HSUS undercover investigator documents sickness, mistreatment of puppies at New York City pet store

By on July 25, 2017 with 27 Comments By Wayne Pacelle

A French bulldog puppy shed a quarter of her body weight – transforming a lean, four-pound dog to an emaciated three pounder. Two Pomeranians had a hard time seeing a thing after conjunctivitis caused their eyes to be swollen shut. An English bulldog had pneumonia so severe that the animal was struggling to breathe. A shiba inu with bronchitis coughed incessantly for weeks.

These were just a few of the health travails of sick puppies our hidden camera investigation found at one high-end Manhattan pet store, during a detailed probe conducted by an HSUS undercover investigator.

We’ve logged such complaints for years, both from puppy buyers and from former pet store employees: puppies in pet stores are sick, and sometimes mistreated. Buyers pay top dollar for dogs who’ll need medical care and perhaps even pass away in the worst cases. To find the facts, we chose a New York City pet store called the Chelsea Kennel Club (CKC) at random, based only on the enterprise that was first to hire our investigator. Our undercover investigator—I’ll call her Karen – performed her tasks, but with a hidden camera, between the end of April and the end of June.

What Karen saw in the “boutique” style puppy store, where some puppies were priced at more than $4,000, made her heartsick. While the front of the store looked clean and inviting, a back “isolation” room was filled with sick puppies – puppies with breathing problems, bloody diarrhea, painful infections, unexplained wounds, high fevers, and more. Store personnel sometimes sent puppies to the veterinarian – but often not until they were suffering from severe pneumonia.

Karen found more than just a parade of sick puppies. She saw puppies given too much medication, the wrong medication, or none at all. She saw customers who were told their puppies just had the sniffles, when in fact they had been sick for weeks. Karen sometimes witnessed veterinary records that documented physical abnormalities being removed from the puppies’ folders before they were sold, so their new owners wouldn’t suspect a thing.

Gertie, pictured above, was sent home without any medical documentation about her respiratory problem, and no medications. We brought Gertie to a veterinarian within 24 hours, and she was diagnosed with bronchitis. More diagnostic work revealed she had pneumonia. Her veterinarian believes she may have permanent lung damage. Photo by Cary Smith/The HSUS

When the isolation room was over capacity, Karen saw employees move sick puppies to the sales floor, often while the animals were still coughing and sneezing. Customers who purchased the sick puppies were told they just had “a little cold” – but many of these puppies were later diagnosed with pneumonia. Giardia, a parasitic infection that causes bloody diarrhea and can spread to people, was also rampant at the store.

If pathogens didn’t make most of the animals miserable enough, some of the employees compounded their suffering by mistreating them. Karen witnessed employees smack at puppies with a towel, grab them by the neck, and hold them down with their muzzles closed as part of a bizarre “dominance” training.

To document some of the problems Karen reported, we sent two “secret shoppers” to the store to purchase puppies. We don’t support buying puppies at pet stores, but these puppies were part of the investigation and would be provided with good foster homes after our investigation concluded. One of the pups we purchased was Gertie, a shiba inu who had been sick in the store for weeks. Our shopper was told she just had a little cough. Gertie was sent home with our buyer without any medical documentation about her respiratory problem, and no medications. We brought Gertie to a veterinarian within 24 hours, and she was diagnosed with bronchitis. More diagnostic work revealed she had pneumonia. Gertie was a very sick dog, and the veterinarian who treated her believes she may have permanent lung damage.

Our secret shoppers also purchased Rhonda, a Chihuahua puppy returned to the store for biting her first buyer and drawing blood. The store re-sold Rhonda to our secret shopper without revealing her bite history and with no medical records of Rhonda’s congenital eye problem, which makes one of her eyes appear smaller than the other. What the store did include was breeder paperwork, which links Rhonda to a puppy mill in Kansas that has appeared in some of our Horrible Hundred reports.

CKC is the same store we visited with Inside Edition for its April 2017 exposé about dog DNA. The puppy that Inside Edition purchased from CKC (and HSUS staff fostered) was not only a completely different breed from the one listed on his paperwork, according to two DNA tests, but he was sick for weeks. He had kennel cough, giardia and colitis, among other problems.

The trade in puppy mill dogs is plagued with problems, and this investigation is just the latest evidence to support that contention. It’s one of the reasons why truly responsible breeders don’t sell their puppies through pet stores.

Earlier this year, the USDA removed most puppy mill inspection reports from its website, making it impossible for buyers and even pet stores to do their research on where these animals are coming from. During our investigation, we reached out to the New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, and he’s vowed to examine the details of our investigation. He’s one of the most pro-animal attorneys general in the United States, so we’re confident he’s quite serious about following up on our work. We believe the incidents Karen witnessed were not isolated, and are not even limited to one store—in fact, Karen noted that the same trucks that came from Missouri and other “puppy mill” states to deliver puppies to CKC also delivered to many other pet stores in Manhattan and neighboring communities.

We encourage anyone who has bought a sick puppy from a pet store to let us know right away at www.humanesociety.org/puppycomplaint. New York residents may also contact the state attorney general’s office directly. Please share our investigation video far and wide to let family and friends know that this is why puppies don’t belong in pet stores. And please spread the word that people looking to bring a puppy into their home should adopt from a shelter or rescue group or seek out a responsible breeder.

