BREAKING NEWS: CDC ties Petland to outbreaks of superbug illnesses in 13 states

By Kitty Block and Sara Amundson

By on December 18, 2019 with 36 Comments

Petland is once again in the news for all the wrong reasons, this time in connection with a multistate outbreak of a superbug that has sickened 30 people in 13 states.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported today that four people have been hospitalized after being infected with a strain of campylobacter that’s resistant to multiple drugs. “Many of the cases had contact with puppies or were employees at pet stores, including Petland,” the CDC concluded, after its investigations linked 12 of those sickened with the national pet store chain that still sells dogs sourced from puppy mills. Five of the affected individuals were Petland employees.

The Humane Society of the United States has turned a red-hot spotlight on Petland’s substandard procedures and deficient animal welfare practices with undercover investigations at eight of its stores over the past two years, and as saddening as the news today from the CDC is, we are not surprised. Petland has been endangering the health of its employees and its consumers for years now. In previous years, the CDC has linked more than 118 cases of human campylobacter bacterial infections to contact with Petland puppies, which resulted in a number of people being hospitalized. Our investigations have repeatedly shown that despite these reported outbreaks, Petland has refused to take adequate proactive steps to prevent such outbreaks.

  • During our last investigation, at the Petland in Florence, Kentucky, a store manager admitted on hidden camera that the store doesn’t test puppies with diarrhea for the disease because “they all have it.”
  • Jasper, a puppy we bought at the store as part of our investigation had been sick for weeks with bloody diarrhea and had a poor appetite, but it appears the store never even took him to a veterinarian for his illness. After we acquired Jasper and took him to a veterinarian, he tested positive for campylobacter. Fortunately, Jasper did not seem to have the drug-resistant strain, and recovered after finally receiving much-needed care. A Petland manager who talked to our secret shopper during Jasper’s sale emphatically stated Jasper did not have campylobacter after our shopper saw him with diarrhea. The manager claimed his stool had been tested, but when we called both Petland and the store’s veterinarian, they did not provide any proof that Jasper was ever tested.
  • Records we obtained from the Kentucky Department for Public Health showed that at least six people became ill with campylobacter this year alone after touching or buying puppies at the Florence store; at least two of the victims were hospitalized.
  • Our investigations of the Frisco, Texas, and Florence, Kentucky, Petland stores this year ended promptly when our undercover investigators at both stores were diagnosed with campylobacter after going to urgent care clinics for persistent flu-like symptoms. Fortunately, neither investigator seemed to have the drug-resistant strain of campylobacter, and they both responded to medical treatment.
  • Our investigation at a Novi, Michigan, Petland store found that customers regularly called with complaints about sick puppies they had purchased. A staff member at the store revealed that she had contracted campylobacter and had been hospitalized for four days. The store was sued this year for the third time in recent years after a customer in the Novi store became ill with the drug-resistant strain of campylobacter; he too was hospitalized.

CDC recommends diligently testing any animals with symptoms for campylobacter, but as our investigators uncovered, Petland was not doing that. At best, stores routinely had low-level employees dose sick dogs with antibiotics instead of having them (or even a stool sample) taken to a vet.

One of the reasons we also see so many campylobacter outbreaks at Petland is because the chain continues to source animals from puppy mills, which do not provide adequate professional medical care or sanitation to their animals. Dogs shipped to pet stores from dozens of different breeders are intermingled during transport in such a way that the CDC has had great difficulty tracing the original source of the outbreak, making future cases of illness almost a certainty. On the other hand, Petland spends a vast amount of its resources each year fighting commonsense laws to protect animals in puppy mills.

No business should be allowed to put its bottomline above the health of its customers and employees, and the animals in its possession. With more and more localities banning the sales of dogs from puppy mills in pet stores, and with these continued outbreaks of diseases, the writing is on the wall for pet stores like Petland which, in their own way, perpetuate the miseries caused by puppy mills.

Sara Amundson is president of the Humane Society Legislative Fund.

