The SPCA has launched an investigation after two French bulldog puppies were allegedly left in tiny pens in Auckland pet stores over the COVID-19 lockdown.
Josie Clarke, of Auckland, says she heard about the dogs after a flood of posts on social media, where locals had raised concerns about one puppy being left in the Petstop Newmarket store and another in its East Tamaki store.
Petstop is rejecting the allegations, saying social media posts have "misled" people. The SPCA is looking into the matter but says it has so far found no animal welfare breaches.
Clarke says the puppy in the Newmarket store was eating its own faeces when she visited on Monday. The puppy has since been removed from the pet store, but only after an adoptee coughed up $5000 to buy it.
Speaking to Newshub, Clarke said she became so concerned about the dog after hearing about it on social media that she went to the store on Monday with the intention of buying it herself. She wasn't alone.
"People just kept coming in throughout the day," she said. "I got there at 11am and there were about four people there all trying to buy the dog or negotiate and call them out with no luck.
"Then I said, 'Look, I'll buy him for $5000'... And then one of the store guys started screaming at us, because there was a bit of a group because loads of people just kept coming in about the dog."
Clarke said the man then told them to "f**k off".
"[Then] the SPCA turned up, but there wasn't really a lot they could do because it had food, it had water... but the dog was just traumastised and terrified and hadn't come out of that little crate."
Clarke said things then got out of hand.
"I said, 'Look, you know what? We've been here for four hours now - I'll just take the dog. I'll pay $6000.
"Then they refused to sell it to me because [they said] I was part of the group that was there, even though I came in with just my housemate... Then they called the police on us.
"They decided to sell it [to someone] who had also joined [the group] but she had only just got there and she'd come up from Kumeu and because she hadn't been there all day and she'd only just arrived... so then she got the dog."
Animal rescue service Paws - Restart described it as "appalling".
"A wonderful lady has bought this dog to get him out of his hellhole for 6K," a post on the rescue service's Facebook page said.
"Big ups to all the people that turned up to help save this boy."
Petstop is also facing allegations of leaving another puppy in a pen at its East Tamaki store during the lockdown.
That puppy has also since been purchased for $6000.
Petstop rejected the allegations when contacted by Newshub, saying they weren't true and the public had been misled.
"Petstop did have two puppies in store which were cared for by staff right throughout lockdown," a spokesperson said in an email.
"The SPCA visited the stores to check on the welfare of the puppies. One puppy had been sold and the other remained in [the] store.
"SPCA did not have any welfare concerns with that puppy."
In a statement, SPCA inspectorate team leader Andre Williams said it was investigating. Williams confirmed an inspection had been carried out with the store's consent but no breaches of the Animal Welfare Act had been found.
"Enquiries are continuing and SPCA can make no further comment at this stage."
In 2019, Petstop was prosecuted over another incident for improper care of animals for sale and fined nearly $10,700.
As a result of the alleged incidents, a petition was launched to ban the sale of animals in New Zealand pet stores.
"On November 14 2021, I was made aware of two French Bulldog puppies that were for sale at 'PetStop' stores in Newmarket and East Tamaki. Both puppies had been alone in each store since the beginning of lockdown, and now appear extremely depressed and isolated," the petition says.
"I hope the Ministry Of Primary Industries, the SPCA and other relevant Government Organisations will take this petition into consideration and act in the best interests of those who cannot speak for themselves."