P.S. Rhonda and Gertie, the two puppies we purchased, have now been placed in good homes. We will continue to monitor their progress as they are treated for their long-term challenges. And to learn more about the investigation, read the report. You can also watch this video as well as read Karen’s investigation diary.

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  1. Lisa Reich says:

    People should gather and Pickett outside these stores!!!

  2. Jo says:

    Can’t we just stop selling animals at stores….omgosh, those people are not trained to help those poor babies…how can we help, besides only purchasing animals from reputable breeders…..but what will happen to all those puppies, horrible. I hate to see this happening.

  3. Rosemary says:

    This is truly the worst heat breaking video I have as yet. And to puppies Lord bring those people out of business and put them in jail give them one jelly sandwich a day. They are Gods creatures for us to enjoy in our lives!!!

  4. Joyce Meguire says:

    These poor precious defenseless babies deserve so much more!! They all need a loving, caring forever home not this horrible abuse and mistreatment!!!!! THIS MUST BE STOPPED NOW!!!

  5. Catherine Johns says:

    I am utterly angry closed them down and it’s heartbreaking and I am from UK GREAT BRITAIN

  6. Mary Edgerton says:

    This is extreme animal abuse! Prosecute these pos and throw them in jail.

  7. Frey Johnsson says:

    The puppy mill industry needs to end
    The amount of dogs that get killed e wry year and the money spent on euthanasia for the same dogs Is absurd.
    It needs to end now.
    Pet shops shouldn’t be allowed to sell puppy’s from puppy mills.

  8. cathy cervenka says:

    THANK YOU – I walk by Chelsea Kennel Club every day and see what awful condition the puppies are in!! It’s horrifying! They con everyone with their ‘puppies in the window’ ploy and the fancy breed names (which are now proven to not even be correct!) Everyone spread the word about them please. It is criminal. SHUT THEM DOWN!!

  9. Tequisha McDearmon says:

    Thank you for uncovering the horrific conditions regarding the Chelsea Kennel Club and their despicable employees. However, when will theManhattan humane society shut them down and rescue the other animals that are in need of immediate medical attention and loving homes?

  10. Agnieszka says:

    Stop przemocy do zwierząt dość zabijania zwierząt dość bolu i cierpienia zwierząt dość

  11. Diana says:

    I have a Pomeranian (an adopted 6 year old) and seeing that poor baby’s face just broke my heart.
    This is why I continue to support The HSUS. Thank you “Karen” for your excellent, valuable undercover work. I know I wouldn’t have lasted a week at that job

  12. Claudia Handal says:

    I will love to adopt a puppies and I just want to know if someone can help us get one .

  13. Claudia Handal says:

    I will love to adopt a puppie and I just want to know how to do it .

  14. Sibel says:


  15. Marisa martinez says:

    Ok, so What’s being done about this particular, heartbreaking video?

  16. Lisa says:

    All i can say
    Is Thank you
    The investigation!!! I am heartbroken over this and i am
    Familiar with this store. Shame on them!! And i am so pleased they are in the public eye.

  17. K says:

    When will the abuse end? When will humans finally pay for the cruelty they cause to animals. Why do investigations linger while animals suffer?? It’s time to take a stand and do what’s right for the animals with no voice to speak out. Get in, get the animals out of abuse situations, punish the humans….

  18. Rita kempson says:


  19. Rebecca. Smith says:

    You. Need. To. Be. Nice. To. The. Nice. To. The. Dog

  20. Diana says:

    Now we need an expose’ on Kitten Mills. They do exist are are much easier to hide from public view

  21. Jamaika says:

    Anyone who lives in that area should gather friends and stock that store. Horrible!

  22. Hayley says:

    Why can’t the store be shut down? Or the puppies be taken away to better care?

  23. Todd says:

    I saw the footage, and the young woman who is SHAKING the puppies out of frustration should be prosecuted. Especially since she shakes and abuses the dog after its medicine was successfully administered. This is a clear sign of a sociopath, someone who coukd pitentially hurt others purely out of animosity. Puppys bite, chew and disobey: they are babies. Stop hiring trash who have never steppes off pavement to care for animals.

  24. Jennifer says:

    I am writing to see if any one on this blog can provide a contact person for legal advice about this pet store. A puppy recently purchased at this store has a serious, fatal health condition that was diagnosed 4 days after it was taken home and the condition was not revealed by the store.

    • Wayne Pacelle says:

      Hi Jennifer — We are so sorry to hear about your puppy. Please fill out this form with details of your experience: humanesociety.org/puppycomplaint and we will be contacting you for more information.

  25. Laurie Forman says:

    Pug Rescue of New England is saddened to have been made aware of this tragic situation at the CKC. We are willing to assist with any pug needing to be rescued from this facility.

    We are hopeful the Humane Society addresses this report with the seriousness and action is so requires.

  26. Carmen Rivera says:

    Hi, I live just down the street and around the corner from the pet store and repeatedly I saw puppies on the windows been step on by the “healthier” ones the sleeping puppies were so sick they couldn’t react and I always said that those babies were sick, most people who work in these stores don’t do it out of love, they do it for the thousands they can make and that really angers me, animals are so much better than humans and I hope there is a special place in hell for those who abuse any innocent creature

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