It found that the feature lacked accuracy and had failed to be impartial or fair in its portrayal of the company.
Concluding its report, the BBC Trust noted its decisions on the various points of appeal, particularly the finding that there had been a “failure of due accuracy relating to the item as a whole, as well as failures of the guidelines on Impartiality, Privacy and Fairness relating to various points.
“Together these constitute a serious breach of the Editorial Guidelines and warrant an appropriate broadcast summary of the Trust’s findings. The item must also be removed from the website.”
Ian Kellett, group chief executive, Pets at Home, said: “We said at the time that Watchdog’s claims were misleading, or simply wrong. It gives us no pleasure that the BBC Trust has recognised we were right.
“It is clear that for Watchdog it was more important to shock than to be accurate or fair, but at least now with the publication of the BBC Trust’s findings, people can see the truth.”
The BBC Trust said: “In 2015 an edition of Watchdog included a report on the pet store chain Pets at Home. Pets at Home made a number of complaints about the programme, several of which the BBC Trust has upheld.
“Overall, the Trust considers that the report was not duly accurate and that some aspects were not duly impartial and not fair to Pets at Home. There were claims that were not duly accurate about pet welfare at some stores and the programme failed to reflect fairly the overall evidence gathered in the investigation, including examples of good practice.
“The BBC Trust acknowledges the strong public interest in Watchdog conducting investigations. However, on this occasion the Trust found that the failings were a serious breach of the BBC’s editorial standards. You can read the finding in full on the BBC Trust website.”