HSUS investigation uncovers sick puppies, dead rabbit at Texas Petland outlet; animal control agency cites store for alleged violations
Our latest undercover investigation of a Petland store, this one in Frisco, Texas, has revealed frail and ailing puppies, including dogs too sick to eat and suffering from vomiting and diarrhea. Also among the gruesome discoveries was a dead rabbit in a freezer – the ailing animal was left to die at the store instead of being rushed to the veterinarian.
Documentation that we provided from the three-week investigation led the local animal services agency to pay several visits to the store, during which they reportedly documented violations of the city animal ordinance and issued citations. The investigation ended promptly when our undercover investigator was diagnosed with campylobacter, a zoonotic bacterial illness that causes inflammation of the intestines and diarrhea in both humans and dogs. A recent Centers for Disease Control investigation linked an outbreak of campylobacter to contact with Petland puppies.
The issues at this store mirror problems we’ve found at six other Petland stores in just the past year, including sick and suffering animals, store owners unwilling to take steps to give the animals in their care proper veterinary care, and an apparent disregard for employees’ or pet buyers’ health.
In April, a Petland store in Fairfax, Virginia, closed down after our investigation tipped off law enforcement, who found a dead puppy and more than 30 dead rabbits in the store’s freezer. In May, we released an investigation of three Petland stores, in Sarasota, Florida, Novi, Michigan, and Tyler, Texas, where we found animals with illnesses ranging from seizures to respiratory infections, diarrhea and vomiting. In December 2018, our investigators documented similar problems at Petland stores in Kennesaw, Georgia, and Las Vegas.
At every store where our investigators were able to look in the freezer, they found dead animals, including dead puppies in the Tyler and Kennesaw stores, and dead rabbits or hamsters in others.
At the Frisco store, we again found puppies in extremely poor condition who were being treated in back rooms rather than being taken promptly to a veterinarian. Some of the puppies were visibly underweight and refused to eat while shivering miserably. But pet store staff were instructed to force-feed these puppies — including one puppy who was force-fed for more than a week instead of being rushed to the vet — and provide other ad hoc care, with the full knowledge of the store’s owner and kennel managers.
Several puppies exhibited bloody, green or watery diarrhea, but we saw no evidence that the store was sending fecal samples for testing in order to correctly diagnose the puppies or prevent outbreaks. Some puppies were sold even while still displaying signs of illness, and those who purchased them were not always told their puppies had recently been sick.
Perhaps most horrifying of all, we have heard from ex-employees of Petland who told us that they saw ailing animals put in the freezer, presumably to hasten their deaths. Whether or not this was a practice at the Frisco store was unclear, but one employee there cautioned our investigator, “don’t look in the freezer [if] you’re grossed out by dead things.” The investigator later found the ailing brown rabbit that other employees had been discussing, dead in the store’s freezer.
The store’s owner appeared to be fully aware that many animals were sick, and sometimes personally drove sick puppies, untreated, back to their sellers for a refund instead of bringing them to a veterinarian.
After our investigator tested positive for campylobacter, they informed the store owner and managers in person. We then pulled the investigator off the job and contacted the Denton County and Collin County health departments and Frisco Animal Services. Local animal control authorities who responded to our complaint advised us that they found sick puppies in the store and required the owner to take some of the animals to a veterinarian. They also informed us they have issued citations to the store owner for at least four violations of the Frisco City Animal Ordinance after multiple visits to the store, but exact details have not yet been revealed.
We are glad that the efforts of our investigators – who undertake this difficult work at tremendous cost to their own physical and emotional health – has led to law enforcement officials taking action. We hope that some of the puppies still there will finally get the care they need. It is shocking that Petland, despite mounting evidence of animal illnesses and deaths at its stores, is not only failing to clean up its act, but is actually fighting us on passing commonsense laws to ensure animals do not suffer at pet stores. We will continue to provide updates of this investigation in days to come; stay tuned as our fight to end Petland’s mistreatment of animals continues.