'They were sick or dying’: Waterford Lakes pet store under scrutiny for years now facing state action

VIDEO: 'They were sick or dying?: Waterford Lakes pet store under scrutiny for years now facing state action

On its website, the pet store claims to have the perfect puppy.

But since 2015, Action 9 consumer investigator Todd Ulrich uncovered a dozen customers who claimed Petland in Waterford Lakes sold them sick puppies. In some cases, the puppies were so ill, the pets had to be euthanized days after purchase.

“I feel I'm about to kill her and I wanted to love her,” Allison Navigato said.

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Several customers told Ulrich they paid thousands in vet bills.

“You expect it to be a great experience and it's a nightmare,” Stacy Parreno said.

The consumers Action 9 spoke with sent their complaints to the Florida Office of the Attorney General.

“Really Todd, this goes so much farther than just harm to consumers as a financial loss,” said Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody.

Attorney General Moody’s office filed a complaint against the Petland franchise

and owners Geoffrey and Ben Hoofnagle. The Florida Attorney General’s Department of Legal Affairs found the defendants claimed they sold healthy, high quality animals but that wasn’t always the case.

“They were sick or dying. They had escalated vet bills and Petland refused to take the dogs back and they wouldn't pay vet bills,” Attorney General Moody said.

The unfair and deceptive trade complaint said the store falsely claimed AKC registrations for the puppies and sales included hundreds of dollars in unwanted items like training kits. The complaint also requires restitution.

“Consumers absolutely need to have their money refunded,” Attorney General Moody said.

Ten days after paying $3,000 for a miniature dachshund from Petland, Lauren

Burkhart had to euthanize a very sick puppy.

Burkhart says she lost $3,000 in vet bills and now applauds the Attorney General's action.

“Extremely elated that these matters are being taken into account and my voice matters, and the voices of all the families affected matter,” Burkhart said.

Petland's corporate office told Action 9 the local store followed all laws, and it finds homes for​ thousands of pets each year. Corporate managers claim all complaints were resolved and say the state's allegations are baseless.

The Attorney General says the complaint her office filed sends a message statewide.

“Those out there selling puppies like this to unsuspecting customers should be put on notice,” Attorney General Moody said.

Action 9 helped several customers get full refunds for the cost of their dogs but many claim they spent hundreds, even thousands of dollars on vet bills.

Customers hope the Florida Attorney General's actions will help them recover all their money.

Petland’s response:

“Petland, Inc. expects every store to adhere to all federal, state and local laws and company policies and fully believes that its Orlando Waterford Lakes store did so. This independently owned and operated store finds homes to thousands of pets each year, and while we hope every customer has a positive experience, it appears 19 of those or less than half of 1% filed claims with the Attorney General’s office. All complaints brought forth to the store owners have been resolved pursuant to the store’s warranty and Florida law. It is our opinion that the AG’s complaint fails to provide any customer specific details for the store to review, research and respond and therefore until we have more information, we cannot fully address what we perceive as baseless allegations. The store owners are eager to provide full documentation for any and all complaints and their respective resolutions once provided with the necessary information.”