An investigation by the Humane Society of the United States into a Fairfax County, Virginia, pet store uncovered 14 dead rabbits in the store’s freezer.
On Monday, animal control officers and detectives with the Fairfax City Police Department executed a search warrant of Petland, Inc., a retail pet store at 9404 Main St. in Fairfax, “based on facts related to the failure to provide adequate care and treatment to companion animals.”
According to the Humane Society, that information was obtained by an undercover investigator who counted at least 14 rabbits, frozen stiff and crudely wrapped in plastic bags, in the freezer in the back of the store, the report said.
“It was shocking,” said the investigator, according to the HSUS report. “The toughest part was that no one seemed concerned. Everyone just seemed to accept the fact that the rabbits die.”
HSUS captured video during its investigation, including footage of the frozen rabbits being removed from the freezer.
Their footage also captured a Petland employee saying, “There’s like nothing we can do because they don’t get treated by a vet. When they’re sick, they’re sick. We just let them die.”
The video captured by the HSUS can be viewed on their Twitter page. (Editor’s note: This content may be distressing to some viewers. Parental discretion is advised.)
The investigation didn’t conclude why so many of the rabbits sold by Petland get sick.
The HSUS alleged that most of the rabbits Petland sells come from large-scale breeding operations that fail to adequately care for the animals by keeping them in small, dirty cages.
The report also points out that, while dogs or cats may make noise to indicate when they are sick or in pain, rabbits often suffer in silence. Additionally, handling by inexperienced care takers and small children would mean the fragile rabbits are often dropped.
Petland released a statement Tuesday, saying their vice president of animal welfare was on his way to the store “to conduct a thorough investigation.”
On Wednesday, Petland announced that it had terminated the franchise agreement with the store’s owners.
“While HSUS has a history of exaggerated claims against Petland, Petland takes all claims of animal care at our stores seriously,” Petland said in the statement. “Although Petland found inaccuracies in HSUS’ latest allegations relating to the Fairfax franchise store, based upon our own review of store operations, Petland made the decision to terminate the store’s franchise agreement.”
In their earlier statement, Petland called the timing of the revelations “highly suspicious,” adding, “We are further disappointed that once again, HSUS did not reach out directly to us in January when they claim this occurred.”
Read the full statement here.
Fairfax City police conducted the inspection of the facility on Monday, the same day Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam signed Tommie’s Law, making animal cruelty a felony offense. They say there are currently no charges against Petland.
WTOP’s Nahal Amouzadeh contributed to this report.