What’s the first thing you want to do when you see an adorable puppy? Probably snuggle and cuddle the heck out of it. But federal officials say there’s a multistate outbreak of a nasty bacteria going around, and it’s being spread by puppies sold at a national pet store chain.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, along with the Ohio Department of Health and several other states, are investigating a recent spate of Campylobacter infections that appear to be connected to puppies sold through Petland.
Not feeling too hot
So far, 39 people living in seven states — Florida, Kansas, Missouri, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, and Wisconsin — have laboratory-confirmed infections or symptoms.
Of those cases, 12 are Petland employees who had contact with puppies sold in stores. The other 27 either recently purchased a puppy at Petland, visited a Petland, live in a home with a puppy sold through Petland — or visited someone who does — before they got sick.
The most recent illness was reported on Sept. 1 this year, but reports started as far back as Sept. 15, 2016.
The CDC says that Petland is cooperating with public health and animal health officials to address the outbreak.
Although most cases are associated with eating raw or undercooked meat or poultry, Campylobacter can spread through contact with dog poop (feces). It usually doesn’t hop from one person to another, however.
Symptoms of infections in both people and animals include vomiting, bloody diarrhea, and fever. Humans usually recover within a week without treatment. People more likely to get a severe infection include:
• People with weakened immune systems (such as people with the genetic blood disorder thalassemia or HIV or people receiving chemotherapy)
• Children younger than 5 years
• Adults 65 years and older
• Pregnant women
Petland — the only major national chain that sells dogs from commercial breeders — was hit with a class-action lawsuit in July, notes The Washington Post, accusing it of defrauding customers by “guaranteeing” puppies it allegedly knew were prone to illnesses and other defects.
The Animal Legal Defense Fund claims that Petland only performs cursory inspections before providing a “Health Warranty” to purchasers of puppies. Campylobacter isn’t one of the conditions customers have reported to ALDF, but the group’s director of litigation says the outbreak news is hardly surprising.
“It’s not hard to see how animals raised in these cramped and unsanitary conditions, trucked hundreds of miles from puppy mills to the pet stores, intermingled with other fragile young animals and handled by numerous employees and customers could become disease vectors,” Matthew Liebman told WaPo.
Petland’s CEO Joe Watson called the lawsuit’s allegations “baseless and tired.”
“Regardless of where you obtain your family dog, all dogs are carbon-based life-forms, and just like our own kids, they are subject to a wide variety [of] illness,” he said in an email to WaPo. “We take every precaution possible to ensure the health of our pets.”