Companion Animals, Public Policy (Legal/Legislative)

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  1. Melissa Hutton says:

    There seems to be so much evidence of the abuse and neglect these dogs suffer thanks to your investigations, I don’t understand how this company can get away with what they have been doing. And what about the puppy mills, can you not trace them and shut them down based on this evidence? And now that there is evidence that the company’s behavior is making humans ill to the extent that they require hospitalization ($$$$$$$), why are they not being held accountable? You mentioned the company is spending lots of money on their own defense, but where is the common sense in the judicial system? Or is this another OJ situation where the money speaks louder than the truth?? Makes my blood boil!!!

    • Mcconard says:

      Brad Parker is the owner in GA and SC, I do not know about the others. He is wrapped up tight with legal eagles and threatens to sue.

    • Dee says:

      Sooo agree with you! I would NEVER purchase a dog, or any other animal from a pet store! People, adopt from your local shelter! Dont encourage these breeders!!!

    • Myra says:

      Many of these un-healthy pups come from Missouri, the Puppy Mill capital of the U.S. The licensed breeders are suppose to be inspected yearly by an agent from the Dept of Agriculture. The problem is, too many of these bad breeders are getting away with violation after violation and are not shut down. I’m guessing the Dept of Agriculture would rather have the money from the fines these breeders have to pay than they care about the animals.

      • Staci Shroyer says:

        I agree. I know for a fact that petland in blue springs and independence missouri buys puppies from the amish puppy mills. Most amish do not treat their animals nice or vaccinate. I do not trust buying an animal from them anymore. Been burned by them one too many times. Sick goats sick horses sick cats with distemper sick chickens they sell at animal swap meets in filmore missouri. I can go on and on.

  2. Sheryl says:

    I don’t know what it’s going to take to shut Petland down. They’ve demonstrated again and again how little they care for animals!

    • Nancy Kennefy says:

      As long as consumers but from these stores they will remain open. There is a huge profit in selling puppies in these stores.

      • Marlene says:

        Exactly! Why are people stupid enough to buy from that place? Not only are the puppies sick they make humans ill too. SMDH

    • Wjndy says:

      They will never shut down … there are people ALWAYS willing to pay top dollar for a puppy mill dog. This keeps them in business.

  3. Krissy says:

    Isn’t it a federal law and a federal felony now to abuse and neglect pets? So why are they still able to be running this place l. Shut it down!!!!!

  4. Amanda Spalding says:

    I understand everyone’s frustration when the news blasts out this type of information. What they are not saying is that most Petland’s are Owned by individuals. Petland has a list of requirements for them to follow and when there is a problem with them not following the rules they shut them down. That being said like the report said it is hard to know where the problem has started. I know that certain Petland’s are crazy careful and do an amazing Job of keeping the animals healthy and have a great relationship with their vets. The article lists 2 stores that have a problem they do not list the thousands that have great animals and employees with no illnesses. People see the name petland and freak out. Do a little more research and get more data before we jump to conclusions. If all Petland’s were bad then I do not believe they would still be around. It’s individual owners that need to be attacked. Just like when a particular fast food restaurant has less than desirable health standards people don’t go after the chain they go after the individual store.

    • Sarah says:

      Any store front that sells dogs from anywhere other than from a legitimate verified rescue and that has verified documentation of all vet care including spay/neutering, shots, ect shot be shut down.

    • Dee says:

      The problem with buying from Petlands or ANY petshop is they are encouraging breeders who breed for profit & some animals end up living in horrendous conditions! Not to mention how many litters these animals are forced to having each year in the name of “profit!”
      Do the right thing & adopt from your shelter & put these breeders out of business!!!

    • Sherry L Lockrem says:

      The problem lies on where Petland chooses to purchase their dogs from. I myself work with mill dogs through rescue. I also have a attended auctions. This does stem from the mills. We get SO many sick dogs.. The state of MO does a great job of not penalizing mills who sell sick dogs. If Petland would not purchase dogs from mills they would not have sick dogs..

