Happiness is Pets Sold Puppies with Canine Distemper


CAPS member and protester Dianne Arp was assaulted by Jonathan Berning during one of our protests at Happiness is Pets, a Chicago area-based chain owned by Ron Berning, the father of Jonathan. Police arrested Berning and Arp has pressed charges.

Happiness is Pets, a suburban Chicago pet shop chain is under fire after several puppies sold over the three months were diagnosed with distemper. The Companion Animal Protection Society (CAPS) has been protesting the chain because of evidence that links them to puppy mills – commercial breeding facilities, mostly in the Midwest, that mass-produce dogs for resale. This highly preventable but contagious and usually deadly viral disease can show up in puppies from large-scale breeding facilities because of improper veterinary practices by puppy mill breeders and brokers.

“Quite often, puppy mill puppies are taken from the mother (instant weaning) and sold to a broker before they are vaccinated. Since any vaccine takes days to weeks to develop strong immunity, these pet store puppies are extremely vulnerable. The broker can’t be sure that the mother of the puppies has been properly vaccinated, and the broker only has the puppy in his or her possession for a few days before they are shipped out to stores. The true vaccination and de-worming history of a pet store puppy is, therefore, always in question,” said Donald K. Allen, MS, DVM and CAPS board member.

Two of the puppies purchased by consumers have died and one is still fighting for its life because of the deadly virus. The pups were traced to the Arlington Heights, Naperville, and Downers Grove pet store locations and were purchased in November, December and January. In one of the cases, the local vet – suggested by the pet store – was unconcerned by the dog’s apparent discomfort but, after the owners decided to get a second opinion, the pup was diagnosed with distemper.

According to an article published in The Beacon News, the owner of the Happiness is Pets chain, Ronald Berning, said that they couldn’t confirm the origin of the outbreak. He went on to say that “the likely source was a potential customer’s own dog.” However, because the virus is preventable and most vets offer the vaccine at a relatively low cost, the theory is unlikely. A more reasonable explanation would be that the virus came from the puppy mills used by the chain.

“We’ve traced his (Ronald Berning’s) puppies to {puppy mills.] So right then and there, he’s not honest with his customers. There is a list a mile long now, and it’s starting to grow, of people who have gotten sick puppies from anyone of his Happiness pet stores,” said Dianne Arp, CAPS member to the NBC affiliate in Chicago.

There are reports of dogs being picked up from puppy mills in Missouri, Iowa and Indiana by the pet shop’s van. Since so many different puppy mills are used, there is no way to pin point where the infectious disease began. This means there are hundreds of dogs that could have been infected, transferred from store to store. All of the five locations are at risk of selling dogs with distemper.

“With ready availability and low cost of a simple ‘distemper shot’ vaccine, it is inexcusable for anyone breeding dogs to allow this disease to occur. It is the most basic preventive care given to a pet, and the deadliness of the disease makes vaccination an absolute must. Since it is highly contagious, puppies and dogs that have not been vaccinated are highly susceptible. Raccoons can also carry the disease.If someone is breeding dogs to sell puppies, and has not vaccinated the mother on a regular basis, her puppies will be born with no ‘passive immunity’ against this disease. We begin vaccinating puppies at six to eight weeks of age, because this is when the mother’s temporary immunity begins to wear off,” said Dr. Allen.

Canine distemper is one of the most contagious viral diseases amongst dogs. The virus targets various organ systems simultaneously, adding to its severity. It is caused by a paramyxovirus, a type of virus that causes measles in humans and rinderpest in hoofed-animals such as cattle. Canine distemper affects dogs at any age.

Signs and Symptoms of Canine Distemper
Common symptoms are either gastrointestinal (such as vomiting, decrease in appetite, and diarrhea) or respiratory in nature (difficulty in breathing). Transient fever or dramatic and sporadic increases in body temperature is a telltale sign of the infection. Behavioral changes include lethargy, weakness, and depression. Neurological signs include muscle twitching, especially near the mouth and legs. Seizures and paralysis may occur in severe cases. Although rare, some dogs, mostly elderly, suffer from hardening of footpads and nose. Sudden death is not uncommon.

For the public in the Chicago area:

For more information and articles, visit CAPS’ Happiness is Pets page

Happiness is NOT Pets Protest Facebook Event Page

Related Articles:

City Stir, Arlington Heights: Happiness is Pets = Some Unhappy Dog Owners

My Fox Chicago: Dog Owners Accuse ‘Happiness is Pets’ of Selling Puppy Mill Dogs

South Town Star: Pet store protest heats up in Orland Park

South Town Star: Owner’s son faces assault charge after pet shop protest in Orland Park

The Beacon News: Distemper traced to area pet shops Justice for Dakota – puppy with distemper fights for recovery

NBC Chicago: Distemper Cases Linked to Suburban Pet Stores Cindy Lu’s Muse: Happiness Is Pets Source of Distemper Outbreak

Cindy Lu’s Muse: Happiness is Pets – NOT

View February, 4 2012 Happiness is NOT Pets DEMO Album

What You Can Do:

CAPS needs your support to investigate the puppy mills that supply Happiness is Pets and to fund our protest efforts. We plan to continue our extremely important work — but we simply cannot do this work without your help. With just over 7,000 members, we are very dependent on foundation funding, which is limited. It is difficult for us to compete with large nonprofits that can afford to mail as often as every month. Unlike the large organizations, we have no investments to fall back on.

Please help ensure that CAPS is there for companion animals – particularly those dogs suffering in pet shops and puppy mills – by giving as generous a donation as possible. Your help is vital. On behalf of all companion animals, CAPS thanks you for your compassion.

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