CHARLOTTE, N.C. - A year ago, Channel 9 exposed dog breeders selling sick puppies, and Eyewitness News has continued to follow the underground business that has profited many people in NC while others have spent hundreds of dollars to treat the sick animals
The Thompson family was thrilled to have a rambunctious new addition to their pet family. His name is Benson and he has a white coat with black spots.
Gina and Richard Thompson bought Benson after finding an ad for him online. They said they met a woman named Diana Beheler at the same QT gas station in Gastonia where Eyewitness News Reporter Jenna Deery met her a year ago.
At the time, Channel 9 was investigating after receiving complaints about Beheler's business.
Customers said she was breeding and selling sick dogs. Beheler has denied those allegations.
However, even after being taken to small claims court by past customers, she's still selling puppies.
The Thompsons believe that their dog was already sick when they bought him from her. They took Benson to a veterinarian days after getting him.
"They told us he had (canine parvovirus) and that he probably wouldn't make it, he was so bad," Gina Thompson said.
Fortunately, Benson did make it, but other families have told us that breeders sold them sick dogs that later died.
Channel 9 checked with North Carolina's attorney general's office. It has gotten a handful of complaints over the past year from people who have bought sick dogs from breeders, but there's no legal action that the division can take because there's still no state law that protects consumers from bad breeders.
"This is strictly really the wild, wild west. It is unregulated, unfettered and has an opportunity for bad actors to make a lot of money and the consumers hurt in the long run, along with the animals," Rep. Jason Saine of Kings Mountain said.
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Saine is championing a bill that would require higher standards of care for puppies being sold. If it becomes law, violators could face a $1,000 fine if animal control finds that the dog is living in filthy conditions or doesn't have adequate food, water or exercise.
"The problem with the current animal cruelty laws is the dogs have to reach such a state that they are almost literally almost dead before law enforcement can act," Saine said.
Top Five Things You Should Know Before Buying A Dog:
- The Humane Society says to adopt, instead of shop. It suggests using shelters.
- Ask to see the breeder’s home along with the dog’s mother and father. It’s not a bad idea to ask for the most up-to-date vet records for the mother and father too.
- Ask for up-to-date veterinarian records. Puppies should be vaccinated at 6 to 7 weeks old.
- Make sure the puppy is old enough to leave its mother. No reputable breeder allows a puppy to go to a new owner before 8 weeks old.
- Know about the breed you are buying. Some breeds carry genetic problems that can be passed down from parent to puppy. Ask the breeder how long they have been breeding and why they chose that breed.
He said the bill should mean healthier dogs in the marketplace.
Jorge Ortega of the Humane Society of Charlotte says buyers still need to be aware, and that unscrupulous breeders know how to sell sick dogs.
"These dogs are prepped. They are groomed. They are fluffed," Ortega said.
The organization often gets the sick dogs that people don't want.
Ortega said potential buyers must ask questions about where a dog is coming from.
"Can I see the mama dog? Can I see the papa dog? Can I see up-to-date vet records up to now?" Ortega said.
House Bill 159, the puppy care legislation, has made its way to the Senate, which is how far it got last year.
Saine said he believes that there's more political power this year to get it passed since there's no distraction of an election.
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