Breaking: Undercover investigation finds rabbits dying without medical care at Petland store

By on April 2, 2019 with 22 Comments

Dead rabbits piled up in a freezer and hidden under a table in a back room were among the many shocking discoveries made at a Petland store in Fairfax, Virginia, during a five-month hidden camera investigation by the Humane Society of the United States. But what our undercover investigator, who worked at the store for two months, found that was even more shocking was that the store did not appear to have a policy requiring medical care for the rabbits, nor were any attempts being made to find out why the animals were dying.

Virginia law mandates veterinary care for rabbits kept as pets to prevent suffering or disease transmission, but several employees indicated that it was regular store practice to let sick or injured rabbits die rather than providing such care. One employee told our undercover investigator that when rabbits get sick, “we just let them die.” Another said, “normally the sick ones just kind of die out.”

When our investigator dug deeper, they made yet another shocking discovery: the store’s primary rabbit supplier in Maryland is an unlicensed rabbit mill that is keeping 200 rabbits in dirty, crowded and inhumane conditions.

With Easter around the corner, we are releasing the findings of this investigation because if you have bought, or are considering buying, a rabbit from a pet store, you should know that you could be supporting businesses like this Petland store and the mill it buys from, that are treating the animals in their care with absolutely no concern for their welfare.

The store’s primary rabbit supplier in Maryland is an unlicensed rabbit mill, Wagner’s Farm, that is keeping 200 rabbits in dirty, crowded and inhumane conditions.

Among other findings at the store:

  • Besides 14 dead rabbits in the freezer, our investigator found a dead rabbit in a plastic basket under a table. An employee stated, “that’s where we hide them.” When a customer brought back a dead rabbit named Moon, saying the animal had had several seizures very shortly after purchase and then died, store staff simply told our investigator to put Moon in the freezer, where other dead rabbits were piling up. There appeared to be no plans to find out why any of the rabbits died.
  • After we linked Petland’s rabbits to Maryland breeder John Wagner in March this year, an investigator visited Wagner’s property, Wagner’s Farm, and found approximately 200 rabbits kept in dirty and crowded conditions. The conditions were similar to what we normally find in puppy mills, only in this case they were breeding rabbits. Some of the animals looked injured, and at least one dead rabbit was seen laying across the top of a cage.
  • Mr. Wagner acknowledged to our investigator that he sells about 60 rabbits a month to the Fairfax Petland, a volume of sales that would require him to obtain a U.S. Department of Agriculture license and follow specific standards of care. We found no indication that Wagner has a USDA license.

This isn’t the first time Petland has been accused of mistreating rabbits. In 2009, a Petland store in Ohio closed down after an employee posted a photo on social media of herself holding up the bodies of two rabbits she had drowned inside the store. She later pleaded guilty to animal cruelty charges.

As we’ve reported previously, Petland stores have also frequently been linked to sick puppies. The HSUS has received more than 1,300 complaints about sick puppies purchased at numerous Petland stores across the country since 2006. At the Fairfax store too, our investigator found puppies were frequently sick, with as many as 21 in isolation for illness or receiving medications at any given time.

We have reported our findings to law enforcement, which is reviewing a large volume of videotape and notes we provided. We will update you as soon as any outcomes of their review can be shared.

Meanwhile, you can help by being a conscious consumer. Rabbits can make delightful and long-lived companions if given the proper care, and families who are considering bringing home a bunny should research their needs carefully. If a rabbit is the right fit, make sure your purchase isn’t supporting an inhumane operation. Adopting from a rescue group or a local shelter is your kindest option.

Urge Petland to stop selling bunnies, kittens and puppies


Animal Rescue and Care, Companion Animals, Investigations

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  1. Donna Ploss says:


  2. JG says:

    This store was raided today by the police. Finally!

  3. Camille J Ragland says:

    Bunnies, and all animals deserve to be treated with love, respect, and care. This is madness, and stupid. Please shut them down, now!

  4. Sheri says:

    These stores need to be checked in on , without warning to catch them !!😡
    This is not right !!!😡

    • Sherri Kamaka says:

      I agree! These people are uncaring horrible human beings. All they are thinking about is money.

  5. Kat says:

    This kind of treatment makes me sick. I’m not sure if Law Enforcement will side with you or not. I recently read a story about a starved dog at a Petland in Ohio, and Law Enforcement went there, and said ‘Nothing was wrong with it.’ The guy who reported the dog went off, and then Anothet assessment was made.
    Bringing Awareness to these poor bunnies is so Crucial. I don’t understand how Anyone can work at a pet store, and be this heartless.

