An investigator headed to a Petland store in Tyler, Texas, and got a look inside the horrifying freezer.

There were dead bodies stuffed inside plastic bags and he saw every bit of it.

In a report released by the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) last week, Panda is among the animals who were in the fridge. The investigation spanned across six Petland stores throughout the U.S.

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It occurred between fall 2018 and spring 2019 where investigators found sick animals in all the six investigated locations. However, a senior director of the HSUS’ Stop Puppy Mills campaign, John Goodwin, wasn’t surprised. But having his suspicions confirmed was horrible for him.

“I thought that we would see sick puppies, but I was surprised by how many dead animals were stored in their freezers,” Goodwin said. “In Sarasota, it was a hamster, in Texas, there was a puppy, in Georgia there was a puppy and then in Virginia, it was a bunch of rabbits.”

“When our investigator left [a Petland in Fairfax, Virginia], 14 dead rabbits had accumulated,” he added. “The Fairfax Police Department did a search a month later and by that time the pile had grown to 31 dead rabbits and one puppy.”

Since this story came out, The Fairfax, Virginia, has shut down.

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Many puppies in the store arrive from puppy mill operations in Missouri or Iowa. They are transported on large trucks infected with stress and disease. And this is why many puppies are already sick at the time they reach the destination. Many other dogs then get infected with contagious diseases that other dogs brought.

Panda was one of them.

At her arrival, she was a healthy dog with two siblings. It was after she had to spend hours with sick puppies in a room due to overcrowding that she and her siblings got sick. They slowly started losing their appetite, developing lethargy and gastrointestinal issues until Panda passed away, leaving her siblings behind forever.

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Another issue in the shops was a lack of health treatment for animals. Many of the sick animals ended up in the hands of staff rather than a vet in order to save money.

“Our investigation found that most of the treatments for Petland’s sick puppies were doled out in the store by staff with no professional veterinary training,” the report states. “Ailing puppies were sometimes not taken to the veterinarian until they were miserably ill for days and appeared likely to die.”

Goodwin commented on this saying, “You have what Petland calls ‘pet counselors.’ These are low-wage positions; these are not staff trained in veterinary care or anything like that, and they’re winging it,” Goodwin said. “Some of them really feel awful about what’s happening to the puppies and try to do their best, but they don’t know what they’re doing.”

“We hear from a lot of the staff once their employment is ended expressing regret and disgust,” he added.

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Since this story, Petland has responded. According to them, “At Petland, the health and welfare of all our pets is our number one priority,” a statement from Petland reads. “We work closely with and take direction from respected, professional animal care personnel such as veterinarians, and local, state and federal animal agencies, all of whom frequent our stores and inspect our operations.”

“Petland is aware of an activist who has been moving from state to state, apparently under HSUS’ direction, to work at the stores mentioned in the report,” the statement continues. “At three of the locations, she worked for less than a month and in one case, less than two weeks. She has lied on her applications and has initiated or manipulated situations for video and for the current report that would best serve HSUS’ agenda ­— an activity that is potentially illegal.”

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According to the HSUS report, the best option for consumers is to adopt from good animal shelters and rescue shelter. Most of the animals there are vetted and vaccinated.

“I think the number one takeaway for the general public is to avoid pet stores that sell puppy mill dogs,” Goodwin advised. “And if they’re looking for a new dog for their family, go to a shelter or a rescue first.”

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