A local Fairfax pet store is under police surveillance after an undercover investigation by the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) revealed store workers neglected sick and injured rabbits while leaving dead rabbits in a freezer.
Fairfax City Police Department detectives and animal control officers conducted a routine inspection of Petland Fairfax, a chain store located in the Pickett Mall on Main Street, on April 1.
The store was issued a search warrant ‘based on facts relating to the failure to provide adequate care and treatment to pets’, and police seized documents, records and animals as part of the investigation , according to a press release issued by the department on Tuesday.
No criminal charges have been filed, but Fairfax City Police Public Information Officer Lt. Ronnie Lewis confirmed Wednesday that the store is still under investigation.
Citing the ongoing investigation, Petland Fairfax declined to comment when contacted by the Fairfax County Times.
HSUS found 14 dead rabbits in a freezer at Petland Fairfax as part of a five-month hidden camera investigation, the animal welfare nonprofit reported April 2.
According to John Goodwin, senior director of HSUS’ Stop Puppy Mills campaign, Petland Fairfax was one of several Petland stores across the country that the group randomly chose to investigate after hearing complaints from customers who said the puppies they had purchased from the national retail chain were sick. .
The HSUS investigation took place between November 2018 and March of this year. In addition to a hidden camera, the organization sent an undercover investigator who worked at the store for two months.
The undercover HSUS investigator allegedly learned from other employees that Petland Fairfax routinely lets sick and injured rabbits die instead of providing veterinary care as required by Virginia law.
The investigator found 14 dead rabbits in a freezer as well as a dead rabbit in a plastic basket under a table, and at one point a customer brought in a dead rabbit that had died after suffering several seizures shortly time after purchase.
The store didn’t appear to have any plans to investigate why one of its rabbits died, according to HSUS.
Goodwin says HSUS discovered dead animals at other Petland stores in the United States, including a puppy in a freezer at a store in Atlanta, Ga. A location near Las Vegas, Nevada, also had injured birds as well. than a puppy with a birth defect that was left in a crate for a month before being sent back to its feeder.
Yet, according to HSUS, the situation at Petland Fairfax still seemed extreme by comparison.
“We were horrified to find that there were rabbits dying, one after another, piling up in the freezer, with no vet coming to see what the problem was,” Goodwin said. “…The sheer volume of dead animals at the Fairfax site surprised us.”
This is not the first time that Petland Fairfax has faced complaints about the welfare of the animals it sells.
City of Fairfax Mayor Scott Silverthorne formed a task force in October 2013 to explore ways the city could tighten pet store standards after receiving numerous complaints from Petland Fairfax customers who said the dogs they had purchased were dead within days, according to ABC7.
HSUS says the health issues seen in Petland Fairfax rabbits stem from their use of an unlicensed rabbit factory as a supplier.
According to the nonprofit’s investigation, the store primarily receives rabbits from a breeder in Maryland called Wagner’s Farm who allegedly kept about 200 rabbits in “dirty, overcrowded conditions” comparable to what would be seen in a puppy mill.
The owner admitted to the HSUS investigator that he sells approximately 60 rabbits per month to Petland Fairfax.
“With these large-scale ranchers, you have animals that are treated like livestock instead of pets, and they don’t get good individual care,” Goodwin said. “Instead, they are kept in tiny wire cages that are often stacked on top of each other and repeatedly bred until their bodies wear out. This is very different from what the responsible breeder says down the road who has a litter of pugs from time to time.
Petland is the only national chain of pet stores that still sells commercially bred puppies and one of the few that still sell rabbits, Goodwin says.
The Virginia General Assembly passed a bill in 2017 prohibiting pet dealers from selling dogs to a pet store unless they are licensed or exempt from licensing by the US Department of Health. ‘Agriculture.
According to Goodwin, many local governments in the United States prohibit the sale of puppies and rabbits to commercial breeders, but Virginia localities currently do not have the authority to pass such ordinances due to the Dillon Rule, which states that local jurisdictions have only explicitly granted powers. to them by the state.
Of the. Jennifer Boysko (D-86th) introduced legislation at the 2018 General Assembly session that would have given localities the power to pass ordinances prohibiting pet stores from selling any dog or cat not obtained from an agency state release or non-profit animal rescue.
HB 270 eventually died on the House Committee on Agriculture, Chesapeake, and Natural Resources.
“We want people to call on their state legislators to take action and stop the sale of mass-produced animals in puppy mills and rabbit mills in pet stores,” Goodwin said.