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, 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.
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.