Tuesday, January 13, 2009
Carmel on the Case: Breeder
Complaints tonight about a South Florida puppy seller, a seller who is already being prosecuted by the State of Florida. Investigative reporter Carmel Cafiero is on the case of these puppy problems.
WSVN -- Puppies don't get much cuter than little Mandy here. The tiny terrier is at the heart of a dispute between Julie Soutullo in Aventura and Kim Gallagher in New York.
Kim Gallagher: "We actually found a really cute puppy online, and the price sounded right."
But Kim, a widow, says the dog she saw online and the dog that was delivered were not the same.
Kim Gallagher: "The moment I saw the crate, saw the puppy through the crate, I knew this was not the dog I had purchased."
She says it happened twice.
Kim Gallagher: "The second time we left the airport, my son said flat out, 'I don't want a puppy. I can't do this again.' It was horrible. I felt horrendous sending the puppy back."
Julie Soutullo: "It's the exact same dog that she got. This is the dog."
Julie did agree to give Kim a refund and sent her 14 $100 checks. Yet, two months later I was back at Soutullo's store. Kim Gallagher said she has been able to cash only two of the checks.
Julie Soutullo: "But I'm not giving her 14. I stopped payment on the rest of them. In this paper, it says once a dog leaves our premises, it doesn't come back."
I was there with questions about still another puppy. This one sold to Belinda Cromp who lives in the Keys.
Belinda Cromp: "It was going to be my Christmas present and birthday present to myself since my birthday is in January."
But her boyfriend says once she brought the puppy home, it was clear he was not healthy, and he claims their vet knew there was a problem immediately.
Bruce Eggett: "And she says I can feel that he has a bad heart murmur just through the beating of his heart because the blood leaks out of your heart."
Acting on their vet's advice, they returned the puppy and got a full refund.
Bruce Eggett: "Well, we really fell in love with the puppy in a week and a half. We had tears in our eyes when we took the puppy back, and then we had to leave the store."
The couple can't understand how such a sick puppy was sold in the first place since Florida law requires a Certificate of Veterinary Inspection.
The dog did come with this certificate signed by a vet, but the vet in Hollywood who examined the puppy says this is only a travel certificate and not a health certificate for sale. He says he gave the Soutullos a second document which showed the heart defect. Julie's husband is the one who picked up the paperwork.
Carmel Cafiero: "When you went and got the health certificate for the dog that had the heart murmur, what else did you get besides this health certificate? What else did you get? What documentation did he give you? It's a camera that's on you."
Her husband Armando Soutullo walked away but said he received no document that said there was a heart murmur.
And Julie insisted she did not know the puppy was not healthy.
These are not the only people with complaints about Soutullo's puppy businesses. The state says, over the years, it has received more than 50 complaints, but only three of those complaints have resulted in charges.
Julie is currently facing three misdemeanor charges for violating the state's pet Lemon Law. She is accused of making misrepresentations and two counts of not supplying veterinarian certificates.
She says she's done nothing wrong.
Julie Soutullo: "Animal control comes here all the time. I have a perfect store."
But Miami-Dade Animal Control says it comes to the store because of complaints about various puppy businesses operated by Julie Soutullo.
Kathleen Labrada: "We have received approximately 25 complaints over the past year at Poochie Koochie Yorkilicious and also at Julie's home."
The county says the complaints deal with health issues after a puppy has been purchased. Since it can only address health issues before a sale, it sends those complaints to the state for consideration.
Carmel Cafiero: "In December of 07, state agents also removed business records from Soutullo's home. What did they find? We don't know yet. The Florida Department of Revenue says its investigation is still ongoing."
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