This is a follow-up to the earlier story on Petland and the HSUS release of their investigate report that links Petland to puppy mills. This interview is with Denise Jenke, a former Petland Kennel Manager and it a real eye opening look ‘inside.’


ChicoFormer Petland kennel manager Denise Jenke recently spoke to The HSUS about what she says she saw while working at the Wheaton, Ill., Petland: truckloads of puppies shipped to the store by brokers, many of them sick—and customers being regularly misled about their origins.

Although Jenke brought her Chihuahua home from the store during her employment, she agrees with The HSUS that the best way to stop puppy mills is to stop supporting pet stores that sell puppies. The following are edited excerpts from an unrecorded telephone interview with Ms. Jenke.

HSUS: When did you work at Petland?
Jenke: From October 2006 through January 2007.

Did you have any idea about puppy mills before?
No, no idea. I had never heard of them.

How did you learn about where the puppies at your store came from?
When I first started, they [the sales manager and store owner] said the puppies came from ‘USDA-approved breeders.’ Me, being naïve, thought, “Well, USDA. That must be fine.” Then when the puppies came in on trucks, they were in such poor condition. They came in with runny eyes, some were kinda lethargic and nervous, a lot of them were sick, many had upper respiratory infections and had to be put in nebulizer before sale.

When I was trained to put [the puppies’] information into the computer I had to put in the names of the breeders into the computer. That is when I noticed that the guys who brought the dogs in from the trucks were not the breeders! I asked the sales manager, “Do these dogs come from puppy mills?” The sales manager told me, “Yes, these puppies are from puppy mills, but we don’t tell our customers that. We just tell them that they are from ‘USDA approved breeders.'” That is when I did my own research on the Internet and learned all about puppy mills.

What were your expectations for the job when you started?
It is a business, and they are there to make money. My position was kennel manager, so I thought I would take care of the dogs, make sure they were clean, healthy, and socialized. My job was the wellbeing of the animals. But it didn’t quite turn out that way. Instead of helping the animals, I was working to promote puppy mills.

Did you have any idea how widespread the use of puppy mills was at Petland and other pet stores?
During my interview for the position I asked where the puppies came from. They told me USDA. Since I didn’t know much about it I thought, if they were approved by the USDA then it must be OK.

What about the dog you brought home while you were working there?
He is a 15-pound Chihuahua named Chico. He has a Grade 1 luxating patella in one rear leg. [A luxating patella is a knee problem that can cause lameness in dogs.] He is really big for a Chihuahua! The breed standard is like 4-6 pounds. He obviously was not bred to fit that standard. But he is my world, and I love him to pieces.

What is his story?
Well, he came in off the truck. When the puppies first arrived on the truck, it was my job to do a quick exam of each dog to see if they were OK. If they looked bad, the owner would send them back on the truck. When Chico came in on the truck, the sales manager was showing me how to do the exams. We are not vets, though! She inspected Chico and said that he had a Grade 3 to Grade 4 luxating patella and that he should be sent back to the breeder. She then talked to the owner who agreed to send him back. I decided to take him home instead.

My personal vet says that Chico only has a Grade 1 luxating patella, not a Grade 3 or 4. The sales manager who examined him was not a vet, and she gave a wrong diagnosis. They should have had a vet check him instead of us, with no medical experience.

After the interview, Denise said that although she took Chico home during her employment at Petland, now that she knows the truth of the industry she was indirectly supporting, she encourages others to choose adoption.

Is there a message you would like to send to people thinking of buying a puppy from a pet store?
Yes, you go into a puppy store and you see the puppies, and a lot of people know they come from puppy mills, and they feel sorry for them and want to buy them. Or people buy on impulse. Bottom line is, puppy mills are never going to stop until people stop buying puppies from these stores! People need to be more educated about rescuing or finding a reputable breeder.

I think customers who go in to these stores are getting ripped off. The pet store pays like $100 each for the puppies! People think they are getting a “purebred” but then the puppies have congenital defects and other problems. I just wish more people would think more about shelters and rescues … People need to see what goes on in a puppy mill. When you see it, then it hits you.

Now let Petland continue to say they don’t have anything to do with puppy mills! They do and they know it and all they want to do it cover it up and rake in the buck!

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