Undercover Investigation: Boutique Pet Store Hid Sick Puppies’ Illnesses From Buyers

Image courtesy of HSUS

What was your dog’s life like before you brought him home? If you bought him from a pet store in New York and he was sick, the people selling him are supposed to disclose his full health information. But according to a recent undercover investigation conducted by the Humane Society, one boutique pet shop in Manhattan has been covering up illnesses among its high-priced pooches.

Going undercover

According to HSUS, an undercover investigator wore a hidden camera while embedded as an employee at the Chelsea Kennel Club for two months. She documented puppies with fevers, infections, and illnesses who weren’t immediately taken to a veterinarian, HSUS says. Some puppies would then get sicker while their care was delayed for cost-cutting reasons.

The undercover worker documented an “isolation” room in the store packed with sick puppies — suffering from breathing problems, bloody diarrhea, painful infections, high fevers, and more.

The investigator also allegedly witnessed pet store staff bullying animals: A store employee hit puppies with towels and roughly grabbed them by their scruffs, while other staff members held puppies down with their muzzles squeezed shut in what some 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.”

Selling lemon puppies to secret shoppers

Under New York’s Pet Purchaser Protection laws, pet dealers are required to provide buyers with various documents related to the dogs they’re selling, including its health history.

But pet store staff would remove paperwork detailing abnormal veterinary findings from several puppies’ folders before the animals were sold to unsuspecting buyers, HSUS claims.

“Secret shoppers” sent by HSUS to buy two specific puppies singled out by the investigator as sick or behaviorally troubled.

• One puppy bought by the secret shoppers had reportedly bitten her former owner, who then returned her. The store’s salesperson didn’t disclose that bite history to the secret shopper, HSUS says. The puppy also had a congenital eye malformation, and came from a known problematic puppy breeding facility.

• The other had a “normal” or “typical” cough that it had just gotten a “few days ago,” HSUS said. But according to the undercover investigator, that puppy had been sick in the store for weeks. She was later taken to a veterinarian by HSUS, and was diagnosed with bronchitis and later pneumonia.

“She may now have permanent lung scarring, according to her new veterinarian,” HSUS says.

HSUS says it has shared its findings with law enforcement officials.

We’ve reached out to the pet store for comment and will update this post if we hear back.

What to do if you buy a sick puppy

One way to avoid getting ripped off is, of course, to adopt a pet from an animal rescue, or seek out responsible breeders. Here are some tips from HSUS on how to do that.

If you do buy a sick puppy from a pet store, you can contact HSUS here. You can also reach out to your state’s attorney general’s office to report consumer fraud.

Want more consumer news? Visit our parent organization, Consumer Reports, for the latest on scams, recalls, and other consumer issues.