Undercover investigation exposes Petland’s treatment of sick puppies

By on December 11, 2018 with 31 Comments

A dead puppy in the freezer. Puppies with hacking coughs and runny noses. Sick puppies confined to isolation. Overcrowded cages. These are just a few of the shocking details our undercover investigators found at two different Petland, Inc. pet stores last fall.

It’s been 10 years since the Humane Society of the United States first investigated Petland, the largest puppy-selling pet store chain in the country. At the time, we linked Petland to mass production puppy mills, sparking nationwide demonstrations. Since that investigation, the number of Petland stores in the country has dropped sharply, from 140 U.S. stores in 2008 to only about 80 today.

In the years since, we’ve continued to receive complaints about sick puppies sold by Petland — more than 1,200 since 2006 — indicating the pet store has continued to source animals from problem producers and dealers.

That’s one of the reasons why, in the fall of 2018, we sent two undercover investigators with hidden cameras to work at Petland stores. One investigator worked at the Petland in Kennesaw, Georgia, in September and October, and another worked at the Petland in Las Vegas in November. What they documented was heartbreaking.

In the Kennesaw Petland near Atlanta, an employee admitted that she sometimes came into work and saw puppies who had “passed away.” She told our undercover investigator that she tried hard to save the lives of puppies who were dying. Our investigator, upon hearing these stories, became suspicious about a black plastic bag in the freezer. When the investigator opened it up, there was a dead puppy inside.

There were other shocking findings at the Georgia store, including:

  • Sick puppies routinely kept in barren isolation room out of sight of customers. Some had hacking coughs, runny noses or diarrhea.
  • The store was still buying many of its dogs from a distributor, Blue Ribbon Puppies, that the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently linked to a massive drug-resistant disease outbreak that made more than 100 people sick. Blue Ribbon was found selling to all five of the Petland stores in Georgia, and numerous other Petland stores across the country.
  • Cages were overcrowded, with five or six puppies sometimes occupying a cage that would be suitable for two.

Our undercover investigator at the Petland store in Kennesaw, Georgia, found a dead puppy in a plastic bag in the store’s freezer. A kennel employee said she knows of several pups who have died in the store. Photo by the HSUS

Records obtained from the Georgia Department of Agriculture in November 2018 indicate the Kennesaw store was inspected multiple times due to puppies with parvovirus, respiratory infections or Giardia. The store passed most of those inspections, even when sick puppies were found, because it could show documents indicating sick puppies are were being monitored by a veterinarian. But our investigator witnessed puppy veterinary “exams” in the store that only lasted about 15 seconds.

Our investigator at the Petland store in Las Vegas reported similar findings. A very sick Maltese puppy was confined in a cage in a back room and employees said he had been there for about a month. They indicated he had been to a veterinarian but that his problem wasn’t curable. An employee told our undercover investigator they were waiting for him to die because he had been born with “a hole in his throat.”

After finding out that the Maltese was about to be sent back to the Missouri distributor involved, Pinnacle Pet, so Petland could get a refund, our investigator asked the manager about buying or adopting the puppy, and giving him a loving home for Christmas even if he might die. But Petland’s manager told our investigator that he had already received a credit for the puppy, and refused to sell him. When asked what would happen when the puppy was sent back, he said, “I have no idea.” The incident flies in the face of Petland’s website’s claim that “Every puppy finds a home” at Petland.

The undercover employee also 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, and reported the concerns about the birds and the Maltese to local law enforcement.

Truckloads of puppies were delivered weekly to both of the stores from out-of-state brokers (re-sellers), which Petland calls “distributors.” Some of the puppies in the Las Vegas store, including the sick Maltese puppy, were linked to the distributor Pinnacle Pet, where nine puppies died after being left on a hot truck in 2015, according to USDA records. The two stores we investigated aren’t the only stores buying from Pinnacle Pet and Blue Ribbon. The HSUS acquired shipping documents linking hundreds of puppies from one or both of these distributors to Petland stores in Florida, Kansas, Pennsylvania and other states.

