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SICK DOGS SOLD FOR FAST BUCK DISHONEST SELLERS BREAK HEARTS.

Byline: Amy Raisin Darvish Staff Writer

SANTA CLARITA - Eleven-year-old Shannon Lieu could barely contain her excitement when she bought her first puppy from a man near the Valencia post office.

Two days later, her bichon frise became sluggish, got diarrhea and wouldn't eat. On May 13, just six days after spending $300 on their pet, Lieu's parents had her dog put down.

The vet knew the score: Shannon was the latest victim among a growing number of pet buyers who fall prey to street hustlers selling sick puppies as high-priced, purebred dogs. The puppies soon show signs of illness, then often die from highly contagious diseases.

``This is an emotional crime,'' said Jennifer Lieu, Shannon's mother, an attorney who lives in Saugus with her husband and two children.

``The papers this man gave us were fake. The phone number on the papers, we called and it was not a real number. We spent $160 at the vet but the dog was suffering. We finally had to (put him to sleep).''

Veterinary clinics across the Santa Clarita Valley have seen an alarming number of sick puppies bought from private vendors outside businesses like Target, Kmart and fast food restaurants, said Teri Ehrman, vet technician at Saugus Animal Hospital.

The puppies, mostly small breeds like poodles, bichon frises and mixed breeds, then show up at clinics suffering from internal and external parasites, distemper and parvovirus, some of which prove fatal.

In the last six months, Saugus Animal Hospital has seen between 30 and 35 such cases, five or six of which have died, she said.

``Everyone who's come in has said the same thing, that they got the puppy outside'' a local business, Ehrman said. ``This is a total scam. I'm just horrified by the whole thing.''

Parvo is a viral disease that affects puppies far more than adult dogs because it grows quickest in rapidly dividing cells, especially in the intestinal tract. As the virus attacks these cells, afflicted puppies often develop severe diarrhea, vomiting, lack of appetite and lethargy.

There is no cure for parvovirus and, if left untreated, most puppies die of dehydration. The virus is highly contagious and can survive in doggie beds, dirt and carpeting for up to 18 months.

``These puppy breeders just keep breeding these dogs that are probably already infected,'' Ehrman said. ``Or the virus is already living in the dog's environment, so each new batch of puppies is immediately exposed to the virus.

``Every weekend, there's a new batch of puppies out there for sale. People need to know ... to be aware of where they get their dog.''

One Canyon Country woman bought a poodle puppy last April from a man at a shopping center at Bouquet Canyon and Newhall Ranch roads. The little white pup with one black ear was to be a Mother's Day present for her mom.

The woman paid $300 for the dog and documents stating it had been de-wormed and given a clean bill of health by a veterinarian.

The puppy, which she named Pookie, soon got sick. After paying two animal clinics about $2,400 to save the dog, it died a week later in the woman's lap.

``What these people are doing is not right,'' said the woman, Irene, 20, a Canyon Country resident who would only give her first name.

Irene reported the seller to the Santa Clarita sheriff's station. Unfortunately, she said, there is no law against selling puppies.

So she has vowed to warn as many as possible against falling for the scam that left her and her mother devastated. She had it aired on a local radio station. She made fliers and hung them around her neighborhood.

But that didn't take away the pain inflicted on her dog and family.

``We had to tell my mom (about the dog) on Mother's Day because we didn't really have anything for her. She just started to cry.''

Amy Raisin Darvish, (661-257-5254

amy.raisin(at)dailynews.com
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:May 30, 2005
Words:662
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