Puppy Seller Cited After Team 6 Investigators Expose Violations

Two puppies who died of distemper sold by unlicensed puppy importer

Friday, Jun 20, 2014  |  Updated 1:41 PM EDT
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NBC 6 Investigator Tony Pipitone shows you what happened after an investigation revealed violations from a local puppy seller.

NBC 6 Investigator Tony Pipitone shows you what happened after an investigation revealed violations from a local puppy seller.

A Miami-Dade County man who says he’s sold more than 600 puppies he imported from Colombia was cited by county animal services Thursday for allegedly selling unvaccinated puppies, after buyers whose puppies died complained to the county and to the Team 6 Investigators.

Juan Marino Gomez Estrada, a former truck driver, is also accused by the county of failing to obtain a permit as a pet dealer, and of selling puppies without certificates of veterinary inspection and microchips, as required by county ordinances. He has 30 days to pay a total of $2,750 in fines or appeal at a violations hearing, according to animal services. The allegations are not criminal in nature.

The buyers of two pugs last month watched as their animals died of what veterinarians say was distemper, a virus that dogs should be vaccinated against before they are sold.

Gomez said the dogs were vaccinated, and vaccinations do not always guarantee a pet will not contract distemper, according to Dr. Joyce Loeser, a veterinarian consulted by the Team 6 Investigators.

But the county investigation accused Gomez of failing to vaccinate puppies he offers for sale.

Puppy buyers say Gomez told them their puppies were more than two months younger than their Colombian health certificates stated. The altered birth dates would allow Gomez to puppies younger than three months old through U.S. Customs without having to certify the animals would be confined long enough to be properly vaccinated.

For instance, Gomez showed Team 6 documentation showing two of the dogs that died were imported on April 24. The Colombian health certificates stated they were born in January – so customs officials assumed they were three months old when they were imported in April. But the buyers say Gomez told them they animals were actually born in March and that he falsifies the birth records to get the animals through customs.

Gomez denied falsifying dates of birth on the Colombian certificates.

But, in an undercover encounter with the Team 6 Investigators in June, Gomez told producers two puppies he was trying to sell were born in March, while the health certificates he produced stated they were born in January.

Asked about the discrepancy, Gomez said his statement that the puppies were younger was “a mistake.”

Lauren Rodriguez and Vanessa Monzon said their mistake was paying Gomez $550 for a pug they named Bronx through a Craigslist ad placed by Gomez. Bronx died of distemper about a week later.

Sebastian Font paid $750 for another rug, Onyx, who died of distemper two weeks later.

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