HSUS, HSLF urge federal consumer protection agency to crack down on Petland and other dishonest puppy sellers

By Kitty Block and Sara Amundson

By on May 28, 2020 with 17 Comments

Pet stores like Petland and internet puppy sellers routinely deceive unsuspecting customers into buying animals who are bred in inhumane puppy mills and who could be sick or even dying. Today, we are calling on the Federal Trade Commission, the agency charged with consumer protection, to crack down on these deceptive sales and marketing practices that often result in terrible suffering for pets and the people who bring them home.

The FTC has been mostly silent on retail pet sales. The agency has also not issued a regulation declaring these deceptive practices to be unlawful—a request we made in a legal petition filed in 2018. In the two years since, we have conducted undercover investigations at eight Petland stores. We have also heard from numerous consumers who bought puppies they were told were healthy from one of Petland’s stores across 19 states nationwide, only to have their joy turn to heartbreak when the animals fell sick or died.

With our renewed legal petition filed today we hope the FTC will finally move to protect these and other future consumers. These are people like Stephanie Rappard who was sold a “completely healthy” German shepherd puppy by the Petland in Topeka, Kansas. The puppy, named Jade, died just a month later from multiple preventable ailments. Or Stacy Parreno, who bought a basset hound from another Petland in Orlando, Florida, only to find out he was suffering from pneumonia and a genetic lung defect. When Stacy brought the dog back to the store, he was resold to another family.

Our undercover investigators documented similar findings at other Petland stores. Buyers were routinely assured that their puppies were healthy and came from reputable breeders, when in fact they typically came from unsanitary mass-breeding facilities like the ones we list each year in our Horrible Hundred report on problem puppy dealers and breeders. Petland, we found, also neglected to provide proper veterinary care for animals who were noticeably ill, and used “preventative” antibiotics and other ad-hoc remedies to mask symptoms of infectious diseases long enough to sell the puppies to unsuspecting consumers. For instance, in our undercover investigation of a Florence, Kentucky, Petland store, the manager told a secret shopper that a goldendoodle—who was infected with campylobacter and had been suffering for weeks with diarrhea and lethargy—was perfectly healthy and had been tested for the infectious disease, which can be transmitted to humans.

Puppy sellers like Petland also often pressure or mislead consumers into high-interest financing agreements that they cannot afford. In some tragic cases we cite in our petition, consumers continued to accrue interest and make payments on puppies who had passed away shortly after purchase.

In addition to duping customers, pet stores like Petland keep the puppy mill problem alive and thriving. The mills churn out a steady supply of puppies for sale at the stores, often labeling them with made-up terms such as “teacup puppies,” or “hypoallergenic” to boost sales in response to consumer trends.

The Humane Society of the United States and Humane Society Legislative Fund are working on many fronts to root out the puppy mill problem and end sales of puppies in pet stores. As a result of our efforts, three states and 355 localities now ban pet store sales of puppies. In Congress, we are pushing for the passage of the Welfare of Our Friends (WOOF) Act, H.R. 1002, to make it easier to close down dog breeders with violations, and the Puppy Protection Act, H.R. 2442, to upgrade standards of care for dogs.

Last week the Florida attorney general’s office brought a lawsuit against a Petland store—Petland Orlando East aka Petland Waterford Lakes—alleging the exact same kinds of deceptive practices we discuss in our petition. Clearly, a growing number of disgruntled consumers are speaking out, and we applaud the attorney general for taking action.

But ultimately, this ball is in the FTC’s court. The federal agency has the authority and responsibility to ensure that American consumers are not being hurt by unscrupulous business practices. We reminded the agency of this responsibility when we filed our first petition in 2018, and we are urging it again today to grant our request. We will keep showing up until it does.

If you believe you have been deceived by the practices of the retail pet industry, please submit a complaint to the FTC and ask them to help stop these practices. You can also report your story to us by filling out our Puppy Buyer Complaint Form.

Sara Amundson is president of the Humane Society Legislative Fund

Categories
Companion Animals, Public Policy (Legal/Legislative)

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17 Comments

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  1. Mary DeWitt says:

    Until the Ag-Gag legislation in Arkansas is declared unconstitutional and is voided, our hands are tied.

  2. Angela Pummel says:

    Start making sure all animals are treated good!! After all they are God’s creatures just like us!! We need to close ALL puppy mills!!

  3. Alan Alejandro Maldonado Ortiz says:

    No es posible que los animalitos sigan sufriendo sólo por beneficio económico de las personas eso tiene que parar ya tenemos que respetar la vida

  4. Troy P says:

    In WHAT WORLD is it okay for it to be legal for this kind of cruelty to happen. Dogfighting is illegal, why aren’t puppy mills? In my opinion, Trump has done some great things for the country, yet hasn’t banned puppy mills. I would never let that happen to my Yorkie, so why does it happen to other dogs? Sadly the world is a devil’s playground, and that needs to be fixed.

  5. Angie says:

    Stop these puppy mills and animal abuse!

  6. Laura says:

    These puppy mills NEED to stop!!! They are living beings and this absolutely breaks my heart!!!!! Pet stores also need to stop selling these puppies!

  7. Michele Shinn says:

    These puppy mills are cruel and need to be stopped!

  8. JB says:

    As long as this country lets the abuse and breeding is allowed to go on those humans who use animals as a way to make a living will go on! Its up to us those who want it to stop who want to close puppy mills and backyard breeders… but without everyones help it wont happen… animals matter and their well being matters and you out there who keep buying these sick horrible treated animals STOP… your the reason it wont stop… but I realize those people wont be reading anything that describes the lives these animals live they dont give a dam… but shame those who buy maybe that will stop them… like those rich elite who feel they can spend their money anyway they want… but when it concerns lives of animals or humans only way to stop it is to try to make them feel guilty like wearing fur…I dont feel anyone should be elite they are only have more advantage then the average people out there…

  9. Chris Cromwell says:

    In this terrible cruel world please do the right thing. That’s not abuse animals like we abuse each other.

  10. Darlene Marturano says:

    Close the cruel puppy mills down!

  11. Patty Ramirez says:

    Disgusting Petland

  12. Rosemary Caswell says:

    No decent human being would condone, participate in, or own a II puppy mill. Do your research. Learn why they are horrific and must be abolished.

  13. Carol Shelfo says:

    These people don’t care about these poor innocent animals. This is truly abuse. Why aren’t they prosecuted since it’s now a felony!

  14. Maribel says:

    Stop !!!!! RESPECT THE ANIMALS!!!

  15. Janice says:

    STOP this cruelty of constant breeding of animals…..visit your local humane society …..there are so so many unwanted animals awaiting your care and love.

  16. Marley says:

    This is utterly heartbreaking…shame on you all for allowing this. What are they putting money in yojr pockets. Evil bastards.

  17. Natalie says:

    Majority of ppl dont care…. and the ones apposing this probably eat animals too. Free all animals… go vegan….and adopt where you can. Shelters are full of animals… as long as people keep buying puppies…this cruel industry will keep going.

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