Our undercover investigations have proven time and time again that most pet stores purchase puppies from puppy mills. But that hasn't stopped so many pet stores we've investigated from trying to deceive customers about the origin of the pups it sells. This year we sent an undercover investigator with a hidden camera into every pet store in Virginia we could find that sells puppies. Our researchers also traced the sources of more than 2,000 puppies shipped to Virginia pet stores over seven months of 2014.
The results of our investigation have only fortified our previous assessments. We found widespread deception and omissions -- all seemingly designed to provide false assurances or to dupe the public into buying expensive puppies from mills treating dogs deplorably.
Some of the most noteworthy findings:
- A puppy in one store (Pet-Go-Round, Virginia Beach) was so sick that he was gasping for air and could barely stand: our investigator called law enforcement as soon as she left the store. The puppy had been shipped from a dealer in Missouri, the nation's hotbed for mills.
- One store (Family Pet, Chesapeake) told our investigator that they buy from a small breeder when really they buy from a Nebraskan with a long list of Animal Welfare Act violations. That kennel was featured in our 101 Puppy Mills report along with other large-scale breeders that violate the minimal standards of care set by the federal government.
- Another store (Dreamy Puppy in Chantilly) claims in online ads that it doesn't buy from puppy mills, and its staff told us they get puppies only from "local breeders...small breeders in the area." Yet we found that Dreamy Puppy received puppies from several notorious puppy mills in Arkansas and Missouri, including one that cited ".22 shot by owner" as its official form of euthanasia, and another that pleaded guilty to complicity in cruelty to animals charges last April.
Altogether, we found most of the stores purchasing from large breeders who have been cited for Animal Welfare Act violations, or major out-of-state brokers linked to puppy mills in the Midwest. Six of the pet stores had purchased puppies from puppy mills so substandard that we had identified them by name in our previous reports on problem puppy mills. Most of the remaining stores refused to divulge much, if any, breeder information, apparently in violation of a Virginia law that requires them to post breeder information near each cage.