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Humane Society: Fox Valley Mall's Furry Babies Store Linked to Puppy Mills

A dozen Chicago-area pet stores were listed in an undercover investigation released Tuseday by the Puppy Mill Campaign for the Humane Society of the United States.

A dozen Chicago-area pet stores—including locations in Lisle, Downers Grove and Aurora—have been listed in a puppy mill investigation conducted by the Humane Society of the United States.

The Humane Society said Tuesday that undercover investigators visited 12 stores over a three-day period in October, and found many are linked to inhumane commercial breeders known as puppy mills. During the visits, employees at the stores denied selling animals from puppy mills, but documents showed otherwise, according to the Humane Society.

Investigators also discovered that eight of the 12 stores were in violation of Illinois' pet shop disclosure law, which requires stores to post visible information about the animals and their breeders, the Humane Society said. The other four stores had information in binders that were not posted "in a conspicuous place on or near the cafe of any dog or cat available for sale," according to the report.

The Humane Society also reviewed hundreds of Certificates of Veterinary Inspection documents, which show the origin of puppies shipped to Chicago-area pet stores. United States Department of Agriculture inspection reports for the puppy breeders were then examined for violations of the federal Animal Welfare Act, along with Illinois Department of Agriculture files on the pet stores themselves, which include public complains and inspection reports.

Investigators visited three pet stores in DuPage County—Puppy Parlor, 4707 Main St. in Lisle; Happiness Is Pets, 1542 Ogden Ave. in Downers Grove; and Furry Babies, 2352 Fox Valley Center in Aurora.

Furry Babies

Furry Babies, a pet store at the Westfield Fox Valley mall, was also cited in the Humane Society's report for failing to comply with the pet disclosure law. A Furry Babies location in Bloomingdale was also listed.

According to investigators, the chain has purchased puppies from puppy mills in Missouri in Kansas, some of which have serious violations of the Animal Welfare Act on their records.

In response to an email from investigators regarding the store’s policy about purchasing puppies from puppy mills, the store wrote: “Our babies come from good USDA licensed breeders or private breeders. They are all hand picked by the president of our company and are examined twice by the vet to make sure that they are all healthy for their new family. […] Our babies are not puppy mill babies and are very well taken care of.”

No violations have been filed against the stores named in the Humane Society investigation, ABC 7 Chicago reports.

The Chicago-area investigation was the latest of three conducted in large U.S. cities to show pet stores' reliance on puppy mills, according to the Humane Society.

“This investigation drives home the heartbreaking lesson that consumers can unwittingly support the vast cruelties of puppy mills if they patronize pet stores in search of a puppy,” said Melanie Kahn, senior director of the Humane Society's Puppy Mills Campaign. 

Puppy Parlor

The investigation into Puppy Parlor in Lisle found that 19 complaints have been filed with the Illinois Department of Agriculture over the past two years—five from buyers and others from concerned shoppers and possibly from employees of the store, according to the Humane Society. Allegations of dead puppies in the store's freezer were made to Illinois State inspectors, according to the report.

In October 2011, 105 dogs—60 adults and 45 puppies—at Puppy Parlor were placed under quarantine due to an outbreak of canine parovirus, a deadly disease often associated with unhealthful living conditions, according to the Humane Society. At least six puppies died from the virus, but the store owner continued to sell puppies until the quarantine, the report states.

Although state inspectors have repeatedly rated conditions as "acceptable" at the shop, their own documentation reflects several complains about sick puppies, unsanitary living conditions, overcrowding and puppies dying, according to the report. Humane Society investigators also reported overcrowded cages.

According to the report, Certificates of Veterinary Inspection revealed that Puppy Parlor buys puppies from Conrad Kennel in Keota, IA, which has been cited for violations of the Animal Welfare act.

An inspection conducted Oct. 22 by the USDA found that Conrad Kennels had 226 breeding dogs and 27 puppies on site, the Humane Society said. The breeder has been cited for having dogs with matted coats and filth.

Puppy Parlor also buys from Oleo Acres Kennel and J.A.K.'s Puppies, Inc. in Iowa—two large brokerage operations that collect puppies from mills and re-sell them, according to the Humane Society.

In a response to an email inquiry by the Humane Society about whether Puppy Parlor buys its puppies from puppy mills, the store owner wrote, "No our puppies are happy and healthy come check us out."