    • Pauline says:

      Regardless how each store treats their puppies, they still get their puppies from puppy mills. To purchase a puppy from any of these stores, is supporting the puppy mills. As much as you want to “save” that puppy, if you purchase it, you are supporting those puppy mills and are part of the problem.

    • Terry says:

      You must be kidding. Pet land everywhere. Are a nightmare. Your not fooling anyone

  5. Julia says:

    There are ethical breeders everywhere. Attend local dog shows and get to know them. Puppy millers do not enter their stock in competition. I have many business cards from decent people. Should I decide on an extra healthy dog.

    • Allene smith says:

      Shut petland down make a law to stop the sales of animals then the breeders will stop

    • Laney says:

      My sister bought from a competitor. After getting the puppy, it was obviously never properly cared for. Lots of issues. Is definitely a puppy mill, dog was likely crated for her 7 months outside, due to her behaviors. There are no guarantees.

  6. Calene summers says:

    Petland sucks. What will it take to close this store down?

  7. Vivian says:

    People let dogs and puppies lick them in the face and mouth.. and yes all dogs have this, and when the animal gets stressed, all of them get stressed, it can flair up.. maybe we should stress to people to stop letting animals lick us in the mouth.

  8. Krista says:

    Shut these places down. Every time someone tells me they adopted a puppy from Petland the dogs have been sick and they spend $$$$ on vet bills. They have good hearts. They want to get the puppy out of Petland and they’re not about to take the poor puppy back.

  9. Diane Shafer says:

    Isn’t Petland overseen by the Department of Agriculture, like rescues are supposed to be? If so, they should also be held accountable!

    • Laurel says:

      Pet stores are supposed to be inspected and licensed by the state dept of agriculture. Michigan dept of ag. Quite some years back they decided they werent going to do that anymore. No one ever challenged that decision. The feds cover the large scale breeders, the wholesale dealers.

    • Sarah says:

      Petland is Not a rescue. They are an animal seller. A store front for back yard breeders to sell their sick, diseased parvo and other poor conditioned animals for thousands of dollars to unsuspecting people. Not innocent people because there is plenty of information out there warning against buying animals like this.

    • Marjan says:

      Yes they are, and they do what they can. They depend on their local law enforcement to step in in case of cruelty. They hand it over to law enforcement in case of abuse. Dept of Ag is regulating breeders and sellers, they don’t have the power to prosecute. They take licenses away, thats all that they can do. Again, you need your animal control to write citations. Not all states or cities have good ordinances, which makes prosecution really difficult. And not all animal control officers know that they have more power than they think. When puppies have water, food and a dry bed there is no cruelty, according to the letter of the law. The best thing to do is to change your ordinances by talking to your local city-officials and to boycot these stores. As long as people buy at these stores, puppy-mills will find a way to exist.

  10. Freddie Lussier says:

    The Dept of Ag is a joke! It cares nothing about the health and treatment of the animals! Otherwise it would not license puppy mills!

  11. Cindy Geer says:

    Wouldn’t denying proper medical care be considered animal abuse? Don’t we have a new law in place that registers animal abusers like sex offenders? shouldn’t Petland be labeled animal abusers and no longer be able to have animals in their possession? Just saying!!!

  12. Karen Pavelka says:

    My children and I use to go to Petland Ft. Myers, FL often to see and play with the animals. Years ago, when I learned of the neglect and illnesses they blatantly ignore, we vowed to never step foot in this hell hole again. I personally know a handful of people who have bought and had to return puppies from Petland because they are so ill and after multiple visits to the vet, did not improve or recover. Three of these puppies died while receiving veterinary care. I HATE Petland and will never understand how they are still in business!!!

