Two puppies are at the center of a warning issued to hundreds of customers of a suburban Chicago pet store chain.
Both of the puppies, purchased in December and January at two different Happiness is Pets locations, suffered tell-tale signs of distemper, their owners say. One of the dogs is struggling to survive and the other has died. Now there's concern about who else may have bought puppies from the chain.
James Hollensteiner and Natalie Sallee adopted a 4-month-old yellow lab on Jan. 1 from a family who purchased the dog from the Arlington Heights location.
In a complaint filed with the Companion Animal Protection Society (CAPS), Hollensteiner and Sallee said the pup seemed quiet and calm when they first met her. But during the past several weeks, "she is getting sicker and unable to be socialized with other dogs."
"We are continuing to medicate her and hope for the best," they said.
Bryan Phillips, the owner of a mini-Dachshund with distemper, says the dog's prognosis is day-to-day. "I'd pay a million dollars to have a normal dog," Phillips said.
Michelle Arellano told NBCChicago she bought Chloe at 8 weeks and had her for seven weeks before the family had to put her down. Arellano said Happiness is Pets refunded her, paid about $4,000 for veterinary bills and offered her another puppy.
But the family declined a new dog, partly because Arellano's 12-year-old son was devastated.
CAPS has been protesting the chain and representatives say they've traced the puppies sold there to a puppy mill in Iowa. CAPS, along with the West Suburban Humane Society, said they think the owner's practices are inhumane.
"He denies it entirely and it's important for us to spread the word," said Dianne Arp of CAPS, "which is why we protested in front of the stores so we can educate people. Most people don't even know about puppy mills. They don't even know what a puppy mill is."
"Ninety-five percent of puppies that are in pet stores are from puppy mills, so they come from poor conditions, unclean conditions," said Patti Miller of the West Suburban Humane Society. "Oftentimes they're vaccinated way too young."
Happiness is Pets did not return calls for comment.