According to the report, the Humane Society has received multiple complaints from consumers about disturbing conditions and sick puppies purchased at Puppy Parlor.

Investigators also found the store to be in violation of the state's pet shop disclosure law, according to the Humane Society. When asked for information, the owner produced disclosure forms, one of which lacked breeder information, the report states.

An employee at Puppy Parlor declined to comment Tuesday night, but said the store owner would likely be available Wednesday.

Happiness is Pets

While visiting Happiness Is Pets, investigators discovered the store did not post breeder information in a conspicuous place "on or near the cage," though the information was available in a centrally-located binder, the report states.

The Humane Society said there have been six public complaints against Happiness Is Pets filed with the Illinois Department of Agriculture over the past two years, including those about sick puppies who tested positive for distemper, a puppy dying of pneumonia, and a shopper who complained that the puppies looked sick and had green mucus surrounding their noses and mouths.

Another complainant said the puppies did not have food or water and that the cages were full of feces, the report states.

State inspectors have repeatedly visited Happiness is Pets and said they found conditions acceptable, the Humane Society said. 

Happiness Is Pets also has locations in Arlington Heights, Naperville, Lombard and Orland Park. The Arlington Heights store, 15 W. Golf Road, was also named in the investigation.

According to the report, Certificates of Veterinary Inspection indicate that Chicagoland stores in the Happiness Is Pets chain bought puppies from numerous puppy mills across the Midwest, including breeders in Missouri, Iowa and Indiana.

One breeder, Nick Menne of Lime Springs, IA, sold dogs to Happiness Is Pets in both Downers Grove and Arlington Heights, according to the report. Mennes is a USDA-licensed breeder who had 317 adult dogs and 84 puppies on his most recent inspection report. He has been cited for violations of the Animal Welfare Act, including mats and excessively long toenails on dogs, fecal accumulation in enclosures, insufficient space for dogs and filth inside the shed housing dogs, the Humane Society said.

Other breeders affiliated with the chain were cited for similar violations, according to the report.

A class-action lawsuit against Happiness Is Pets was filed in mid-February by six individuals who claimed they were misled by store employees when they bought puppies that later developed serious illnesses.

Happiness Is Pets owner Ronald Berning, of Lemont, did not return a message left at the Downers Grove store seeking comment.

Click here to read the full report from the Puppy Mill Campaign for the Humane Society of the United States.

