The puppy sits with its back against the glass looking away from eager spectators. An Elizabethan collar stops its head from turning, while a thick cast encloses its leg, keeping it from moving.
This was the pitiful sight that greeted shoppers on April 3 in the window of Companion Petz at Westfield Carindale in east Brisbane.
The photo of the puppy, originally taken by a Westfield employee who declined to comment, was sent to animal advocacy group Oscar's Law and posted on its Facebook page in a bid to pressure the company to remove the dog from the window.
A swift investigation by RSPCA Queensland found that the pet shop had in fact followed all correct protocols.
The puppy had fractured its leg and was placed in the display unit only after the vet noticed it was becoming distressed in a back room. It was a temporary location while the pet shop organised to have the puppy transferred off-site.
But that has not stopped the photo from going viral for a broader cause, with more than 90,000 people subsequently signing a petition on change.org, which uses the image as a hook to urge Westfield to ban the sale of all animals in pet stores.
"I'm not an activist at all but I care about animals. I'm a vegetarian on ethical grounds and I was just horrified," said Melbourne business owner Emma Morris, who started the petition.
"Anyone who would buy a pet and does their research would probably realise that a pet store is the last place that you would actually get a pet from and I really think, in terms of an ethical point of view or moral point of view, a chain like Westfield really have the opportunity to encourage responsible pet ownership and take the initiative to abolish it and not permit it in the first place."
Ms Morris hopes the petition will force Westfield to follow in the footsteps of US shopping centre developer Macerich, which banned the sale of live animals in more than 70 malls and replaced pet shops with stores allowing the adoption of rescued pets in 2011.
Among the thousands of comments on the petition and on Westfield Carindale's Facebook page are shoppers imploring the centre to ban the sale of live animals and urging others to boycott Westfield.
"Westfield, stop supporting puppy farms, it is 2014," wrote one user on Facebook.
A petition supporter commented: "The selling of live animals in pet stores needs to be stopped. Animals are not toys or entertainment."
Debra Tranter, president of Oscar's Law, said the feedback on social media was indicative of "the community's disgust at the sale of animals in pet shops".
"Pet shops that do trade in animals are providing a retail outlet for puppy factories and backyard breeders," she said.
RSPCA chief inspector David O'Shannessy said the pet shop had done nothing wrong in this case, but acknowledged that it could be difficult to assess whether pet shop animals might be coming from puppy farms.
He said RSPCA codes of practice for breeding dogs and cats in Queensland could not be enforced unlike in other Australian states.
"There is no doubt puppies may be coming from there [puppy farms] and [there is] general concern about the conditions," Mr O'Shannessy said.
The RSPCA supports the regulation of all pet shops, breeders and animal vendors, without calling for a ban.
However, it advises on its policy website that pet owners "don’t buy a puppy or kitten from a pet shop or through an internet or newspaper advertisement (or any other way) without being able to visit its home" to check on breeding conditions.
Westfield's director of shopping centre management, Andy Hedges, spoke to Ms Morris following the flurry of complaints from social media users and said that Westfield was "taking all reasonable steps to ensure that pet stores meet their legal and other obligations and that pets are in no way abused or mistreated".
"When Westfield was alerted to the specific incident last week which gave rise to your concern a registered vet confirmed that the dog had been "treated in exactly the correct manner" and that "it was satisfied that the dog was receiving appropriate care and attention", Mr Hedges said in an email to Ms Morris.
However, he said that Westfield had no plans to ban the sale of live animals in its centres.
The story Sick puppy: the photo that sparked an online backlash against Westfield first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.