The Humane Society of the United States
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Hidden camera pet store investigation reveals sick puppies, duped consumers at high-end Manhattan store

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The Humane Society of the United States reveals that a boutique Manhattan puppy store is hiding illnesses among its high-priced puppies and failing to reveal full health information to buyers. An undercover investigator who wore a hidden camera while employed by the store documented these and other findings, which have been shared with law enforcement officials responsible for enforcing city and state laws.

An HSUS undercover investigator worked at the Chelsea Kennel Club for two months in what is HSUS’ longest-running, employment-based pet store investigation. She documented puppies with fevers, infections and illnesses who weren’t immediately taken to a veterinarian, in many cases only getting sicker as cost-cutting measures delayed their care. The investigator also witnessed pet store staff bullying some of the puppies. One employee smacked puppies with towels and roughly grabbed them by their scruffs. Several staff members held puppies down with their muzzles shut as part of what some of the staff called “dominance” training.

“From puppies with open surgical wounds on their bellies to a dog who could barely breathe because she was suffering from pneumonia, our investigator witnessed shocking disregard for the care these puppies need,” said John Goodwin, senior director for The HSUS’ Stop Puppy Mills campaign. “The retail pet industry has a system-wide problem that begins with cruel puppy mills, continues with the way they ship baby animals across the country in cramped quarters, and ends with consumers often being sold sick animals at an inflated price.”

Some of the dozens of problems documented in video footage and detailed log notes include:

  • The store’s “isolation” room filled with sick puppies – puppies with breathing problems, bloody diarrhea, painful infections, high fevers and more.
  • A few of the many dogs who were sick in the store include a Pomeranian whose eyes were swollen shut with conjunctivitis, a French bulldog puppy whose weight plummeted from 4.12 pounds to 3.08, an English bulldog puppy with severe pneumonia and a shiba inu with bronchitis.
  • Pet store staff removed paperwork detailing abnormal veterinary findings from several puppies’ folders before the animals were sold to unsuspecting buyers. Sales staff told the investigator that the store owner had instructed them to do this in contravention of New York State’s pet lemon law, which requires pet sellers to disclose puppies’ physical abnormalities or illnesses at the time of the sale.
  • The HSUS sent “secret shoppers” to the store to purchase two puppies identified by the investigator as sick and/or behaviorally troubled.
    • One puppy sold to the secret shoppers had reportedly bitten her former buyer, who then returned her to the store. The store’s salesperson did not reveal the puppy’s bite history to our secret shopper at the time of purchase. The puppy also had a congenital eye malformation and came from an address linked to a breeder in a former HSUS Horrible Hundred report – an annual report of problematic puppy breeding and/or puppy brokering facilities that demonstrates the scope of the puppy mill problem in America.
    • Regarding the other puppy, two different sales people told an HSUS secret shopper she had “a normal” or “typical” cough, and one stated that the puppy had “just got it a few days ago.” However, she had actually been sick in the store for weeks, according to the undercover investigator. The HSUS took her to a veterinarian within 24 hours, who diagnosed her with bronchitis and later pneumonia. She may now have permanent lung scarring, according to her new veterinarian.

The investigation report, b-roll footage, photos and a diary kept by the investigator are available here.

The HSUS encourages anyone who has bought a sick puppy from a pet store to contact the organization at humanesociety.org/puppycomplaint. New York residents or pet store employees may also contact the New York State Attorney General’s office to report consumer fraud or pet lemon law violations online or via its helpline at 1-866-697-3444. Individuals who have witnessed potential animal cruelty at a puppy mill can also call 1-877-MILL-TIP.

The HSUS encourages consumers to adopt from animal shelters and rescue groups, and to seek out responsible breeders. Tips on where to get a puppy are available at humanesociety.org/puppy.

Media contact: Samantha Miller: smiller@humanesociety.org; 301-258-1466 

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