NOVI, Mich. – The National Humane Society revealed surprising information about a Novi Petland store at the center of a disturbing investigation.
Customers reached out to Help Me Hank with concerns about the health of dogs purchased at Petland.
Hank Winchester spoke with a heartbroken woman and visited Petland with hidden cameras rolling to investigate the concerns.
"We made the decision to put him down," dog owner Jodie Blankenship said. "The vet got everything ready, and I held him in my arms, and they gave him the injections. He passed away. That one really was the most upsetting. I had really bonded with him."
She purchased the dog from the Petland in Novi. Within a couple of weeks, the puppy started showing signs that something was wrong, Blankenship said.
"He wasn't himself," she said. "He would love to go outside and do circles in the grass. During the day, I would take him out and he kept slumping over."
She said she took the dog to a veterinarian, and bills started piling up. Then, she got the devastating news that her dog had to be put down because of a problem with his liver.
"They did do the liver test the next morning because he had enough blood in his body by then," Blankenship said. "They did the liver test and they found out he had a congenitive liver disorder."
Blankenship said she called Petland and the store gave her a credit of about $3,400. She said she was told the money had to be used to purchase animals in the store, so she bought two dogs. Both have had some minor health issues, but nothing like her first experience, she said.
Local 4 started digging and learned the Humane Society of the United States had previously investigated this particular store.
"Petland is the only national chain that sells these puppies that are raised in large, high-volume breeding kennels, often referred to as puppy mills," said John Goodwin, of the National Humane Society. "We've investigated seven Petland stores with undercover operatives placed in and getting hired in the stores."
Goodwin said customers called with complaints about sick puppies. The report says on one occasion, an investigator witnessed Novi Petland employees talking to three people who called about sick puppies during a single shift.
According to the Humane Society, during a March staff meeting, the owner suggested a new arbitration clause in contracts that would discourage customers with sick puppies from suing.
During the investigation into all Petland stores, the Humane Society discovered sick puppies with conditions ranging from seizures and respiratory infections to vomiting.
"We found a number of sick puppies, sometimes dead animals, who were in the stores, whether in isolation rooms in the back or in sales cases on the floor in the front," Goodwin said.
The Novi location has been sued by some customers claiming to have purchased animals that were ill. When Local 4 sent hidden cameras into the store, we asked about what happens when a dog gets sick.
"We have a claims number if anything like that is going on," an employee said. "We'll have you reached out to. That's like a third party."
Hank also went to the store, looking for answers.
"We're not authorizing you to record anything," an employee said.
When the camera stopped rolling, a spokesperson for Petland corporate offered the following statement:
"The health and well-being of our pets is our No. 1 concern. Petland Novi has a consulting veterinarian that checks every puppy and determines the protocols in the kennels. Puppies, like humans, do sometimes get sick, which is why there is an extensive warranty."
Blankenship called Help Me Hank because she wanted other people to know what happened.
Petland Novi officials said per the warranty, she is offered a replacement pet. They also included the cost of her vet bills in her credit, and she was able to buy two pets.
On Local 4 News at 11 p.m. Wednesday, you can hear expert advice from a local veterinarian about what to ask before buying or adopting a pet, whether it's from a store, breeder or shelter.