Owners, activists claim sickly pups product of Petland

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by By BRETT SHIPP / WFAA-TV

wfaa.com

Posted on May 20, 2009 at 10:05 PM

Updated Monday, Oct 19 at 12:49 PM

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The News 8 investigation focused on the Petland franchise store in Frisco.

News 8 Investigates

Brett Shipp reports

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FRISCO - Petland, a national pet store chain, has drawn numerous complaints from around the country, including some from upset customers buying puppies from one particular North Texas store.

Allegations claim that sick and genetically defective dogs from puppy mills are being sold to unsuspecting customers paying a premium that later adds up to more costs as they try to keep them alive. They are allegations Petland strongly denies.

When Debbie DeGise, of Plano, takes her dog "Sarge" on a walk, most seem to notice his size. Some might also notice his stiff legs as he walks.

"We've had this dog eight days or something and hear it's going to die," she said.

Sarge has undergone numerous surgeries and titanium knee implants. His genetic defects cause his legs to shake.

DeGise's son fell in love with Sarge four years ago when he first saw him at Petland in Frisco.

Family photo
Sarge was diagnosed with distemper as a puppy, his owner said.

His runny nose, eye secretions, stomach parasites and lack of appetite days after the purchase led her to rush Sarge to her veterinarian who diagnosed him with distemper.

"It's highly contagious," DeGise said. "It's something that if it's not treated it's fatal. And I just kept thinking all those puppies in there; and I thought, 'Oh my God, this is serious.'"

Since that time, DeGise has spent more than $10,000 treating his illness and genetic defects that she blames on Petland.

"It's clearly about the money," she said. "It is not about the animal's welfare or the public or anything like that."

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Zoey has been sick since she was purchased, according to owner Jennifer Wilson.

Jennifer Wilson, of McKinney, said she too was upset just days after purchasing a sad-faced Shih Tzu puppy, "Zoey," at a Petland in Frisco.

"She seemed sickly to me," she said. "She was matted in the back with some diarrhea, and she was actually diagnosed after we bought her with Giardia."

Zoey has been sick ever since.

A few weeks ago, a veterinarian hospital stay cost her nearly $2,000. She said she's out $6,500 and counting.

The Petland Corporation became the target of a Humane Society of the United States undercover investigation and class action lawsuit. A related video is posted on the Humane Society's website.

Petland puppies were traced back to what the Humane Society described as filthy, barren, crowded cages reeking of waste.

The allegation claimed Petland stocks its store display cages with puppy mill dogs, many of them sick and defective and sold to unsuspecting consumers in numerous states.

They are claims backed up by one former Petland employee, who did not want to be identified.

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A puppy arriving at a Petland store from an 18-wheeler.

"I was fed up with the way the animals were treated,"

He said he witnessed many disturbing practices including puppies trucked in from out of state breeders and packed into cages. Untreated illnesses would sometimes claim their lives, he said.

"I've had two to three dogs die from Parvo in my hands as I was trying to take them up to the vet," he said.

News 8 took undercover video inside the Frisco Petland, the source of at least two problem puppies.

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While News 8 did find several active, healthy looking dogs, several appeared lethargic and sickly.

One could be seen lying next to a pool of his own vomit. Another had diarrhea in a space so cramped he defecated on his own mattress.

The floor of many of the cages were soiled with waste.

"The health and well-being of our pets come first," said Petland Inc. spokeswoman Elizabeth Kunzelman in a written statement. "Like children, they can sometimes get sick ... Our puppies come from individuals in local communities and from U.S.D.A. licensed professional breeders and brokers ... They are sold with current vaccinations and the most comprehensive pet warranty in the pet industry."

It's a statement DeGise said is hard to swallow.

"Petland knows what they are doing and they are not standing up and taking responsibility," she said.

The lawsuit filed by the Humane Society is against Petland Inc., not the Frisco Petland franchise and none of its allegations involve that particular store. Petland Inc. is seeking to have the lawsuit dismissed.

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Dear Channel 8 News,

The Petland store in Frisco is locally owned and operated and has been a part of the Dallas community for almost six years. They have thousands of satisfied customers. If there are customers who have issues regarding the health of their puppy, we encourage them to contact the store or the corporate office.

When we were first approached regarding the story in April, we provided Mr. Shipp with the corporate office's toll-free number to give to the customers in his story, so we could assist in any resolution. Both the owner of Petland Frisco and the corporate office are more than happy to speak with any customer with concerns.

The health and well-being of our pets come first. Puppies are like children, in that they have an immune system and can sometimes get sick, which is why we have an extensive health warranty.

Puppies from the Petland in Frisco go home with current vaccinations and a health warranty. Petland's health warranty is the most comprehensive pet warranty in the pet industry. Petland Frisco's warranty covers infectious diseases for 60 days as well as hereditary and congenital concerns for three years.

In addition to the medical care provided by the store's local consulting veterinarian, the store keeps daily health records monitoring weight, temperature, eating habits and overall health.

As to the question regarding "puppy mills," Petland does not use that term, as there is no quantifiable definition and there are a multitude of opinions as to its meaning. Petland does not, however, purchase from substandard breeders.

As to where Petland in Frisco purchases its puppies, they come the following sources:

Individuals in local communities who breed registered pets and offer occasional litters.

Licensed, professional breeders and brokers, inspected by the United States Department of Agriculture.

I want to reiterate that the health and well-being of our puppies is our number one priority and we are dedicated to providing our customers with healthy pets. We are all passionate about pets and understand the important role they play in our families. We encourage the customers you spoke with to contact us with any outstanding issues and we will work with them to resolve them.

Thank you for the opportunity to respond,

Sincerely,

Elizabeth Kunzelman Director of Communications Petland, Inc.

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