jill e December 13, 2012 at 05:12 PM
Mike E PLEASE send me your contact info so that i may send you the receipt from Oswego Animal Hospital from monday the total was close to $750 for 4 LOCAL puppymill Breeder dogs. The female's uterus was hanging out about 7 inches the males all had bloody infected paw pads from living on wire and stepping in their urine and feces for 3-5 years, all of their ears were nasty and infected. Don't think this happens close to home, think again. So now these dogs are safe and vetted (all the money is coming out of generous volunteers personal pocket books). The adoption fee is not even going to cover the vetting that was done-NO PROFIT MADE ON THIS ONE MIKE~oh by the way there is possibly more coming soon. I sure hope that if ever you are in a situation where your insides are hanging out someone is kind enough to help you out.
mike ellison December 13, 2012 at 05:21 PM
Our dog arrived at the Yorkville vet clinic, from Tennessee, via a large trailer with a few dozens of other dogs. We were shown six dogs that met our criteria in a private room. All of the dogs coats were dirty and tangled up and the dogs were urinating all over each other. We were told that our dog would be groomed once we bought her. They had no interest in grooming any of the dogs unti a sale was made. Pretty interesting that money was what was driving the dog's care. No vet care until we paid our money. I spent a week tracking donw our dog's rabies records out of concern for our kid's safety. The rescue org told me they stopped in Danville, ILL at a vet to get the dogs shots. Too bad they lost the paperwork.
Katt December 13, 2012 at 05:24 PM
My family adopted our dogs, through the years, from a greyhound rescue group (years ago, my son and a greyhound had a 'love at first sight' moment at a rescue event. We went through a 3 month process to finally get our very special dog) and years later, at Kendall County Shelter after our greyhound passed away (where we ended up adopting a pedigree dog dropped off by a breeder.) Our cats, in separate adoptions, are from the Naperville Humane Society. I think that checking out shelters first for a loving pet is always a good idea. Especially now. Some sad families have had to give up their loved and loving pets for financial reasons, moves, foreclosures etc. and wonderful, sweet, playful and sometimes, very well-trained animals are waiting for good homes. It's win-win. Just sayin. :)
Kbell December 13, 2012 at 05:56 PM
I hope none of you on here eat meat because the way they treat cows, pigs and chicken is not pretty either. They are animals too.
Katra Knoernschild December 13, 2012 at 06:49 PM
It's just a hunch, but I'm pretty sure Mike doesn't support Universal Healthcare.
Cheryl December 13, 2012 at 07:06 PM
MIKE!!!! YOU ARE A DUMB ASS There, that sums it up!
Becky December 13, 2012 at 07:10 PM
Speaking for myself, no - I do not eat meat. I am a vegetarian, for ethical and health reasons. That is actually another industry that needs serious overhaul. I applaud the local family rancher who understands their animals and treats them with the respect they deserve. Here is an example of a responsible rancher: http://cedarvalleysustainable.com/
Concerned December 13, 2012 at 07:18 PM
First let me say that I have no affiliation with any pet store, breeder, veterinary clinic, or animal rights group. I am just a happy pet owner of two dogs. I appreciate both sides of this argument and think all need to work to find some understanding for each others positions. The article seemed to have a very negative slant. I was just pointing out that I had a good experience at Happiness is Pets. They are a legitimate business and have every right to exist. I can understand why they would be reluctant to expose their source of animals as that exposes their supply chain. Their value as a business is to bring breeders and prospective pet owners together. Given that, I also understand that the retail outlets provide a way to market for less than reputable breeders, but I find it difficult to believe that all puppy's sold by retailers come from horrible experiences. I believe the term 'puppy mills' to refer to all breeders is unfair, as in all areas of life you will find reputable and disreputable people involved. Also the term 'rescued' seems to be preferred to what we used to call adopted. I have adopted pets from shelters with a limited amount of success. The problem is you don't know what you are really getting from a breed perspective which determines physical and behavioral characteristics. BTW, over the past 7 years my dog purchased from the pet store has been much healthier and better behaved than the one purchased from a reputable breeder.
Concerned December 13, 2012 at 07:18 PM
Thanks to this thread, I will be more diligent in the future to discover where any pet I acquire comes from. I think it would be helpful for those who are passionate about buying a pet from reputable breeder, rather than a retail store, provide the names of some reputable breeders or suggest methods to discover them. I'm sure those who wish to acquire a pet would appreciate it.
gina sendef December 13, 2012 at 07:31 PM
Not all rescue proponents are liberal politcially speaking, so that comment was strange to say the least. The Humane Society did not "make up anything". This is real and groups like The Puppy Mill Project would be happy to show anyone who asks tons of reports, pictures, data and other information necessary (you can even visit the site of a local puppy mill breeder who recently had animals rescued from its location). Any so-called rescue opertaing for profit is not a resuce, it is a business; resuces are non-profit. Just like with anything in life, there can be corruption so do your homework. An animal is a living being, where you obtain a pet from matters (be it a breeder or a rescue). Commerical farming does have issues with the treatment of animals and puppy mills are nothing more then a commercial farm for breeding dogs. FYI, there are sources for meat, like Organic farms, that focus on respectful ways to raise their animals. How we treat living beings is a reflection of our character.
