Action 9 investigates Orlando pet store after consumers claim they bought sick puppies

Two consumers turned to Action 9, claiming they spent thousands of dollars on sick puppies from the same Orlando-area pet store.

ORLANDO, Fla. — Two consumers turned to Action 9, claiming they spent thousands of dollars on sick puppies from the same Orlando-area pet store.

They say the store refused to give them refunds as Florida's pet law requires.

It's a pet store we've investigated before.

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Action 9 consumer investigator Todd Ulrich took their cases to corporate managers for answers and results.

Christian Hayes and his partner bought two golden retriever puppies from Petland in Waterford Lakes.

They paid $6,400 for both dogs. Six weeks later, Hayes said he faced an awful choice.

"Oh, we're thinking this has to be something else. Something major," Hayes said.

Hayes said both puppies suffered seizures. He contacted Petland, and managers referred him to its preferred veterinarian.

According to medical charts, both dogs had congenital seizures that require anti-seizure medication for life.

That's when Hayes returned both dogs to Petland.

"It just became harder. We didn't want to take them back, but we felt we had no choice," Hayes said.

Florida's pet law allows consumers to return dogs with genetic defects for refunds, but Hayes says the store only offered 25% back, so he lost thousands.

Then, there's a miniature dachshund puppy that was bought at that same Petland.

"And it was one of the hardest decisions I've had to make in my life," Lauren Burkhart said.

Burkhart says 10 days after she bought buying the dog, animal emergency clinic vets said it was so sick it had to be euthanized.

The puppy cost $3,000 and the vet bills totaled $3,000 more but Burkhart claims despite Florida's pet law, the store refused to cover the medical expenses.

"They came back and said they wouldn't pay a single penny because we weren't at one of their contracted vets," Burkhart said.

Ulrich contacted Petland's corporate office. The company said it had Hayes' dogs reexamined by two vets who claimed test results showed the puppies were healthy and Petland blamed the owners for poor animal care.

But for Burkhart, the company will now refund her the cost of vet care up to the cost of her dog. That comes out to about $3,000.

"Despite her being ill, she was such a sweet dog," Burkhart said.

Despite the refund, Burkhart is still out more than $3,000.

Petland in Waterford Lakes is rated D-plus at the Better Business Bureau with 19 complaints, many of which involve sick puppies and refund disputes.

Both customers sent complaints to Florida's Division of Consumer Services.

Petland sent the following response:

Mr. Hayes purchased two puppies on 9/25 and 9/27. On Monday, Nov 11, he entered the store, took a shopping cart, and left. He then returned with his mother and surrendered the two puppies, to the pet counselors. (we have a video of this occurring). The vet counselors that were there verified the dogs had a terrible odor of urine and feces and had feces on their collars. The customer told the pet counselor the dogs were defective and his attorney said to surrender them. He immediately left without any further discussion.
Mr. Hayes wanted to return both puppies and move to California and claimed the puppies had congenital defects. He kept asking the vets in the practice to write a statement without observing the described behavior. One of the vets provided an explanation, not a diagnosis, without observing any seizures, solely based on symptoms described from the customer. The vets performed a number of tests on the puppies, all of which came back negative.
The store's consulting veterinarian offered to observe the puppies on more than one occasion in order to confirm a diagnosis and the customer refused. In order for the customer to receive a refund under the warranty and under Florida's consumer protection laws, the puppy must have a confirmed diagnosis. The puppies have been tested and have no confirmed diagnosis of any congenital issue.
The store also offered to refund 25% and the customer refused.
The puppies, who by this time, were too large for the kennel were then adopted out to new customers who had previously expressed interest. The new customers, one of whom is a police officer, have had no issues and have not witnessed any seizures from either of the puppies after almost 10 days with them. An additional vet exam, done Thursday morning (11/21) by an independent vet in the Tampa Area, verifies the pups are healthy and have no visible issues or symptoms of any congenital condition. If the customer would like the updated vet information and the results of the testing, we are happy to provide it.
The store's consulting veterinarian verifies all of the above information, indicating that the initial determination by one of the vets was preliminary and based solely on what the customer claimed. All testing and observation refutes the customer's claims. Sadly, this appears to be a case of the customer taking on responsibility that he was not prepared to fulfill, and unfortunately, based on the condition and the smell of the pups when the customer surrendered them, we are concerned the puppies' needs were not being responsibly met.