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The Petland store in Kennesaw has come under fire from the Humane Society of the United States for allegedly stashing a dead puppy inside a pet store freezer, the group claims.

In a news release published Tuesday, the Humane Society warns against purchasing puppies from any pet store and specifically cited Petland in their warning.

Between September and November, the Humane Society conducted an undercover investigation at two Petland locations — one in Kennesaw and one in Las Vegas, a spokesperson for the Humane Society confirmed.

“The investigation revealed sick puppies kept in barren isolation rooms out of sight,” according to the findings.

In a written statement, a Petland spokesperson denies the allegations included in the Humane Society’s report, saying Petland’s No. 1 priority is the health and wellness of its pets.

The Humane Society’s “annual ‘undercover investigation’ of Petland inaccurately portrays information in an effort to boost end of year fundraising efforts and to spread their anti-pet agenda,” said Elizabeth Kunzelman, Petland’s director of public affairs. “We are very disappointed that HSUS did not reach out to us with any concerns as we have always urged them to contact us directly as it relates to the health and care of our pets.”

Much of the information in the Humane Society’s report, Kunzelman said, is a regurgitation of information that has been dismissed legally and answered appropriately.

The Humane Society investigation revealed many of the dogs kept at the Kennesaw location were reportedly coughing or lethargic, that cages were crowded and the dogs were not regularly let out of their cages for exercise. The group also believes many of the puppies had been kept in the store for months.

“After hearing about puppies who had died at the store, the investigator became suspicious about a black plastic bag in the freezer,” the report reads. “When no one was looking, she opened the bag and found a dead puppy inside.”

John Goodwin, senior director of the Stop Puppy Mills Campaign for the Humane Society of the United States, called the undercover investigator’s findings disturbing.

“We have for years heard about sick puppies being sold at Petland stores all over the county, including the Kennesaw location,” Goodwin said Wednesday. “We have exposed their links to puppy mills in the past, but we wanted to see what was happening in the stores themselves, separate from the breeding operations.”

Goodwin said a store employee told the undercover investigator that puppies regularly die inside the Kennesaw store overnight.

The Humane Society also alleges that truckloads of puppies arrive weekly from out-of-state brokers.

According to the group, some of the dogs came from an Indiana distributor called Blue Ribbon Puppies, which was linked to an outbreak of a drug-resistant disease by the Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last year. The disease, Campylobacter, reportedly infected more than 100 people, most of whom contracted it through Petland puppies, according to a CDC outbreak advisory.

Petland maintains Campylobacter is commonly found in puppies, regardless of where they come from.

The Humane Society’s report also claims the in-store veterinary examinations on puppies at the Kennesaw location were sometimes conducted in as little as 15 seconds, with kennel staff providing many of the in-store drug treatments.

Kunzelman, however, said each Petland location has a licensed consulting veterinarian who establishes the care of the pets and protocols in the store.

The Humane Society encourages families looking for specific dog breeds to purchase them directly from breeders rather than a pet store.

“Responsible breeders don’t sell to pet stores, because they want to meet the families who are taking home their puppies,” Goodwin cautioned. “This investigation once again shows the poor conditions of many of these animals at pet stores who are sold to innocent consumers looking to bring home a new family member.”

Petland’s website says the Ohio-based franchise has 131 stores across the U.S. and more than 60 locations abroad.

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