As more and more people are buying pets during the COVID-19 pandemic, an equal opportunity is being created for scammers.
An alleged puppy mill in Markham, Ont. has been accused of selling sick puppies on Kijiji to unsuspecting customers, along with less-than-legitimate health cards.
One of the customers who purchased a golden retriever puppy from this breeder is Kingston, Ont., resident LuAnn Harkness. She purchased her puppy, Rudy, on Jan. 30th, and just over a week later, Rudy died from a disease called Parvo.
“I phoned the breeder after he got sick, and they said it’s probably the nerves or the food,” says Harkness.
“I’ve had enough dogs so I didn’t think that was the case, but by noon he was full of the devilment that puppies are full of.”
Parvo is a deadly and highly contagious disease that spreads through puppies when they are in close contact with one another. Normally, they are vaccinated for this disease when they are very young to prevent the illness.
Dr. Jack Chubaty, the vet who cared for Rudy at Sydenham Veterinary, confirmed the pup had Parvo, and told Global News on the phone that it is extremely likely that Rudy had the disease before he was sold.
So after Rudy died, Harkness tried to contact the breeders to talk about what the next steps were going to be. But as she would soon find out, the breeders were in the wind.
“Their phone is disconnected, you can’t reach them even if you tried,” says Harkness.
“They have actually already sold the house in Markham that we met them at, so we have no way of contacting them.”
Harkness’ next course of action was to contact the vet who was allegedly in charge of vaccinating Rudy, Dr. Tejwant Chahal, who is based out of Brampton.
“I asked him if he went to that house to vaccinate those puppies, and he wouldn’t give me an answer,” says Harkness.
“I said I’m not threatening you, I just need answers.”
Chahal was unavailable for comment, but one of his assistants says there have been instances of scammers forging documents in his name. But Dr. Chubaty, Rudy’s vet, told Global News that it is likely that Rudy never got his shots at all.
Looking back, Harkness now sees some red flags that she didn’t pick up initially, partially due to barriers that are in place due to the pandemic.
“The mother dog wasn’t around, which she should be, and when we asked where she was, they told us that it’s their 81-year-old mother’s dog,” says Harkness.
“So because of her supposed age, we respected that and didn’t push further.”
This is the same story that was given to Belleville, Ont. resident Andrea Sills, who got her golden retriever puppy from the exact same breeders two days before Harkness. Her puppy, Ripley, got infected with Parvo too, but luckily he survived.
She also contacted the breeder when her puppy got sick, and the breeder said he would follow up with other customers to see if their puppies were sick too, and that he would call her back. He never called her back, so Sills called him instead.
“And we thought that was odd, because the vet pretty much guaranteed us that he came to us with Parvo.”
Harkness paid $9,000 for Rudy and his medical bills, and she hopes her story will serve as a warning to others who are purchasing pets online.