Sick puppies found in six Atlanta pet stores - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Sick puppies found in six Atlanta pet stores

March 29, 2006

Albany-- Six Atlanta pet stores were filled with sick puppies. Now, they can't sell dogs. The Georgia Department of Agriculture found more than 130 puppies infected with a serious parasite at six Pet Company stores. So how do you know if your pet is a healthy one when you leave the store?

With each game of fetch, golden retrievers Miller and Macintyre keep Carolyn Chitwood pretty busy at the park. "We run every morning and every night," says Chitwood. It keeps the dogs happy, so she doesn't mind keeping them entertained.

"You get very attached and you love them," says Chitwood. But Chitwood says she can't imagine how it would feel if these dogs she loves so much turned out to be sick when she first brought them home. 138 puppies were found infected with giardia at six Atlanta-area Pet Company stores.

"I think that's pretty bad. I think they should be shut down," says Chitwood.

At Panhandle Pet Supply here in Albany, it's hard for many to resist that doggy in the window so the store gets new puppies often. "Pretty much as fast as we sell them," says Keri Scott of Panhandle Pet Supply.

But selling isn't the most important thing for the store, it's safety of the animals. They get them from a trusted local breeder and then take them to the vet.

"They're checked for toxidia, parvo and distemper shots are given to them," says Scott. They also limit petting and touching and keep the puppies clean by regularly changing the paper and water.

"If your water bowls are not cleaned, they're drinking dirty water and that causes giardia," says dog breeder James Nesmith.

Dog breeder James Nesmith says he can't believe so many dogs were infected with the parasite. "Shocked, totally shocked because giardia is so easy to contain and treat," says Nesmith.

He feels that either the breeder or the store didn't take care of them properly but he's confident his dogs are safe and Panhandle says their pets are also healthy. That's good news for future and current dog lovers.

"A dog is like a family member," says Chitwood. They're a furry, friendly family member that wants the simple things like a game of fetch and a good bill of health.

Treatment for giardia can cost hundreds of dollars.  Officials found out about the problem after a Hiram, Georgia woman who paid $800 for a puppy discovered it was sick with a parasitic illness.  She then had to pay about $900 in veterinarian bills.

The Pet Company is still allowed to sell cats, lizards, fish and pet supplies but Agriculture Commissioner Tommy Irvin says the store chain will face harsh penalties.

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