  6. Donna Watson says:

    Austin Texas has closed all the Petland’s cause they DO NOT know how to care for animals!!

  7. Beth says:

    Sadly rabbits aren’t their money makers. It’s the pups supplied by their also affiliated puppy mill commercial breeders with Hunte corporation. Rabbits are just away to get people in to look at pups.

  8. Jan Gordon says:

    Do the right thing!! Stop selling these helpless animals!!

  9. Deb Olsen says:

    Shame on Petland Wagner and those sorry ass employees that knew this was going on. They call themselves human. Disgusting why money I know money pretty damn poor excuse.

    • Katie Lucas says:

      I worked two months at a Petland. The way they treated the animals was inhumane. I couldn’t stomach it. After nursing a sick Akita puppy for three weeks in my home, I stayed up all night with this little girl, I was so attached and scared she wouldn’t make it. I finally asked if I could adopt her. Sure, you can adopt a sick puppy for $3000. I was 17 years old. 🥺

  10. Julieann Smith says:

    I bought a young rabbit and died in a week i even took it to veterinary and they couldn’t do anything. I went back and they gave me my money back. I barred the rabbit. They don’t take care of they animals. They should be shut down

  11. Vivian says:

    Link to petfinder should be added to this Petland story
    The public doesnt know about Petfinder esp for exotics like rabbits or guinea pigs, also horses.
    I called Petfinder/Purina few times to find out about promoting the site only to hit walls.
    All About Rabbits Rescue

  12. Kristie P says:

    PleSe stop this!

  13. Lori says:


  14. Joanne says:

    Those poor rabbits.

  15. Sugar Bouche. says:

    How Disgusting are humans?
    Fairfax Petland store in Fairfax, Virginia should be charged with animal abuse, neglect, cruelty. Fairfax Petland should be shut down. The store’s primary rabbit supplier John Wagner from Maryland Wagner’s Farm is unlicensed and is breeding and keeping rabbits in dirty, crowded and inhumane conditions should be charged with animal abuse, neglect, and cruelty and should be shut down.
    The owner and the employees of Fairfax Petland should be charged with animal abuse, neglect, and cruelty, they all should be required to take a course in empathy and compassion and never work with animals or have animals as pets. Get another job losers. STOP Animal Pain, Torture and Suffering.
    “The HSUS has received more than 1,300 complaints about sick puppies purchased at numerous Petland stores across the country since 2006. At the Fairfax store too, our investigator found puppies were frequently sick, with as many as 21 in isolation for illness or receiving medications at any given time.”
    Humane Society what is taking you so long? what are you waiting for? how much investigating do you have to do? how many innocent animals have to die? you have complains since 2006. Animals are dying! ENOUGH!

  16. Veronica says:

    Please don’t hold up PetSmart and Petco as good examples. They sell thousands of animals sourced from pet mills as cheap, impulse purchases, and many of those animals end up surrendered to shelters and rescues. That doesn’t even include the ones who are abandoned outside (“set free” or left in the parking lots of these stores by customers who don’t want them anymore), or the many pets who die from being kept in inappropriate conditions by their customers who don’t know what they’re doing or use the stores’ display cases as examples when choosing a habitat for their pet. Those displays are typically way too small, at the very least, and offer little enrichment. Petco, in particular, has the appalling habit of overcrowding cages with animals who should not be housed together in the first place. Pet stores try to convince customers that they are “the experts” in hopes of repeat sales, but far too often when it comes to giving information on the care of the animals they sell, what they give is too little, non-existent, or just plain wrong. I have worked in small animal rescue for well over a decade, fostering these animals, caring for them, having them vetted, working hard to find them appropriate homes while trying to educate the public about proper small animal care, and just trying to get the word out that it’s important to adopt small animals from shelters and rescues, and not to shop in stores that sell any kind of animal. There are wonderful pet supply stores that don’t sell animals period. There are even major chains growing that have chosen not to sell animals. We have to stand together, though. Just because an animal is small doesn’t mean he or she is less important. Today is World Rat Day. 🙂 Please, give them a break.

  17. Kate says:

    These people need to get a life!!! They are horrible people that cannot pay enough for what they did!!! Only cruel people do this. They have been blinded by greed. No punishment is harsh enough for them! How would they like to be put in a hot, stuffy, overcrowded cage with little or nothing to eat? How can they work there and stay?? This is upsetting to hear and even more upsetting is that poor animals had to suffer when they did nothing wrong. It isn’t fair and it never will be. Animals are suffering every day. We are the ones that are hurting them. It’s time to help and try, just try, to make a difference.🐇

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