Newlyweds Megan and Tim Madden were looking to grow their family when they saw a soft-coated wheaten terrier in one of Petland’s targeted Instagram advertisements. It was love at first sight. But when the Maddens met the dog—who they later named Chewie—at the store, they say he appeared to be acting lethargic and withdrawn; not at all like the puppy they had seen in the ad. When the Maddens asked Petland staff if Chewie was ill, they were told that the dog was just overwhelmed and there was no cause for concern. They say the staff also assured them that Petland’s puppies are healthy and sourced from reputable breeders.
The Maddens brought the dog home, but in the following days, Chewie’s condition grew worse. He was coughing, suffering from diarrhea and seizures, and continued lethargy. Following three visits to his primary veterinarian and repeated admissions to the emergency clinic, the dog was diagnosed with distemper, bordetella, mycoplasma, epilepsy and pneumonia. The treatments cost the Maddens thousands of dollars, not to mention an untold amount of agony over the health of their beloved dog.
This week, the Maddens, along with six other families who allege they were duped into buying sick puppies, filed a lawsuit against the Petland franchise in Summerville, South Carolina, and the Petland corporation, alleging breach of contract, negligence, fraud and violations of the South Carolina Unfair Trade Practices Act.
The consumers are represented by the South Carolina law firm Kidd Corvey & Simpson, and attorneys in the Humane Society of the United States’ Animal Protection Law department are assisting with the case.
The complaint alleges that all the families in the lawsuit purchased their puppies from Petland Summerville because they believed and relied on Petland’s in-person representations and slick marketing materials promising healthy, responsibly bred dogs who came from some of the top breeders in the United States and never from a puppy mill. But instead Petland allegedly sold them puppy mill dogs with genetic flaws and chronic illnesses, and then lied about the visible symptoms present at the time of purchase.
As sad as the Maddens’ story—and the stories of the other plaintiffs in this case are—they do not surprise us. As we have seen time and time again through our eight undercover investigations of Petland and consumer complaints, and as highlighted in our recent petition to the Federal Trade Commission, Petland stores across the nation routinely deceive consumers into believing the dogs they sell are raised humanely by reputable breeders, backed by purportedly prestigious breed club registrations, vet-checked and guaranteed healthy by multiple warranties.
In reality, Petland stores regularly sell sick puppies and sources from puppy mills, including dealers who have been cited for violations of animal welfare laws. And while many pet stores around the nation have transitioned over to a more humane business model by no longer sourcing and selling puppies from commercial breeders, Petland doubles down on its outdated model by lobbying against such laws.
Fortunately, a growing number of Americans are becoming aware of, and raising their voices against, such practices. Nearly every week, our puppy mill staff hears from pet owners who bought sick Petland puppies. Some localities with Petland outlets have moved to prohibit sales of puppy mill dogs in pet stores.
It is clear that South Carolina citizens care about this issue. Less than a month ago, the council of Dorchester City in the state unanimously passed an ordinance prohibiting the sale of commercially bred dogs in pet stores. While the Dorchester County ordinance does not apply to the incorporated city of Summerville, much of the public testimony focused on concerns about the Summerville Petland store.
With this lawsuit, we hope Petland will be held accountable for the harm it has caused to families and animals in its relentless drive for profits. If you or someone you know purchased a sick or otherwise unfit animal from the Petland in Summerville, please contact the law firm of Kidd Corvey & Simpson, LLC, at 843-642-8792, or go to www.kcslawfirm.com. You may also submit a complaint about Petland Summerville or any other puppy seller by filling out the HSUS’s Puppy Buyer Complaint Form.