Reporting Joe Shortsleeve
BOSTON (CBS) – Sick puppies are being shipped into Massachusetts, and for some families, the outcome is heartbreaking and expensive.
The I-Team found a loophole in the law which allows dogs to be legally delivered from out of state.
Mike Cahill is in charge of the state’s Division of Animal Health, and doesn’t like it when he hears about puppies making these long trips. “A transport truck that shows up in a parking lot and opens its doors and there are 50 puppies in there and people standing in the parking lot with leashes waiting for dogs , that horrifies me,” he says.
It might be a horrifying scenario, but it is legal. Only pets sold wholesale to retail stores are licensed. There’s no oversight for direct sales from a breeder to an individual customer.
Cahill added, “Who knows what is going on with the transport truck? If it’s not appropriately cleaned and disinfected between trips, you could have had a sick animal on the last one, and there is some pathogen left on the truck, and then every new animal you put on the truck is potentially exposed.”
Private pet sales are exploding on the Internet. The United States Department of Agriculture is now considering a change in the Animal Welfare Act.
Kara Holmquist of the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals explained, “What it will do is close a loophole based on the definition of a retail pet store that was written over 40 years ago, before the Internet. And it is going to prohibit high volume breeders from selling animals over the Internet.”
Unfortunately, Sabrina Heisey of Dracut was victimized by this loophole. Her kids love dogs and she and her husband thought getting one would be a great addition to the family.
First, Sabrina searched rescue shelters, but couldn’t find a dog to accommodate her husband’s allergies.
Next, she went online.
“When you call, they tell you that they have health records, and the dogs have all been checked out, and they are clean,” said Heisey.
Heisey picked “Lugnut” up on Saturday in a Waltham parking lot, and he was great. But things went downhill fast. “By Tuesday he was depressed. By Wednesday night he was completely lethargic. He did not move. He would not standup.”
Lugnut was diagnosed with parvovirus, a highly contagious disease which incubates for up to two weeks. He was hospitalized and ultimately died.
Sabrina now has a stack of bills worth more than $4,000, a breeder in Ohio who won’t take her calls, and some very disappointed kids.
“It’s been a big financial thing, but even though he was only ours for four days, he was ours, and we cared about him,” said Heisey.
When asked if there is something wrong with the current system that would allow this to happen to the Heisey family and to Lugnut, Mike Cahill replied “Yes. I think moving an eight week old puppy halfway across the country is detrimental to its health.”
Some breeders say they run legitimate businesses and would be hurt because the proposed changes in the regulations go too far.
The Department of Agriculture tells the I-Team the comment period for the changes is now closed, but there is no timetable on when they will reveal new guidelines.