Updated: 5:40 p.m. Tuesday, March 28, 2006 | Posted: 6:22 a.m. Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Infected Puppies Found In Local Pet Stores

ATLANTA —

The Georgia Department of Agriculture is investigating a pet store chain operating in metro Atlanta that is accused of selling infected puppies.

Agriculture Commissioner Tommy Irvin warns dog owners to be careful.

A total of 151 puppies at six locations of The Pet Company were examined. Of those, 138 tested positive for Giardia, a parasite that can be transmitted between animals and humans.

It's not clear how many infected dogs have been sold to the public. The state is seeking citations and fines against the stores.

The Pet Company operates at Cumberland Mall, Southlake Mall, Gwinnett Place, Town Center at Cobb, Arbor Place and the Mall at Stonecrest.

The company is based in New Windsor, New York.

Irvin says so far there have been no reports of human infections. But he advised anyone who has bought a puppy from The Pet Company stores since January to have their dog checked by a veterinarian.

Symptoms include diarrhea, stomach cramps and nausea. They often appear one to two weeks after being infected and can last two to six weeks.

Investigators are trying to determine the source of the outbreak.

One Family's Story

Channel 2 tracked down the pet owner whose complaint led to the quarantine of several area pet stores. More than a hundred dogs were sold at Pet Company stores that have a highly infectious parasite. We went undercover today into one of the stores and found all the cages empty.

Four-month-old Keegan Rylee is a soft-coated Wheaton Terrier. He’s one happy and healthy puppy, but just a few weeks after they bought Keegan at a Douglas County pet store, Keegan’s family thought he was close to dying and couldn’t understand why.

Dog owner Christy Baker says, “It's been traumatic it's been very, very emotional."

Christy Baker and her children were ecstatic the day in February that they took home Keegan Rylee. They paid $800 for the puppy at the Pet Company -- whose six stores are under state quarantine following an outbreak of a dog parasite Giardia, which can travel between pets and humans. Within days of bringing Keegan home, the pup fell seriously ill.

Baker says, "He wouldn't eat, he wouldn't drink, he wasn't very playful, he was very skittish, had diarrhea, when I took him in, his white blood count was elevated."

Christy’s daughter Alicia Baker says, “I felt sad and emotional and pretty much afraid."

Christy spent hundreds of dollars at the vet and learned Keegan not only had Giardia but also Trachea Bronchitis. She sent a letter to Pet Company at the beginning of March.

Baker says, "And alert them to what he had and was contagious to other human beings, and from what I understand they continued to sell dogs."

Baker says she asked the Pet Company to reimburse the nearly $800 she spent to get Keegan well again.

Baker says, “I've very angry, feel they were doing a huge injustice to the public and these animals.”

Ms. Baker says she is going to get her entire family tested for Giardia. The Pet Company has been ordered to treat the dogs and not sell them until they get well. We’ve attempted to contact the Pet Company, and left messages, but they have not returned our call.

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