Becky December 13, 2012 at 07:34 PM
I leave the term "rescue" to the people going out and getting these animals into their rescue organization. Adopt is the term I use to describe how I obtained my animals. My dog is a rescue that I adopted. :-)
Becky December 13, 2012 at 07:36 PM
I have never considered purchasing a dog - just my view - so I cannot recommend any specific breeders. However, I can point people to this website, that is a great listing of the difference between a Backyard Breeder and a Reputable Breeder. This is a great resource for those dead set on a particular breed and who do not wish to consider adoption: http://www.boxermap.com/reputablebreeder.html
gina sendef December 13, 2012 at 07:36 PM
Referrals are good but still, visit the breeder and check references because that is a great way to know. Every single breed has a breed sepcific rescue if you prefer certain breeds. We bought a beagle from Petland many years ago. I was astonished to learn of their fraudulent sales practices and where our puppy actually came from. We learned alot and rescued two mutts about a 2 years ago after our beloved beagle passed.
gina sendef December 13, 2012 at 07:42 PM
Just because people care about animals and support rescues does not mean they don't support charities that help children and people in need. Animal lovers are typically very generous in nature for all living beings in need.
Debbie W December 13, 2012 at 08:19 PM
Everyone: I think dumb ass Mike is just pulling your chain - he must love antagonizing people for no reason at all and he's probably getting off on how he is riling everyone up. i would just drop it - he is just a phony spending his time on crap like this instead of doing something productive in life. Just igore him - he's just lying and making everying up for his little game.
Jaci R. December 13, 2012 at 08:27 PM
Concerned: You may feel this article had a "negative slant' towards the pet stores involved, but it is simply stating the facts. Furry Babies had an investigative report done in the local newspaper in Peru IL last November exposing all the truths where their puppies come from. Let's leave out the term "puppy mill"... they all came from large scale breeders from out of state. Furry Babies closed up shop after all the negative publicity (meaning the communities' eyes were finally opened up to their practices and their sales went down) and they just moved on to their 6 (I believe) other locations. No, not all breeders are "puppy mills".. but a reputable breeder will not breed over and over for profit. Reputable breeders are usually breed specific, and may only breed one type of dog. My sister for example, has a beautiful Golden... she bred her ONCE, producing 7 beautiful puppies. She personally met and screened each of the potential families and would not allow the dogs to be purchased unless she found them to be suitable. She paid for all the necessary vet care, food, grooming, etc. before selling these puppies at the proper age... hence not making such a large profit on these pups. The people were able to meet the mother of their pups, seeing that she was well taken care of and loved... Do you get this from a pet store? No way! Pet stores buy their puppies from large scale breeders for pennies on the dollar and sell them for huge profits. It's the ugly truth.
Logansdad December 13, 2012 at 08:34 PM
Wasn't aware that there was a pet store at Fox Valley Mall. Now that I know, I will not be shopping at the mall until it is closed.
Jaci R. December 13, 2012 at 08:44 PM
Here's the article published last November exposing the truth about Furry Babies: http://newstrib.com/main.asp?SectionID=2&subsectionID=28&articleID=16065
Tim December 13, 2012 at 09:50 PM
let mike talk as much as he wants. The more people that read his delusions, the less people will take him seriously in any other topic he comments on. Anyone that has seen his comments in other articles already knows this, so this is just an opportunity for him to spread his 'reputation' to more readers.
Jacqueline December 13, 2012 at 09:55 PM
Because mike ellison seemed so adverserial, I googled his name. He has commented on many articles from the Patch, several times with the same tone. He seems to comment just to instigate anger without really knowing about the subject matter.
jill e December 13, 2012 at 10:54 PM
Logan's dad we are working on the whole mall issue, stay tuned.
Ashley Guziec December 13, 2012 at 11:57 PM
Donna-I have thought about my dog's mom.This should be more about criminalizing the puppy mills than the stores that sell the dogs. Puppy Mills disgust me, and I know that I supposedly "support" them because I bought my dog from a pet store. However, whether I purchased him or not, the fact of the matter is that he was born. I didn't just choose my dog, he chose me. He has brought me so much joy and happiness. I will NEVER regret buying him. It wasn't about how much I spent on him. Before I bought him, I tried to rescue from several organizations through Petfinder.com, as did several other people that I know. None of us had a good experience with any of the rescues on there. Most of them seemed like animal hoarders themselves. My mom wound up adopting from Aurora Animal Shelter. She got an amazing little princess-but has had to deal with a lot of health issues with her (she is absolutely worth every single penny). They did not have any dogs that I was interested in, given my living arrangement. My only option was to go through a breeder or a pet store. I visited Happiness Is Pets in Lombard, and fell in love with my dog. Again, I didn't just pick him, he picked me. In my eyes, I saved him from "having his price reduced, until he got thrown into a pound".