Puppies in pet stores are often sick, because many of them come from inhumane and unsanitary puppy mill operations. The animals are crowded onto large trucks with scores of other puppies for shipment across the country, making it easy for a single sick puppy to infect many others.

The reason we do these investigations is not just to document the cruelty, but also to inform consumers, who can make a real difference to end the suffering of animals by not buying puppies from pet stores or from internet sites, which often source their animals from puppy mills. This holiday season, if you want to bring home a new companion, consider adopting from an animal shelter or a reliable breed rescue. If you decide to purchase a puppy, please buy only from a small-scale responsible breeder who will show you the conditions in which the puppy was born and raised.

Categories
Companion Animals, Investigations

Subscribe to the Blog

Enter your email address below to receive updates each time we publish new content.

31 Comments

Trackback URL | Comments RSS Feed

  1. Joanne Muoio says:

    With everything out there about the reasons not to buy puppies from a pet store and the horrors of puppy mills, people are still ignorant enough to purchase a puppy from a pet store! I guess you can’t fix stupid!

    • Diana Dring says:

      California recently passed a law that retail pet stores can ONLY sell animals that come from reliable rescue shelters. If we could get something like this happening in more states, or even on a national level, that would go a long way to addressing the problem.

  2. Lisa says:

    What happened to the sick Maltese puppy? Please don’t leave end the story like that!

    • Rhonda Morrow says:

      The end for this precious little beastly was probably not a good one–he was likely killed if he actually lived long enough to make it back to the puppy mill-I can’t imagine they would’ve been humane about it–puppy millers are evil and horrible people or they couldn’t do what they do 😢🐾😦

  3. Patricia says:

    My granddaughter purchased 3 bunnies from Petland in Atlanta Ga and all three died within a week…store would not refund any money and acted like it was no big deal..also told them that bunnies need antibiotics for digestion (?) which they never mentioned at the time of purchase..

    • Lexie says:

      I have a bunny… I have had her for almost 2 years (no I didn’t get her from petland) BUT I have never heard about that one. That’s new…

      • Kathleen says:

        My name is Kathleen Summers and I work with HSUS on the Stop Puppy Mills campaign. I encourage everyone who has purchased a sick puppy to share their complaint with us at http://www.humanesociety.org/puppycomplaint.

        • Sasha says:

          Can someone investigate the Fetch stores in Dayton, Ohio? Someone had posted they use to work there and they could ‘t take how they treated the animals and had to quit. They stated all were mostly sick, and they had sick, really sick, dieing, and also stated people paid to play with them and probably unknowingly might take that sickness home to there pet. Shouldnt the government mandate certain guidlines and enforce them? Please help! We love you for ehat you do, Thank You, and God Bless!

    • Niki says:

      Depending on the breed, can have digestive issues. Certain breeds required a higher protein or sudden change can cause death. I show Netherland Dwarfs and they have very sensitive digestive systems.

  4. Helen says:

    i have a rescue I got from a shelter ,i would never get a puppy from a pet store , my question is when the pet store is shut down what happens to all of those puppies and other animals?

  5. Jacqueline F says:

    I tell this story all the time, I worked there, one of my first jobs. One of the dogs came in with a deformity of its front legs, it could not walk just slid on its chest on the floor. I was told it could not see a vet and I could not purchase it at a lower price, it would be returned to breader for a “refund” but what do they do with the dog..you guess. Also when people would bring sick rabits or other small animals the manger would smash them to death out back to “put them out of their misery”. I quit after a few weeks but I should have done more 👏👏👏 for doing this. Not a one store thing this is obviously company wide policy. My incident happened 15 years ago or more in Orlando Fl.

  6. Angela says:

    Shut them all down,,, NO PUPPY MILLS

  7. Sara says:

    Are there animal cruelty charges pending? Will they be prosecuted?

  8. Judy says:

    SHUT THEM DOWN. STOP BUYING ANIMALS FROM THEM. WHATS WRONG WITH YOU PEOPLE.

    • Jeff says:

      We recently bought 2 puppies from petland both puppies were there for awhile and I could not leave them there to spend one more night in those cages. Max and Cash (chihuahua&chiweenie) I’m not ashamed of buying from them. The answer is not to stop buying from them but to shut down puppy mills. I cant imagine these 2 sweet puppies being left to die in a cage.

