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Troubleshooters: Woman hopes sharing her horror story about puppy purchase can help others

A woman says she never got the puppy she paid for…and is out more than 500 dollars.

She’s sharing her story with Troubleshooters so that this doesn’t happen to you.

“Mom wanted something to cuddle to sleep with to give kisses, so a friend of ours recommended Connie…we called her and she said she had a litter coming due in May,” said Maria Graham, who said she spent $400 and never got the puppy she paid for.

Maria Graham says she made that phone call about a year ago, and soon was putting down two hundred dollars for a shiatzu.

“She said she didn’t have a way to give us a receipt, so she scratched it on a piece of paper…she only wanted cash she didn’t want a check or anything else,” said Graham.

Graham says Connie told her it would be a few weeks before they could take their four-legged friend home. Graham was getting updates and pictures through Facebook.

“We fell in love with her. We didn’t see her often, but we watched her grow,” she said.

Graham paid another $200 dollars and was supposed to have her puppy in a matter of days, but then one of the puppies came down with parvo…eventually, Graham’s did too.

She went to visit her pup at Tri-County Emergency Vet in Peoria and paid for the visit. That was the last time she saw her.

Connie took the dog back home, saying she doesn’t sell sick puppies.

“I kept texting her saying how’s my tippy and she said well she’s my dog now. I’ve renamed her Megan. You’re not going to get her. I will refund your money but i can’t send you a cashier’s check until July 26. This was the beginning of July,” said Graham.

On July 6, Graham sent Connie a letter, stating she would like the $400 she paid for the dog, plus the $166.50 for the vet visit. Graham knows it was received because her husband signed for it.

“Keep getting promises that I’m getting my money but nothing,” she said. “I told her you can make payments, I said just send me $50. Show me you’re an honest person.”

Graham adds all communication between her and Connie has stopped.

“Why I’m here is to warn people. I don’t know if I’ll ever see my money. $400 may not be a lot to some people, but I can’t work because I have to take care of my mom,” she said.

Graham says when it comes down to it, it’s the principle of the matter.

“I’m not out for vengeance. I just don’t want anybody else to get stuck by this woman. She needs to know that she can’t treat people the way she’s treated me,” she said.

Graham says even though she’s out more than $500, she just wants the $400 returned.

“Do your homework…be careful. Check them out,” said Graham. “Don’t let what happened to me happen to you.

I talked to Connie over the phone. She declined an on-camera interview. She said she’s not against giving Maria her money back, but she’s not financially able to right now. But she said she would only return $400, adding she didn’t ask Maria to pay for the vet bill.

As for the puppy, Connie says it died from parvo.

So what can you do to make sure you don’t end up in Graham’s situation?

Here are some tips from the Better Business Bureau:

  • Avoid buying online and visit in person. Unless you can visit the breeding facility before the purchase and bring your puppy home personally, do not purchase a puppy from a website. When you have a puppy shipped from another area, you don’t know how that puppy has been treated, how healthy or young it is, or whether or not the puppy exists at all.
  • Beware of breeders who only care about the money. Any reputable breeder will be far more concerned with the appropriateness of the potential pet home than how and when they are getting paid. Make sure you have clear expectations in writing of how and when the puppy will be paid for. Be especially wary of any breeder who insists you wire money or pay with a prepaid debit card.
  • Be patient. Beware of breeders who claim to have multiple breeds ready to ship immediately. It’s highly unlikely a puppy will be available for shipping on the day you call. Gestation and socialization of a litter takes months. No puppy should be separated from the mother before 8 weeks of age.
  • Never send money without first checking a breeder or shelter’s credentials. Ask if the breeder is a member of an American Kennel Club-affiliated club and contact the club to verify membership. Request references and ask the breeder for contact information of people who have bought puppies in the past.
  • Question if it’s too good to be true. Watch out for suspiciously low prices. Beware of scammers who offer to “re-home” their purebred puppy in exchange for just transportation or vaccination fees. If a free purebred puppy sounds too good to be true, it usually is. Scammers will continually ask for more money for unexpected and fraudulent costs.
  • Don’t be fooled by a good website. Dishonest breeders and even outright scams can be represented by professional-looking websites that lure you in with fraudulent pictures of adorable puppies. Anyone who has experienced a dog-related scam should report it to local authorities as well as your local Better Business Bureau.
  • Check for a clean bill of health. Under the PA Dog Purchaser Protection Act or Puppy Lemon Law, a seller must provide you with a health record for the dog at the time of purchase. The seller must provide a health certificate issued by a veterinarian within 21 days prior to the date of sale or a guarantee of good health issued and signed by the seller. Remember that to preserve your rights under the law, you must take your newly purchased dog to a licensed veterinarian for examination within 10 days of purchase.
  • Know your rights. In PA, if the dog is registerable and the seller does not provide within 120 days all documentation to effect registration, you may either return the dog and receive a full refund of the purchase price or retain the dog and receive a 50% refund of the purchase price. The seller must also provide the breeder’s name and address, the name and registration number of the dam and sire and the name and address of the pedigree registry organization where the dam and sire are registered at the time of sale.

Jessica Cook

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