Petland controversy: Purchased dog dies, customer sues

FAIRFAX, Va. (WJLA) - An Alexandria couple is heartbroken over the death of their puppy.

Kevin Mulcahy and his girlfriend never imagined the tiny Maltese who stole their hearts at the Fairfax Petland would die days after they took him home.

They first shared their frustration with Fairfax City Patch who helped ABC7 and NewsChannel 8 get in contact with the couple.

“When you walk in the store, it seems like everything is just fine,” said Tiffany Lowe. “You would never thought that,” she continued before her voice trailed off with a sigh.

The pair is blaming Petland for their sudden loss and that’s setting the stage for a legal showdown.

Mulcahy and Lowe say 8-week-old Ty showed signs of sickness within hours of being adopted.

The couple insists they called in their concerns and even texted with a store manager several times.

They say the store was helpful at first and shared numerous suggestions to get Ty to eat, but his health took a turn for the worse.

"We were getting more and more concerned,” said Mulcahy.

He and Lowe took Ty to Potomac Valley Veterinary Hospital in Fairfax. Their vet visit was included with the purchase of their puppy.

Mulcahy left the animal doctor with several questions over how his puppy could go from being healthy to sick so quickly.

“How can you have a clean bill of health on Thursday night and on Monday morning, you have an upper respiratory sinus infection and a hernia?"

He says the same vet who put Ty on antibiotics also gave him a great health report ahead of his sale days earlier.

Ty ended up seeing the vet yet again and was kept overnight for observation when he died in his sleep.

Mulcahy asked for a letter explaining what went wrong.

"It seems like this is Hypoglycemia, but could be an infection, too, which we cannot prove because of lack of any blood work," said Dr. Cheema of Potomac Valley Veterinary Hospital.

Hypoglycemia arises from an inadequate supply of glucose to the brain due to lack of nutrition.

Ty isn’t the first puppy purchased at the Fairfax Petland to die shortly after leaving the store.

Back in August, Suzanne and Tom Higgs helped their son and his roommate adopt Snoopy. Within a couple of days, the 11-week-old dachshund was sick with Parvovirus, a deadly virus that attacked his digestive system.

Thirty-six hours after later, Snoopy was dead. The Higgs were given a refund since he died from a virus.

“I want the public to know it's like buyer beware,” said Mulcahy. “I've learned a lot from this."

The operations manager for the Fairfax store declined an on-camera interview, but emailed a response. Ayman Koshok wrote in part, “I’ll start by saying that they are two separate cases and are unrelated!”

“We are deeply saddened by the loss of these puppies and in both cases the puppies were doing great at our shop that the clients actually decided to take them home,” he said. “If there were any issues at the time of purchase we would have never sent these puppies home.”

Petland is now suing the couple for the remaining balance on the purchase of the dog. They’re fighting back by counter-suing.

"When I see him in court, I just want to rip his head off to be honest," said Lowe.

Ty cost $2,400. Half of that bill was paid up-front as a deposit. Mulcahy signed Petland’s sales contract with a clear 48-hour return policy.

“We specifically state that in our warrantee that Hypoglycemia isn’t covered,” said Koshok.

“You see once the puppy leaves our shop we can’t control the feeding and caring for the puppy,” he added.

He’s asking Mulcahy to honor the contract he signed.

“He willingly agreed and signed a contract to pay half of the puppy’s price at the time of purchase and the other half in a month’s time,” informed Koshok.

He and other store employees persist they're not at fault.

As a courtesy, they even offered the Mulcahy and Lowe a replacement puppy at half off.

They rejected the offer.

Now the only memories they have left of Ty are a couple photos in their apartment and an urn with his ashes.

“To have Ty for 13 days was sad,” Mulcahy said. “It was really sad."

Some lawmakers are now voicing their concerns.

The mayor of Fairfax City says his office is flooded with phone calls, Facebook messages and emails from residents outraged over the puppy deaths.

Mayor Scott Silverthorne says he can't just shut down a business, but he is assembling a task force that will explore how the city can tighten standards for pet shops.

The task force will comprise of the Chief of Police Rick Rappoport, representatives from the Animal Control division, the Washington Humane Society and Fairfax County’s Society for the Prevention of Cruelty of Animals (SPCA).