A pet store in the Bel-Air neighborhood deceived customers, including Hollywood celebrities, about the origin of their puppies, many of which come from unlicensed pet mills, according to a Humane Society of the United States investigation released Tuesday.
The investigation looked at dog breeders, pet auctions and pet stores that form a chain of supply for the expensive dogs that can be found along the streets of Beverly Hills, often in sweaters and rhinestone collars.
These so-called puppy mills are large-scale breeding operations that have a reputation for abuse, inbreeding and filthy conditions.
“These puppy mills apply an agricultural mind-set to the breeding of dogs,” said Wayne Pacelle, president of the Humane Society of the United States. “Often, they’re run by farmers who raise soybeans and corn, and this becomes another, more lucrative cash crop for them. It often becomes a dominant source of income because no money is spent on the care of these dogs.”
The tiny toy breeds that sit in wooden baby cribs at the Bel-Air store, Pets of Bel Air, sell for upward of $1,000 and are popular among the young Hollywood set.
“We’re not singling out Pets of Bel Air as the sole operation at fault,” Mr. Pacelle said. “But they are representative.”
In a videotape made in the store by the Humane Society of the United States, Paris Hilton drifts by at one point, staring at the upper shelves. Her Chihuahua’s limbs dangle over her arm and its little head scans the room. The video, taken using a hidden camera, also shows a manager telling an employee not to let customers know the extent of one puppy’s health problems.