Ashley Guziec December 13, 2012 at 11:58 PM
When I am ready for a second dog, I will check out high kill shelters ONLY, I will NOT contact rescues, as I have had several negative experiences with them. If they don't have what I am looking for, then I will purchase from a breeder or a pet store again. Call it what you will, but this argument goes both ways. People who "save" animals often turn into people that the animals need saving from.
Cheryl December 14, 2012 at 02:16 PM
Concerned, Consider yourself lucky, and many people are, but the bottom line is that dogs should not be bred for profit, and that is what the breeders behind the pet shops are about. The term "rescued" is what happens before they are "adopted", that term hasn't changed. Please find me a reputable "puppy mill", it is unlikely you will. Not all shelters are created equally, some don't do proper vetting or are honest, that is unfortunate. The pets you adopted from shelters with limited success,were they puppies? Perhaps not; did you work with them to help them with their transition? Also, with regards to "you don't know what you are getting from a breed perspective", nothing could be more true when you buy a puppy mill pet. These breeders have no regard as to what the actual breed was originally bred to do. The puppies do not have the same characteristics as those that were bred by a breeder who is professional and exhibits their dogs and truly cares about maintaining the AKC standard of the breed. Dogs like "teacup" anything have literally had their brains bred right out them amongst other issues. I come from a purebred, confirmation exhibiting background, and now I help the lost, tossed, abused, and downtrodden dogs find a home. Everyone needs to do their homework when looking for a new family member. But if you keep buying from pet shops, you keep supporting puppy mills, backyard breeders, hobbyists, whatever you want to call them. I call them greedy.
Cheryl December 14, 2012 at 02:53 PM
If you are looking for a specific breed first you can go to Petfinder.com and look up the breed, sometimes they are purebred, but mostly mixed and sometimes they are "best guess". If you want to go to a breeder, check out the AKC, for breed groups; contact them and then ask them for advice, not all breeders litters are show quality, so you can check on a "pet" quality puppy from a littler. All breed groups are required to have a rescue as well.. Go to a dog show, especially a "benched" show, and observe breeds and speak to their breeders or handlers (if they have time". With 300,000 pets needing adoption, I would ask you to reconsider that option and look for a rescue group that utilizes foster homes. That will afford you a better idea of what the dog is like because it is living in a home and will probably be in the process of being trained to live in your home. Good luck.
Christine Camposano January 07, 2013 at 01:54 AM
They just haven't been CAUGHT yet! Money talks! Licenses + registrations are a MUST in Illinois businesses and must be displayed at ALL times. My cousin DOES work for the State of Illinois Health Dept. and can, and does on occasion, get these pet shops fined or closed. She IS a health inspector and trainer for the food industry, and because she DOES work for the state, a simple phone call can get the state to a location. She has access to information and pics of these mills, the likes of which would make you vomit!! She goes into these restaurants (and pet shops) on her routes and can look for violations to report. If you're legal why hide the papers?? My dog was a puppy mill mother, left in a cardboard box to rot in 95 deg. heat. Not long after I got her from my friend's sister (she was only 6, we think, my vet hospital couldn't even tell me how OLD she was, her teeth were so bad). She needed surgery for 2 tumors, 6 pulled teeth (because of poor nourishment), AND a burst uterus! I went from free to $1000.00 in 1 surgery. He told me I'd saved her life, he figured she had 3 days left! He couldn't even tell me for years that she was a puppy mill dog, but I wondered because of the 2 numbered tattoos (ear and thigh) she'd had to endure so that jerk could keep track of inventory. You need to watch the news or Animal Planet some time! See how these dogs live and suffer, because evidently, you have no idea what you are talking about! Oh, by the way, watch where you eat!!
Christine Camposano January 07, 2013 at 02:15 AM
They don't STEAL the dogs, they're confiscated and brought to shelters or the ASPCA to be taken care of . If you have a shelter dog how could you NOT know this?? The shelters only charge for spaying, shots, and chips, if needed. MIke! I'd give up now, too many against you and, evidently, with more knowledge and personal experience.
Christine Camposano January 07, 2013 at 02:19 AM
I actually went into Furry Babies cuz I just love animals and had to hold one and specifically asked if they were puppy mill dogs and they outright said "no".
Christine Camposano January 07, 2013 at 02:20 AM
If you love dogs you ALWAYS love babies, we're on that too! thnx TLC.
Christine Camposano January 07, 2013 at 02:36 AM
Duh, you just explained why your shelter dogs were sick! They were rescued, in all probability, from puppy mills or bad situations where they may have been abused, abandoned, mistreated or malnourished. The adoption agency doesn't know the dogs history, they just see an animal in distress and tries to save it and give it to a loving home that will, hopefully, enjoy and love it back for however long they live. A good breeder DOES know their dog's "physical and behavioral characteristics" because they've either raised 1 or both parents or may even have shown them in shows and have an AKC registry. You're dogs only act as you treat them!!

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