The owner of a Missouri kennel -- who sold sick dogs to consumers across the country -- is now barred from such action.
The Missouri Attorney General's Office obtained a temporary restraining order that prohibits Jodi Craft -- owner of Rise-N-Shine Kennels and Safe Haven Puppy Rescue in Bland, Missouri -- from selling or giving away dogs.
That action comes on the heels of a Missouri Department of Agriculture (MDA) inspection that revealed Craft sold three dogs with a highly contagious viral disease called parvovirus.
An inspection on February 22, 2008, revealed that Craft's animal facilities did not meet the state's minimum health and operating standards. State officials ordered Craft to fix those problems.
In mid-March, Craft reported parvovirus-like symptoms with dogs at her facility to one of the kennel's veterinarians.
During that same month, three people who bought dogs from Craft discovered their pets had parvovirus.
Craft also said she sold seven other dogs in March, but had not yet shipped them.
On March 21, 2008, MDA inspectors went to Craft's facility and asked for medical records. During the visit, inspectors saw Craft remove labels from several vials and put them on records.
That action made it impossible for inspectors to determine the true health records of any of the dogs in her possession or control.
"This owner has not properly quarantined sick dogs at her kennel, and continues to put more animals at risk," said Missouri Attorney General Jay Nixon. "This temporary restraining order is necessary for the health and welfare of not only the dogs in her possession, but also other dogs across the country that might come in contact with the sick dogs if they are sold and shipped."
Complaints about Craft selling sick dogs are not new.
The Better Business Bureau that covers eastern Missouri has received nine complaints since 2006 about Craft's kennels. The complaints are from consumers across the country.
Some say Craft sent them sick dogs. Others say they never received their dogs even after paying for the animals and the shipping fees.
Several consumers also failed to receive refunds for up to $1,750 for undelivered animals or veterinary bills associated with taking care of the sick dogs Craft sent them, according to the BBB.
A consumer in South Wellfleet, Mass., told the BBB she paid Craft $400 for a lab/boxer mix. She said the puppy was extremely sick with parvo and three kinds of worms when it arrived.
The woman's vet bills totaled more than $1,700 and the dog must be "de-wormed again and be re-vaccinated because the vet has no confidence in the shots record," she told the BBB.
Another consumer in Trumbull, Conn., told the BBB he ordered a dog from Craft through a Web site called nextdaypets.com.
He sent $400 -- but cancelled the shipment after encountering "an unspeakable amount of roadblocks." The man never received a refund or the dog despite numerous attempts to contact Craft.
A consumer in West Lawn, Pennsylvania said she bought a nine-week-old Blue Heeler/English Setter mix from Craft. She paid $375 for the puppy, which arrived underweight and coughing. The woman said the puppy soon started vomiting, had diarrhea, and a fever.
The puppy died three days later. The woman contacted Craft, who promised to refund the money.
In an e-mail message, however, Craft told the woman: "HURT HANDCAN'T SIGN CHECKS RIGHT NOWCAN ONLY TYPE WITH ONE FINGER. YOU WILL GET REFUND SHORTLY." The woman never received her money, according to the BBB.
Some consumers also complained about the conditions at Craft's kennel.
"I was shocked by the conditions in which the puppies were living," said an Arnold, Missouri, consumer who drove two hours to pick up her Jack Russell/Chihuahua-mix puppy. "Many were caged or locked in a barn which was disgustingly dirty with feces lying on the floor."
A BBB shopper who visited the kennel in late February discovered as many as 10 dogs sharing one caged area, a small dog house, and a bowl of water and food.
The BBB also said that none of Craft's facilities appeared to have enough protection to shield the dogs from the elements, which were below freezing the day their shopper went to the kennel.
ConsumersAffairs.com left a message for Craft on Tuesday. She did not return our call.
The Missouri Attorney General's action --filed last week in Gasconade County Circuit Court -- seeks preliminary and permanent injunctions against Craft to prevent future violations of the law.
What to do
How can consumers protect themselves from buying a sick puppy?
Officials recommend the following:
• Check with the state's Department of Agriculture to ensure a kennel operator is licensed;
• Check for complaints about the kennel or its operator with the Humane Society, attorney general's office, the BBB, and ConsumerAffairs.com;
• Make sure the kennel gives you a written contract and health guarantee. Read it carefully. A breeder should not require you to use a specific veterinarian;
• Ask the kennel's owner to show you where the dogs spend most of their time. That area should be clean and well-maintained;
• Get references from consumers who have bought puppies from the kennel;
• Make multiple visits, if possible, with the entire family to meet the puppy before you take it home;
• Verify the puppy has received all it vaccinations;
• Request a copy of the animal's medical record;
• Look for dogs that appear happy and healthy, and are excited to meet new people.
Animal advocates also encourage consumers to check their local shelters for dogs and cats that are up for adoption and looking for good homes.