Puppies and People Pay the Price of Commercial Breeding

September 24, 2018

puppies in a cage

Updated: September 24, 2018, 9:45AM ET

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) investigated a multistate outbreak of antibiotic-resistant Campylobacter infections linked to Petland pet stores and sickening 118 people, including 29 Petland employees from January 2016 through February 2018. New information reported last week helps explain why the infection was resistant to typical treatment, leading to the hospitalization of at least 26 victims.

According to a new CDC report, 95% of the dogs the agency examined at 20 pet stores across the U.S. had received at least one course of antibiotics. Of those puppies, approximately half had been administered antibiotics as a preventive measure instead of to treat a specific illness. The misuse of medication by both the commercial breeders who supply puppies to Petland and by the store itself promoted the antibiotic resistance of this widespread outbreak.

Commercial breeding facilities tend to be filthy, unhealthy environments. Worse, puppies born there receive little to no vet care, leaving them susceptible to illness and disease. The CDC report indicates that hygiene and proper animal care could reduce the need for antibiotics and the risk of disease transmission to people. 

Overuse of antibiotics by pet stores and their suppliers put pet store employees and consumers at significant risk of illness. Until commercial breeders and pet stores clean up their act, the question isn’t if there will be another outbreak but when.

December 18, 2017, 10:30AM ET

The CDC has updated its disease report on the multistate outbreak of multidrug-resistant Campylobacter, stating that 30 additional people have been reported ill (97, up from 67) since late October. Two more states, Connecticut and Massachusetts, were added to the growing list of those afflicted with Campylobacter cases, which appear to be linked to puppies from Petland stores. This investigation is ongoing and the CDC will continue to provide updates.

October 19, 2017, 2:45PM ET

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is investigating a growing, multistate outbreak of Campylobacter infections linked to puppies sold by the national pet store chain, Petland. In puppies and people, Campylobacter infections can cause nausea and vomiting, fever, abdominal pain and cramping, and intestinal distress. The ASPCA is calling on states to protect their residents and consumers by halting the importation of puppies for resale until the CDC determines the source of the outbreak.

“At Petland, as at most pet stores that sell dogs, puppies are supplied by commercial dog-breeding facilities who are incentivized to produce the most puppies at the lowest cost. Dogs in these facilities live in small, dirty cages, with poor health care and no meaningful opportunity for exercise or play,” says Kevin O’Neill, Vice President of State Affairs for the ASPCA. “Pet stores profit from passing off sick puppy mill puppies as healthy, well-cared for pets from high-quality sources, so it’s not surprising that puppies produced in such deplorable conditions, trucked across the country, caged with other fragile, sick animals, and handled by hundreds of people can harbor and spread diseases.”

Despite the outbreak, Petland continues to sell puppies. Meanwhile, many families go through Petland’s doors each day, including young children, who are at greater risk for developing a severe infection.

Both the welfare of animals and the health of the public are put at risk as long as Petland continues to import, display and sell puppies from commercial breeding facilities. In fact, there has been a 40% increase in new cases of infection since the outbreak was first announced in mid-September. 

Until the outbreak is controlled or the source identified the ASPCA is encouraging states to take action to protect the public’s health, including stopping the importation, handling, display and sale of commercially bred dogs.

We are also keeping up our fight to bring an end to the suffering that countless animals face in puppy mills: Help us stop these horrific practices from continuing by joining the ASPCA Advocacy Brigade.