ROBINSON TOWNSHIP, Pa. — A pet store in Robinson Township came under fire Monday after a Facebook post from a former employee about alleged animal abuse went viral.
In the post, former employee Katelyn Cerciello wrote that she quit her job at the Robinson Petland after just one month because she “couldn't watch the owner, refuse vet care for sick puppies anymore, ship them back to the Hunte Corporation to be euthanized, or in general sell puppy-mill puppies for thousands of dollars to the unknowing public.”
"You could tell they were sick. Nine-week-old puppies should be bouncing around playing, but they'd be lying on the floor," Cerciello told Channel 11's Pamela Osborne.
She said she tried to get the animals help but said the store’s owner was not receptive.
“(I) kept telling him something needs to be done and he wouldn't do anything,” Cerciello said.
When contacted for comment Monday, the store’s manager, JoAnn Williams, told Osborne she was aware of the post and photos but said they were fabricated. She said some of them may have been taken during a morning cleaning.
Williams also said the store is up-to-date with the American Kennel Club as well as the dog warden.
The manager gave Channel 11 News a tour of the pet store on Tuesday but declined to comment further about the allegations.
Osborne reported that the inside of the store was clean and the animals appeared to be in good health.
However, several customers contacted Channel 11 about having purchased sick puppies from Petland.
Shawnda Vanhoutem said Petland told her that the puppy she purchased was suffering from a respiratory infection, but her vet said it was pneumonia and had the paperwork to prove it.
"When you have pneumonia, it doesn't just take a couple of weeks to heal,” she said.
Meanwhile, Molly Stein said her 2-year-old bullmastiff, Kiya, who was also bought from the Petland in Robinson, was diagnosed with glaucoma.
"When I went to the pet store, they said they wouldn't honor the warranty that says if she has any hereditary problems, they would help pay for the medical care for her,” Stein said.
Williams told Osborne she knew nothing about Vanhoutem’s and Stein’s complaints or any others about sick pets purchased from the store. She also said she’s upset about the bad reputation and threats she and her employees have received since the photos were published.
Osborne reported that a note was posted on the pet store's door late Monday evening, stating that they had closed early due to "personal threats on employees and harassment."
"We are people who own animals ourselves. We would never come to work every day knowing that something is being abused. Why would we do that? I mean, honestly, we have our own animals and we care for them. It's a shame that people are associating us with something terrible,” Williams said.
Caitlin Driscoll, with the Better Business Bureau, said the Petland in Robinson currently has an A- rating.
Driscoll explained that over a three year period, the location received only six complaints.
“Factors that raised their rating include length of time they’ve been operating along with response to six complaints that have been filed through BBB,” she said.
One of those complaints that was filed in March stated that a “puppy started getting aggressive, biting, scratching and becoming unruly.” The customer wrote that when he asked for assistance, the manager ignored his call for help and the dog ripped his pants.
Driscoll said if more customers have complaints, they should contact the BBB or the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture.
“If anyone has any concerns about breeders or a pet store, file a tip through the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture Bureau of Dog Law Protection,” she said.
A petition on Change.org calling for the permanent closure of the pet store was also circulating online Monday night and had garnered more than 21,400 signatures as of Wednesday afternoon.
“I just want people to know what actually happens there, what they're spending thousands of dollars on,” Cerciello said.
Channel 11 uncovered that Petland was the subject of a federal class action lawsuit involving puppy mills in 2009, but the suit didn't involve any Pennsylvania stores. The lawsuit was eventually dismissed due to lack of evidence.
Pennsylvania has one of the strongest laws in the nation dealing with puppy mills. A law signed in 2008 requires breeders to provide dogs with ample cage space, outdoor exercise and yearly visits with a vet.
- PA Dog Law
- Puppy Lemon Law or PA Dog Purchaser Protection Act
- Kennel Inspection Database Search
- BBB Industry Tip for Dog Breeders & Kennels