  13. Jean LOWMAN says:

    Sadly, now any puppies they have left will be killed. They never take sick puppies to the vet. They kill them

  14. Patti says:

    Petland and stores like them don’t just perpetuate puppy mills, they perpetuate impulse purchases of puppies, which too often end with the puppy in a shelter because the buyer didn’t realize that the puppy would end up being too big for their apartment, or that it would bark, or that it would nip the toddler, or that it cost so much after the purchase, or because it grew up and isn’t cute any more, etc. So, they directly perpetuate the continued overcrowding in shelters and the continued euthanasia of healthy animals. The last person I talked to who had purchased a puppy (cocker) from a pet store had paid over $1000 MORE than what I had paid for mine from a reputable breeder and for a puppy with Grand Champion bloodlines. Do the homework, find a breed that suits your lifestyle, and then find a responsible breeder. Or, contact a shelter or rescue. There are lots of dogs that need homes and adopting an adult dog often works out better for everyone.

    • KevinDever says:

      They dont kill them. Rescues like mine get them.. we try n getvthem healthy most do but losexa few .. a few too many.. when puppy is sick he put in backroom till transporter comes.. by then they are in bad shape..that’s why my vet bill close toom$100k a year..

  15. Peggy Rigotti says:

    I have been greatly interested in these comments as I have had 3 puppies from Petland over a 25 year time span. They were not sick with diarrhea when we brought them home, but!! The very first puppy was indeed like a “rescue.” I dearly love Cairn terriers and became attached to this little adorable 8-week old female pup over a snowy weeks’ time at a Petland. Every time we visited her, though, I noted that she was pee-soaked on her bottom and kept inquiring about it. A very kind employee said she would be vet checked. Well the 3rd time we saw her she was not out on display. The employee told me she was going to be put down because of some defect where the muscle that controlled her bladder didn’t work. My husband and I consulted the vet we had for or previous dog and he said there was surgery that could be done to drastically improve this. The cost was a bit more than the dog at that time. We contacted the Petland employee and he drew up paperwork giving us that dear puppy who became our Christmas Eve present that year and lived for 15 years after that with a few intermittent kidney problems. She was from a Missouri puppy mill.
    Next, we purchased an very cute Yorkie-poo that was 8 weeks old from Petland that was hale and hearty and lived 18 years. My how we cherished that little sweetheart! I do not know where she originated from.
    Then, lastly, upon my other Cairn’s death, my husband found another female Cairn puppy at a Petland. I believe she was 12 weeks old when we got her and soon I noticed that she seemed wet and dirty around her female area. Had her checked by our vet and she had a recessed vulva. So she required a minor surgery to expose that area to avoid constant infections and odor.
    So we had that done for her. She was also a pup from a Missouri puppy mill and ended up with a sudden kidney disease and we had to put her down at age 11, way before I was ready to give her up!
    So my point is that the Missouri puppy mills should definitely be shutdown!! They obviously are just producing these helpless pups for profit and its sickening!!

  16. Karen Rudolph says:

    Many hard working rescue folks tried for several years to get laws passed, and continue to try to get laws passed to SHUT DOWN THESE disgusting puppy mill greeders in MISSOURI and many other states who supply places like Petland with sick puppies. Having had many unfortunate experiences in rescue to assist in busting puppy mills and see first hand the filthy, unsanitary, abusive, neglectful conditions the mom and dad dogs live in to do nothing else their entire lives but produce babies for sale, I can tell you there is no excuse for any puppy mill or pet store to be in business in 2020. There are enough small scale back yard breeders with conditions that are bad, but no comparison to a true PUPPY MILL in this country to supply the purchasing desites of individuals. SHUT DOWN EVERY LARGE SCALE COMMERCIAL BREEDING FACILITY. SHIT DOWN EVERY PUPPY SELLING STORE that is supplied by mills. Ridiculous and very saddening for these defenseless animalsm. Criminals!!

  17. Me says:

    These are lies. And you all are sheep if you believe. They sprinkle just enough truth to make you think it’s all believable.

    • Kevin Murphy says:

      Lies.. I see you dont use your real name.. but it’s what i do..i rescue puppies from these places.. so I have 1st hand knowledge my eyes dont lie.. Petland is a living hell for dogs.

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