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‘Concerning’ video of West Jordan puppy store prompts investigation

Posted at 9:59 PM, Jan 27, 2020
and last updated 2020-01-28 00:40:08-05

WEST JORDAN, Utah — The West Jordan Police Department said the Animal Control division has an open investigation into a puppy store after a video surfaced online that the department is calling “concerning.”

The store said the puppies were sleepy, but the customer who took the video wonders if something else was going on.

Austin Ewell said he and his family, along with a family friend, ate dinner next door to The Puppy Store on Friday.

“My daughter, she’s seven, was really excited about The Puppy Store, so why not?” he explained. They made an impromptu puppy stop after dinner, and Austin said everything was fine and normal at first.

However soon into their visit, Austin described how he noticed something off with most of the dogs for sale in the store.

He took a video of what he saw.

“This dog is drugged,” Austin is heard saying in the video. His cell phone is pointed toward completely unresponsive puppies.

Austin’s friend picks up one of the dog’s arms and lightly shakes it. The dog doesn’t move and its arm is limp.

“They’re all sedated,” Austin says in the video.

“You’d grab the paw, and it wouldn’t respond. And then you’d physically move the arm, and it wouldn’t respond. And then you’d move the body, and it wouldn’t respond,” he recounted. “And that’s when I was like, ‘Something’s not right.’”

One puppy is seen upside down and passed out, while another doesn't move when Austin taps the glass.

“Completely non-responsive,” Austin commented during the video.

“I did ask one of the employees, ‘Hey, do you sedate your animals?’” Austin said. “She very confidently told me, ‘No, they’re just exhausted.’”

Austin’s friend who visited the store with his family contacted West Jordan Animal Control, worried.

“When we saw the video, we were concerned,” West Jordan Police Sergeant J.C. Holt said.

He said a number of people who saw the video posted on social media reached out to them. The next morning, he said animal control immediately visited The Puppy Store.

Sgt. Holt said animal control checked on the puppies in the video, and found them awake, alert and appearing to be happy.

“The store owner declined any wrongdoing and the investigation continues,” Sgt. Holt said. “We’re not sure what was going on. The store owner basically said, ‘The puppies were tired from a full day of attention and people playing with them.’”

Fox 13 consulted with a veterinarian for an expert opinion. The veterinarian said the puppies in the video appeared to be sedated.

The Puppy Store declined an on-camera interview, but put out a statement on social media and sent a separate statement to Fox 13 maintaining that the puppies were not sedated, but instead just tired.

“We do not drug or sedate our puppies,” the Facebook statement said. “We do however give our puppies vitamins and probiotics to improve on their fragile immune and digestive systems on a daily basis.”

The Facebook statement included video footage of energetic puppies, that The Puppy Store said showed the same puppies the next morning, after a good rest.

“Puppies tend to sleep 18-20 hours a day, so they are tired after a busy day of playtime and socialization,” The Puppy Store wrote in the statement to Fox 13. “With that in mind we will be adjusting our protocol to include puppy nap-time.”

The case with West Jordan Animal Control is still open and active, Sgt. Holt indicated.

“Still, you see the video. We are concerned over it,” Sgt. Holt said. “The case is open, the case is active. We will continue to look into things and monitor that situation up there to make sure that there’s no wrongdoing going on.”

Here is the full statement The Puppy Store West Jordan sent to Fox 13:

“Earlier we were made aware of a video that was being circulated on Facebook claiming that our puppies were being sedated. That is unequivocally not the case. We take great pride in the care of our puppies and in fact requested Animal Control come in today and inspect our premises. Animal control did not have an issue with any of our puppies or our protocol and determined that our puppies are healthy and were issued zero citations. Jordan Landing is an extremely busy area and people come in a and want to play with puppies. What the video demonstrated was tired puppies. Puppies tend to sleep 18-20 hours a day, so they are tired after a busy day of play time and socialization. With that in mind we will be adjusting our protocol to include puppy nap-time. We have been in business for over 10 years and we go to great lengths to care for our puppies. We offer various guarantees to ensure that our puppies and the consumer are taken care of.”