Part 2: Online business accused of selling sick designer dogs

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by KELI RABON / KVUE News and Photojournalist JOHN GIBSON

kvue.com

Posted on February 6, 2012 at 1:17 PM

AUSTIN -- Buying a dog is usually a happy experience, but it turned into heartache for some families who used MySpoiledPuppy.com. 

The KVUE Defenders went undercover to meet Joe Lozano, co-owner of MySpoiledPuppy.com.  He sells maltipoo puppies, and the KVUE Defenders set out to buy one after uncovering complaints that Lozano is selling sick dogs. 

We bought an eight week old black maltipoo.

"She's got a fresh round of shots for parvo, distemper, parafluenza, and adeno, shes been dewormed for hook and roundworms," Lozano said.  

Dr. Katie Luke and veterinarians with the Austin Humane Society took care of the puppy for two weeks. During the initial examination, Dr. Luke gave the puppy proper vaccinations, and kept it quarantined, separate from other dogs.

After 14 days, the puppy was adopted by a veterinarian who was treating her. Then, the puppy got sick.

"She developed some upper respiratory symptoms about a week after Christmas and then was on medications. and then in mid-january started having some seizures," Dr. Luke said.  

The puppy's health quickly deteriorated, and 28 days after purchase, she tested positive for distemper -- a fatal disease that's transmitted from dog to dog. Given her condition, vets decided to euthenize her.

Defenders Investigator Keli Rabon asked if there was any way the puppy could have contracted distemper after receiving vaccinations at the Humane Society. 

"It would be unlikely. Not only given the fact that she got the vaccine, which should have been effective within a few hours, but also the timeline in which we saw the symptoms," Dr. Luke said. "If she's already been exposed to an illness and then we give her a vaccine, there's nothing that will counteract what she's already been exposed to." 

So we went back to Joe Lozano, for answers. This was the exchange: 

Lozano: "You bought a dog from me remember, and the dog was healthy. You already know the scenario on this."

Rabon: "Actually Joe, the dog is dead."

Lozano: "Oh. Why didn't I get a call?" 

Rabon: "We're here to talk to you."

Lozano: "I talked to you about a week ago and you said the dog was fine."

Rabon: "And since then it's died from distemper."

Lozano: "Oh, I'm sorry to hear from that. But you do have a guarantee on that."

Rabon: "You said that you vaccinated the dog."

Lozano: "Let me tell you one thing, vaccination doesn't mean immunity. It means vaccination. It doesn't mean it's never going to get what it got vaccinated. Ask any vet."

"I think what's concerning is the number of sick dogs you've seen coming out of this facility at this point. An occasional sick dog who's been vaccinated, yes you will see that. The number that you've seen coming from this same place is what's concerning to me," Dr. Luke said.

Concerning, because our investigation found 29 complaints filed with consumers in Texas, Louisiana, New York, Maryland, Georgia, California, Massachusetts, Virginia and Washington. 

We've also uncovered Lozano and his wife, Sylvia Guerra, are facing felony animal cruelty charges, after authorities seized 29 dogs from the couple's San Antonio home in 2008. 
 

"If it was bad enough for them to take his dogs once, why isn't it bad enough to stop it all together?" said Leslie Groff.

Groff bought a puppy from Lozano in November 2011. It died from parvo less than 48 hours after purchase.

"That's the sad part, is that you see people know that he's doing this and nothing is being done about it," Groff said. 

That's because not much can be done. In 2011, Texas lawmakers passed legislation to regulate animal breeders in an effort to cut down on puppy mills. Lozano says he doesn't breed the dogs, he just sells them. 

 "The bill that passed perhaps created a loophole that this person, these people, may be taking advantage of," Rep. Eddie Rodriguez of Austin said.

Rep. Rodriguez of Austin helped draft the bill. As an advocate for animal rights, he says both breeders and sellers need to be held accountable. 

"This isn't just property, its a living thing that requires humane treatment, and the law should reflect the value you place on that life," Rep. Rodriguez said. 

Rodriguez says past bills that included animal sellers were killed. He hopes this time to gain more support.

"I certainly will try to address it again to include sellers, and I think your story is going to bring some of that to light too on this loophole, and well just keep trying again," Rep. Rodriguez said.

The families who went from buying a puppy to burying a puppy say something more needs to be done.

"If they shut him down, he's just going to go somewhere else and do it again," Groff said.

Lozano is still selling puppies. When asked to comment on our story, Lozano said less than 3 percent of his dogs get sick. He said that he has many satisfied customers, that he's "not doing anything wrong" and that he "can't be responsible for the life of a dog after it leaves his care."
 

If you've been sold a sick animal, there are many agencies you can contact for help. Some of those options include your local animal control office, local law enforcement, the Better Business Bureau, the Humane Society of the United States, and the Texas Attorney General.    

You can follow investigative reporter Keli Rabon on her Facebook page here.

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