Undercover investigation reveals “trifecta of horrors” in Florence Petland store as disease outbreaks sicken puppies and humans

Pet store hides outbreaks of campylobacter, distemper and parvovirus from unsuspecting customers

Washington D.C./Florence, KY, Nov. 14, 2019 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- The Humane Society of the United States just released the results of its undercover investigation at a Florence, Kentucky, Petland store. This is the eighth Petland store investigated by the organization and this investigation revealed puppies sick and dying from the deadly, preventable diseases canine distemper and canine parvovirus. The investigation also shows some of the puppies had campylobacter, which is suspected to have spread to customers, store staff and the investigator. Campylobacter is a bacterial infection that can cause nausea, fever and stomach distress and has led to some people being hospitalized. The investigator is currently recovering. 

John Goodwin, senior director of the Humane Society of the United States’ Stop Puppy Mills Campaign, said: “No puppy deserves to suffer and die from a preventable disease in a pet store. What we have seen behind the scenes at this Petland store is a trifecta of horrors - campylobacter, distemper and parvovirus. Unsuspecting consumers are not only buying a sick dog, but they may be exposing their families to illness just by interacting with the puppies in the store. Our findings here and at the seven other Petland stores were nothing short of horrifying, but sadly are not unique in a puppy-selling pet store.”

Some of the puppies were visibly ill but were not taken to a veterinarian for treatment. On October 25, the HSUS sent a secret shopper to purchase a goldendoodle (named “Jasper” by the HSUS), who had been suffering from bloody diarrhea in the store for about three weeks. The shopper was told the goldendoodle was “perfect” and “healthy.” When Jasper had diarrhea in front of our buyer, a manager told her, “This puppy has had diarrhea [but] that’s not campylobacter,” and said it was simply due to stress.

The HSUS took Jasper to an independent veterinarian, where he tested positive for campylobacter and giardia, both of which can spread to people. According to the Dr. Michelle Gonzalez, DVM, of Rascal Animal Hospital, Jasper was “skin and bones,” with a body condition score of 2 out of 9. Petland’s manager told the buyer that Petland performed a stool test on Jasper to ensure he was healthy. Yet Petland did not provide the buyer with any documentation from a veterinarian proving he had ever had the fecal test. When an HSUS investigator called Petland’s veterinarian’s office days later, they were told the office had no record of the puppy’s stool being tested. Once placed on correct medications, Jasper immediately began to recover.

The Petland store’s failure to obtain professional veterinary care for Jasper and other sick puppies appears to be a violation of Florence’s animal care ordinance, which requires commercial animal establishments to “provide proper medical treatment from a veterinarian for sick or injured animals.” The HSUS reported its findings, including documents and footage, to local authorities.

Other key findings from the Florence investigation:

  • Some of the puppies’ only contact with a veterinarian was a 30-to-45-second examination with the store’s vet when they first arrived at the store.
  • After the HSUS undercover investigator became ill with campylobacter following contact with Petland’s puppies, records obtained from Kentucky health officials revealed that the investigator was one of at least six people who reported becoming ill after handling Florence Petland puppies in 2019. Records show that at least two of the people were hospitalized. 
  • Some of the puppies in the store were euthanized due to distemper, while employees were told several other puppies who had potentially been exposed were moved to a new Indiana Petland store or sent back to their breeders. Customers who asked about the puppies were told that the store was doing an “annual cleaning,” rather than the truth about the store’s exposure to highly contagious diseases.

The Florence, Kentucky, Petland is the eighth Petland store that HSUS has investigated within the last two years, and is the first corporate-owned store HSUS has investigated. Petland, Inc. is the largest chain of pet stores in the country that still sells puppies, with about 70 stores that sell puppies and about 17 corporate-owned stores, most of which are in or near Ohio. At least two of HSUS’s Petland investigations have resulted in charges or citations. A Petland store in Frisco, Texas, was cited for animal care issues after we revealed problems at that store in September. Two managers who worked at the Fairfax, Virginia, Petland store are facing animal cruelty charges after our April investigation revealed numerous dead animals in the freezer. That store is now closed. 




Media Contact: Kirsten Peek: 301-548-7793; kpeek@humanesociety.org

Founded in 1954, the Humane Society of the United States and its affiliates around the globe fight the big fights to end suffering for all animals. Together with millions of supporters, the HSUS takes on puppy mills, factory farms, trophy hunts, animal testing and other cruel industries, and together with its affiliates, rescues and provides direct care for over 100,000 animals every year. The HSUS works on reforming corporate policy, improving and enforcing laws and elevating public awareness on animal issues. More at humanesociety.org.  

Subscribe to Kitty Block’s blog, A Humane World. Follow the HSUS Media Relations department on Twitter. Read the award-winning All Animals magazine. Listen to the Humane Voices Podcast.


The HSUS investigator rushed this very sick Teddy Bear puppy to an emergency vet clinic in Ohio. It was there that the investigator was told that the Petland store in Florence KY had experienced another distemper outbreak in April 2019.   Credit: HSUS An English Bulldog at Petland in Florence Kentucky with two cherry eyes. This conditions almost always needs surgery to correct.  Credit: HSUS

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