no space to play, and little or no human contact. Every one of the breeders identified by name in our video shipped puppies to more than one Petland store.
This company must do better. It should follow the lead of PetSmart and PETCO, and rather than sell puppy mill puppies, it can implement a policy of only having dogs from shelters and rescue groups available at its retail outlets. Then, it can become part of the solution instead of part of the problem.