      • Stacey says:

        I understand your wanting to not leave the pups there, but it’s actually supply & demand. If people stopped buying puppies, the demand would not be there. So basically, they just refilled those cages with more puppy mill puppies. Until we can get them shut down, the only option is to Not buy from them.

  9. Kayla says:

    I bought my dog from the Petland in Alabama about two years ago and when I took her to the vet that was next door they told me she had been kept in the back because she had a respiratory infection in both lungs. They never disclosed this to me when I bought her. I was so upset but would never return her.

  10. Garrett says:

    Saying not to buy them from a pet store is a tad wrong. If you buy a puppy from there you are still saving it. Because there’s no telling what might happen to it if it’s not bought. All life matters, the puppies don’t get the choice if they’re gonna be given at a shelter or sold at a pet store.

    • Janet Valentine says:

      Because you only save that ONE dog. But, since you bought that ONE dog, the puppy mill can now justify its forcing it overbred mother to have another litter, which might just kill her, since she’s had 10 litters in 5 years. And some of her pups might be deformed or die at birth because mom is underfed and has no prenatal care. So saving that “one pup” just sentenced several others to death. If no one buys the puppies currently in pet stores, we are actually saving hundreds more, who will never be born and have to go through the torture that their predecessors are going through. Not to mention the ones that get adopted at pet stores, and then the adopters no longer want them and dump them at shelters (to possibly be euthanized because of lack of space or untreatable behavior or illness), or worse, let them run free to get struck by cars or… I know we want to save them all, believe me, I want to, too! But buying animals at pet stores because we want to save it just perpetuates the problem.

    • Dee says:

      But by buying those puppies, you’re giving money to the people who perpetuate this cruel puppy mill system, and condemning the breeding dogs to continued misery in the puppy mills.

    • Allie says:

      the point is to not buy from them to put them out of business and then the puppy mills won’t have anyone to sell to and will be forced to shut down. there are lots of puppies at humane societies to adopt, too. but i agree, its not the puppy’s fault they were born into such terrible conditions 🙁 poor things.

    • Stacey says:

      No, it’s supply & demand. They just replace the ones that are bought. That’s not helping.

  11. Kelly says:

    Then what happens to all the pet store puppies that need homes? This is coming from someone who has three rescues. They all need homes. It’s the humans that need to be locked up and treated this way.

  12. Alissa says:

    This is going to be long, unfortunately.

    13 years ago my mother bought me a puppy, a sheltie, from petland. We believed the bull at the time that they didn’t get their dogs from puppy Mills. We only went in because 2 days before picking up my sheltie from the breeder we were told the vet had found a hole in her heart. Surgery would cost thousands of dollars we didn’t have. I was a desperate heartbroken girl that had waited for 2+ years for the breeder to breed again. Petland just so happened to have a little sheltie pup.

    1000$ later compared to the 350$ the breeder was charging for the other pup.

    We didn’t know the pup was sick when we got it. Kennel cough. My mother had a Yorkie pup from a breeder and my sheltie gave her kennel cough. Two times she almost died going hyperglycemic from the illness. We ended up having to syringe feed her to save her.

    Both dogs had lasting effects from the kennel cough.

    One day I googled the name of the breeder on my sheltie’s papers only to be absolutely horrified. At the time we had believed Petland’s lies about not getting puppies from puppy mills. My sheltie’s papers included the name of a very bad puppy miller and online I found multiple articles including the “breeder’s” name and the crimes they had committed. I felt sick.

    I wouldn’t trade my dog for the world. But I will never buy another dog certainly from a pet store. Especially Petland.

    But my story doesn’t end there. My mother on a whim years later went into Petland with one of my brothers just to look. She came home with a hamster. A dwarf fancy hamster that was supposed to be a baby. Within a week of bringing it home she gave birth to 7 babies. 7! Of course we knew hamsters could breed early but these were supposed to have been separated by gender.

