Ella’s Story

By Amy Wence

In late summer of 2006, my husband and I purchased our first house. We made sure it had a big backyard because my husband promised me that I could have a dog once we were settled in. I always wanted a dog, but was never allowed to have one growing up. I never wanted anything more. I spent hours researching breeds, and decided that an American Eskimo was the right dog for me. After we moved in, I started searching for good breeders. Unfortunately, American Eskimos are not terribly common and I had difficulty finding any good breeders in my area. The nearest ones were more than 4 hours away. The day that my husband agreed that we could get a dog, was one of the happiest days of my life. I had been waiting 27 years to get a dog, so as soon as he said yes, I could not wait a moment longer.

Since I hadn’t had any luck finding breeders, I decided to call Petland. It turned out that the Petland in Round Lake, IL had a female American Eskimo puppy. I couldn’t believe it! I was finally going to have the puppy that I had always wanted. I was only vaguely familiar with puppy mills at the time and had no idea that almost all pet stores get their puppies from puppy mills. When I arrived at the store, there were lots of different puppies, but only one American Eskimo. The moment I met Ella, she melted my heart. I knew she would be mine and it was love at first sight.

I asked the employee that was helping me where they get their puppies from and she assured me that they only deal with very reputable breeders in the Midwest area. She seemed like an animal lover herself and talked fondly about all of her pets at home. So, with that I brought Ella home on Sunday, November 19th, 2006. My husband came home and fell in love with her too. She was the cutest puppy we had ever seen and we had no idea what we had gotten ourselves into. It didn’t take long before things started to go wrong. I brought her to the vet within a couple of days and was told that she had both kennel cough and an intestinal parasite (coccidia). I couldn’t believe it! I had just paid a fortune for this puppy that was supposed to have come from a reputable breeder, and she was sick!

Thankfully, it was something that could be treated easily and she recovered quickly. We also started to notice that she had some serious behavior problems as well. The veterinarian had a difficult time handling her because Ella was very feisty and did not like to be restrained or handled. She was growling and biting at 8 weeks old. Petland had given me a form for my veterinarian to fill out so that I could bring it back to the store after Ella was checked out. My vet recorded the medical and behavioral issues she found with Ella and when I brought it back to the store, they could have cared less!

So, I decided to do a little research on the breeder listed on Ella’s paperwork. It didn’t take me long, to find out that this was not a reputable breeder at all. In fact, what I found was very upsetting. The breeder Ella was purchased from was a Class B dealer (i.e. – dog broker); which means that she obtains dogs from random sources, such as auctions, trades, pound seizures, newspaper ads, or strays. I also found U.S.D.A. court cases against her for shipping puppies under 8 weeks old. She was listed as the largest dog broker in Iowa at the time. I was very angry upon finding this information. Everything the Petland employee had told me was a lie and I now realize that she was only trying to get her commission from the sale of the puppy. I decided to email Petland and let them know what I had found. An employee responded to my email as if she were genuinely concerned and asked me to send her all of the breeder info so she could remove this breeder from their list.

However, this employee failed to realize that when she marked my email as spam, it showed up in her response to me on the subject line. I was very angry at Petland for lying to consumers and after talking to others and doing a little research, I found that I was not alone. There are many people out there that were deceived; some with much worse experiences than I. I read many heartbreaking stories of people who purchased puppies from Petland only to find out they were severely ill and some of them even died. This was a hard lesson learned for me and I am ashamed that I was so naïve and was actually supporting puppy mills. After knowing what I do now, I have vowed to always adopt from a
rescue or shelter and to never step foot inside a Petland again.

We held true to our promise when we adopted our second dog, Comiskey, from Safe Harbor Humane Society in 2007. I love Ella dearly, but I’m saddened to think about the conditions she was born in and raised for the first few weeks of her life. She has some serious behavioral issues because of poor genetics and I am thankful that we found Loving Paws as soon as we did. It’s scary to think where she’d be without all of the training and socialization she’s had over the years. We’ve been able to overcome many hurdles and have learned how to manage her behavioral issues the best we can. It’s hard, if not impossible, to change what’s genetically wired in her brain, so she’ll probably always exhibit fear aggression to some extent. There is only so much you can do when it comes to genetics. This is why only mentally and physically sound dogs should be bred.

Late last year, the HSUS revealed the details of their 8- month investigation linking Petland to puppy mills. (http://www.hsus.org/pets/pets_related_news_and_events/petland_puppy_mill_112008.html) This year they followed up with a class action lawsuit filed against Petland and the Hunte Corporation. They have continued their investigation: “A new 2009 exposé has traced the shipping records for more than 15,000 puppies to Petland stores, proving once again that America’s largest chain of puppy-selling pet stores, Petland Inc., is also the nation’s largest retail supporter of puppy mills. The investigation revealed that almost every Petland store in the country is buying puppies from largescale “middleman” brokers that deal with puppy mills, and some are continuing to buy directly from known puppy mills that The HSUS filmed and identified in our 2008 investigation. Some of them even purchased puppies from a known animal abuser in 2009.” (http://www.stoppuppymills.org/petland_stores.html) To learn more about the Petland investigation and how to stop the cruel practice of puppy mills, please visit: http://stoppuppymills.org/petland.html