FAIRFAX CITY, Va. (WJLA) - The mayor of the City of Fairfax is fielding complaint after complaint from residents who say Petland, a local pet store, is practicing bad business.
"I think when it comes to people's petsyou don't mess with people's pets," said Mayor Scott Silverthorne.
He is tired of hearing the horror stories.
"We've had a number of incidents here in the city about Petland," he continued.
A Maltese and Dachshund that recently left the Fairfax store with new families ended up dying days later.
One couple paid half of their puppy's $2,400 dollar price-tag as a deposit, and is now being sued for the balance on their bill.
"To have Ty for 13 days was sad," said Kevin Mulcahy of Alexandria. "It was really sad. I want the public to know it's like buyer beware," he informed. "I've learned a lot from this."
Mayor Silverthorne has also learned a lot. He's behind a newly-formed Task Force that is exploring how Fairfax City can tighten pet shop standards.
"What I'd like to see if there's anything under existing zoning code that we have authority to help regulate whether it's the size of the cages [or] the kind of care and feeding of the animals," he explained.
The operations manager for Petland Fairfax declined an on-camera interview; however, Ayman Koshok emailed us in part:"We at the Petland family are very saddened and distraught about the loss of the puppy Ty. The health and well-being of our pets is always our number one priority. We work very closely with our breeders to ensure the highest of standards, have a full time kennel staff whose sole responsibility is to monitor and maintain the health and well-being of our babies while they are in our care. We also have a consulting veterinarian who comes in at minimum on a weekly basis, but is available to us 24/7 as needed. Our staff is continually trained on proper puppy care for new owners and we educate our customers on the puppy's needs before they leave the store."
Customers are torn.
"They tend to do a good job of keeping the cages clean," said Jin Kim of Fairfax. He says the puppies seem well-fed and always have water.
But Ellen Burdell says customers often ignore the warning signs when shopping at pet stores.
"I think if they knew the conditions these little tiny animals were raised in, they would never step foot in that store again," she said.
Petland says it gets its puppies from USDA licensed breeders and each and every puppy sold has its breeder's info and is USDA inspected.
There are more than 200 Petland stores worldwide.
Back in 2008, the Humane Society of the United States released results from an eight-month investigation, which revealed several stores were marketing puppy-mill puppies to unsuspecting customers.