    Of course we called Petland. “Oh well you guys raise them until this age and we will take them off your hands and sell them. No compensation.” We refused. We rehomed them through another pet store that adopts out not sells them.

    I also know of several people that bought dogs from them and every dog I know of from there has been sick or had some skin condition. Nearly all have had respiratory illnesses that left lasting scars on their breathing. Including a German Shepherd, French bulldog, and Bull Mastiff to name a few.
    We have also seen a large number of puppies that had hernias and herniated navels these had nearly all been repaired but why were 1/4-1/2 having this trouble?

    Buying Petland puppies doesn’t “save” the puppies it just gives the stores incentive to continue to get more and restock the puppies. Meaning the “breeders” aka puppy mills have incentive to breed more and more puppies. Causing the suffering of those puppies and their parents.

    The only way to solve this problem would be to shut down Petland and the puppy mills and send all the dogs into rescues and from there rescue them. This is of course much more difficult to do than just say. If Petland’s doors are allowed to stay open perhaps they should be forced to work with local shelters to adopt out animals from local shelters rather than creating more of a problem when there are already so many unwanted dogs and puppies and cats/kittens in the world.

    Also we have gone back into Petland only to see what they have for puppies we walk through but never touch or anything. We then change when we get home. Our local one often carries few pure breed dogs and most are mutts or cross breeds. I have also seen people buy puppies being lied to about the size the dog would grow to as an adult. This makes me wonder how many Petland dogs end up on shelters or rescues.

  13. Kathy says:

    This is a tough subject for everyone. I don’t agree with puppy mills and the pet stores that keep them going but people do feel they are saving the puppies by buying them not knowing what comes with it. I have 2 pet store dogs and 1 rescue. There need to be better laws and regulations. There also needs to be limits set for breeders and pet stores alike and agencies to make sure they are in compliance.

  14. Dave Walls says:

    What would you recommend we as individuals do to monitor the pets in Petland stores? Would recording video of the conditions of the animals help? Would it help to talk to staff or managers, letting them know we are watching? Who are the best agencies to report concerns to… local animal control, city or county animal shelters..? Thank you.

  15. Concerned in Iowa says:

    This company was in the process of building a “store ” in a Mall in Iowa and happily we’re denied a permit and liscense to Operate in the State at all.. Why don’t they just shut these places down and not issue them a vendors liscense. Petco and PetSmart need to be monitored more closely also!!

  16. They are all the same says:

    Please don’t believe that petco or Petsmart are any better. In the mid 90s, I worked at a Petsmart in the aquatics department. We were raising and selling baby birds. We had a spike in returns. A customer took one if the dead birds to a vet about the same time a coworker became I’ll. Both had the bird flu. The bird fly is a zoonosis which means it can be passed from animal to human. I had contact with the birds and I never got sick, nor did my pet bird at home… But corporate sent in a vet to euthanize ALL the birds we had in stock BC they didn’t want to pay for testing or take a chance. There was at least 50 birds in stock at the the time. They made us use a chemical used by hospitals to kill aids to decontaminat the bird room and 2 months later… We had new birds. Like it never happened. The new shipment came from the same bird farm as the old shipment. They didn’t seen worried about the second batch which was odd considering they keep insisting the bird flu was something that couldn’t be treated or cured.

  17. Loriann says:

    Ok, to be fair, we purchased a puppy from a pet store and found out later that, it came from a puppy mill. His name was Parker, he only lived 2 years, however they were magical years. Yes of course he was sick and needed lots of medical care. But he opened closed hearts to the love that animals bring to us silly humans.
    I agree stop the puppy mills and end this tortured lives these aminals live… however even a sick animal needs love just as a sick child needs love or a sick orphan needs a home… don’t take you hate to the puppy’s take it to the puppy mill bredeers and close them down… the love from an amazing puppy named Parker was worth more than money could ever purchase.

  18. Kayla says:

    I’m just curious what happens to petland now? Nothing? Do they get punished for being cruel to the animals?

Share a Comment

The HSUS encourages open discussion, and we invite you to share your opinion on our issues. By participating on this page, you are agreeing to our commenting policy.
Please enter your name and email address below before commenting. Your email address will not be published.

Top