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14 Dead Rabbits Discovered in Freezer at Northern Virginia Pet Store

April 3, 2019

A pet store in Northern Virginia didn’t have a veterinarian evaluate its animals, hid dead rabbits in the freezer and then disposed of them when the freezer became overcrowded, a Humane Society of the United States investigation found.

An investigator discovered that at Petland in Fairfax, Virginia, dead rabbits were removed from their display and placed in a basket underneath a shelf. Some were transported to the freezer, where they were put into bags.

At least one rabbit died in the store every other day and there were at least 14 dead rabbits identified during the investigation.

“It’s heartbreaking to see gentle rabbits treated as if they are no more than stuffed toys. No pet deserves to be treated like a disposable product, and it’s time for Petland to change its business model to reflect that,” said John Goodwin, senior director of the Humane Society of the United States’ Stop Puppy Mills Campaign, in a statement. “Our previous investigations have linked Petland to cruel puppy mills. This newest investigation has linked them to a rabbit mill as well.”

One customer returned to the store two hours after purchasing a rabbit because it was seizing and then died.

The investigator was unable to determine the reason the bunnies died at such a rapid rate. The store’s rabbits are part of a large-scale commercial breeding operation that places animals in small and dirty cages with inadequate care.

Petland said the store is individually owned and operated by a local family but that it is terminating the franchise agreement with the owners.

"While HSUS has a history of exaggerated claims against Petland, Petland takes all claims of animal care at our stores seriously," the company said in a statement.

This isn’t the first time Petland has been linked to sick animals. A 2018 investigation found that two of the store’s 81 locations featured ill dogs and crowded cages.

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