by Marcy LaHart, JD

[Ms. LaHart is an attorney who practices animal and environmental law in South Florida.]

Like Dr. Khuly, my holiday was sullied by the ugly aftermath of puppies spawned by the pet store/puppy mill industry. On Christmas day I got an email from a woman that had gone to “Crazy About Pets” in Margate, Florida with her girlfriend a few days before Christmas. Her girlfriend purchased a Boston Terrier puppy; she went back the next day and purchased the puppy’s littermate.  Three days later both puppies were in a veterinarian’s office fighting for their lives against the highly contagious and often fatal parvo virus. 

They are not in just any veterinarian’s office, mind you, but at the office of the veterinarian the pet store insists they use. This was not her first trip to Dr. Incahoots. She took “Beanie” to him the day she bought him-and he diagnosed the puppy as having giardia, just like her friend’s puppy, even though he had certified them free of internal parasites days earlier.

I spoke with her the day after Christmas, and had the woman fax me her purchase contract and Official Certificate of Veterinary Inspection.  By then there was another puppy from the same pet store being treated for parvo by Dr. Incahoots—and not a Boston Terrier, meaning the infection was not contained to just that litter.

By the time we talked she had called the pet store and demanded they stop selling puppies because of the parvovirus, but they refused, insisting their puppies were all healthy. Broward Animal Care apparently told her that there was nothing they could do, as did the Margate police department. 

The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services has the authority to investigate and quarantine the rest of the puppies if they feel such action is warranted. I can sort of understand why the Margate police department didn’t know that, but certainly Broward Animal Care should have referred her to the appropriate authority or, better yet, actually been the slightest bit proactive and reported the parvo outbreak themselves.

I did call the Florida Department of Agriculture Law Enforcement, and spoke with an officer that seemed genuinely concerned and promised to get an investigator there on Monday.  Unfortunately tomorrow is Sunday and the pet store will be open again. How many puppies will they sell? How many of them have been exposed to parvo-how many other animals will those puppies spread it to? 

Parvo is serious stuff—the virus is extremely hardy and very contagious. It can live in the ground for months. Your dog can be contaminated even if s/he never encounters another dog with parvo because it can be brought home to your dog on your shoes, hands and even car tires.

My new client’s new puppy Beanie is still in critical condition, and may not survive the weekend.  Dr. Incahoots claims he is doing everything possible to save the puppy’s life, but is clearly starting to worry about whether Beanie’s mom will be able to pay him for treating this puppy—as is she. Her friend elected to transfer her puppy to Coral Springs Animal Hospital where she would be treated by an independent veterinarian and receive 24 hour care that Dr. Incahoots does not provide.  Her puppy is doing better, but the bill already tops $5,000. 

I spoke with Dr. Incahoots, who told me that of course the pet store wants to sell healthy puppies, but it is hard because the puppy can be incubating something but show no symptoms. Of course it is hard for them to sell healthy puppies, I thought, because the puppies are all shipped from out of state puppy mills where health and welfare take a back seat to profits.

The two Boston Terrier puppies were bred by a woman named Christina Collins in West Plains, Missouri.  A quick internet search reveals other people that have been sold puppies bred by Christina Collins that also had serious problems, not just Boston terriers but Italian Greyhounds and at least one German Shepherd-suffering behavioral problems, kennel cough, luxating patellas, all standard puppy mill maladies.

Ms. Collins has had more than 100 puppies and dogs on her premises on occasion, and is suspended from the AKC until 2015 for refusing to make her dogs and records available for inspection. But she cannot refuse inspection by the USDA, who has found her in violation of the even minimal provisions of the Animal Welfare Act on multiple occasions. 

One inspection report states as follows: “Wind/rain breaks should be placed on the houses in the southern row of runs, the house provided for dog #38, and dog microchip # 124955763A. Wind/rain breaks are not in place. These breaks should be put in place to protect the dogs and bedding from wind and rain. Affects 8 dogs.”

I wonder how Dr. Incahoots would like to be sleeping outside in February in Missouri without protection from the wind and rain? Does he ever think about the conditions endured by the mothers and fathers of these puppies when he signs off on a health certificate, or only about how much profit he will make thanks to his monopoly on treating the pet shop’s “product”?

PS: This is a picture of Beanie. He died last night as I finished writing this blog. RIP Beanie 10/19/08-12/27/08.
PPS:  Beanie’s sister has greatly improved and will hopefully be able to go home soon.