July 20, 2017

Video: Sick Puppy Purchased from NYC Pet Store Recovers with ASPCA’s Help

Shortly after Kassandra V. and David S. purchased Mary Jane from a Bronx pet shop last July, the Poodle puppy began to show signs of serious skin problems.

When Mary Jane’s condition worsened, the couple returned to the pet shop seeking help; an employee told them it was common for puppies to scratch.

Frustrated, Kassandra and David took the pup to a nearby veterinarian, but no treatment worked. They tried medicated wipes, shampoos, even special socks to stop Mary Jane from scratching.  

“It just got worse and worse. I feel like the pet store sold me a dog they knew was already sick,” Kassandra says. By now, Mary Jane’s fur was falling out. 

Kassandra’s cousin had recently had her cat spayed on the ASPCA’s Mobile Spay/Neuter Clinic and recommended that Kassandra make an appointment for Mary Jane on the ASPCA’s Primary Pet Care (PPC) vehicle, which provides outpatient medical services. A program of the ASPCA’s Community Medicine department, PPC offers veterinary services in targeted communities to help keep pets healthy and in their current homes. 

At Mary Jane’s appointment, ASPCA veterinarians diagnosed her with demodectic mange, an infestation of tiny, cigar-shaped mites that reside and feed in the hair follicle and oil glands of the skin. 

According to her paperwork, Mary Jane had been bred and shipped from Missouri—a state notorious for supplying pet store puppies. Most pet stores acquire their dogs from commercial breeders who prioritize profits over the welfare of the animals in their care. Breeding dogs are often kept in small, dirty cages for their entire lives, and they receive minimal exercise, veterinary care or socialization. 

In addition to the inhumane treatment they receive, dogs bred in poor conditions produce puppies that may suffer health and behavior problems.

“Pet store puppies are born into conditions that you can’t even imagine,” says Dr. Suzy Ryan, a veterinarian who helped treat Mary Jane. “If the mother’s immune system is compromised, the puppies’ immune systems can likewise be compromised as a result—it's a vicious cycle.”

Of Mary Jane’s demeanor, Dr. Ryan added: “Her eyes were very dull, she wasn't very engaged, she was super skinny. She just looked sad … like she felt miserable.”

Dr. Ryan recalls a foul odor on Mary Jane, the result of scaly skin and infections. Her lymph nodes were also enlarged, a sign of infection.

ASPCA veterinarians established a thorough treatment plan for Mary Jane that included extensive medications, a new diet and medicated shampoos. Mary Jane was brought to the ASPCA’s PPC for checkups once a week for four months. 

“David and Kassandra are very dedicated pet parents,” says Giselle Pescador, a community advocate who served as the ASPCA’s liaison to the couple during Mary Jane’s treatment regimen. 

With Kassandra and David’s attentiveness, Mary Jane began to gain weight. Her fur grew back and her skin showed improvement. She started acting like a puppy for the first time. At the end of her treatment cycle, she was free of mange. 

“She looks happy now,” said Dr. Jasmine Bruno, an ASPCA veterinarian.  “She is engaged, she is playing and wagging her tail. She looks like a puppy should look.”

“We’re glad Mary Jane is on the road to leading a long, healthy life with a family who loves her, but unfortunately thousands of other dogs won’t be as lucky,” added Dr. Lori Bierbrier, Medical Director for the ASPCA’s Community Medicine program.

Sadly, Mary Jane’s story is not rare or unusual. Adorable pet store puppies can be hard to resist, but potential buyers need to be aware of the very real risk that these dogs will come home with physical and/or emotional problems. 

Kassandra says she would never again purchase a dog or any other type of animal from a pet shop—and she’s urging others to learn from her experience. “I wouldn’t want someone to go through what we went through. I don’t want to support an industry that treats animals this way.”

Friday, July 21 is No Pet Store Puppies Day. In honor of Mary Jane, her littermates and, most importantly, her parents, who may still be living in terrible conditions and being forced to breed, join us in standing against puppy mills. Visit aspca.org/puppypledge to take action now.