Dog breeder scams: What to watch for

BRUNSWICK, OH (WOIO) - The Riser family couldn't be happier playing with her their puppy, Teddi, these days. Their 13-week-old Shih Tzu and Bichon Frise mix is full of energy, but just weeks ago vets didn't think the dog was going to make it.

"He's just continuously vomiting. Nonstop vomiting," said Chrissy Riser.

Riser wanted to get a dog for her 13-year-old daughter, Luci. She checked local shelters and looked online where she found an ad on Craigslist. The family went to Wellington to see Teddi. They fell for him fast.

"We just played with him and he put his head on my foot and I thought, 'Oh, I'm in love,'" Riser said.

Within hours, Teddi started throwing up. He wouldn't eat and didn't have energy.

"When I picked him up, his head just fell to the side. He wasn't even able to hold his head up," Riser said.

Teddi spent days at the vet. There, they discovered parasites, kennel cough and pneumonia. At one point, the Risers went to say their final goodbyes.

"I take all the blame because I didn't do the research I should've done," Riser said.

Ron and Jackie Caffo are with the Lorain County Kennel Club. They've bred Irish Setters for years. They had some advice for people looking to buy a dog from a breeder.

"Is it a backyard breeder? Is it a puppy mill? You want to know that before you get into a situation," Ron said. "If you're going to a puppy mill, they may have 50 litters. They're shoved in crates and they have no interaction with people."

The Caffos said people who want to buy a dog need to do their research. For many breeds, there is a parent club that oversees breeders. Local clubs also give references to reputable dog breeds.

When talking to a breeder, ask about health issues and health clearances. Also, check out the place the dogs are staying at.

"Check out the facility. Make sure they don't have 14 different breeds," Jackie said.

They're red flags, Riser said she didn't see at the time.

"(The breeder) didn't let us meet the mom. She wouldn't even let us go inside to see the living quarters of where the puppies were," Riser said.

The family also said their vet told them the microchip on Teddi didn't match the number the breeder gave to the Risers when they bought the dog. Their veterinarian also said the medical information from the breeder didn't seem correct when it came to dates Teddi was given his shots.

While the family does have a few regrets when looking back, these days the Risers are just happy Teddi is home and healthy.

"We feel like we rescued him. We feel like, if he wouldn't have came home with us, he wouldn't be here today," Riser said.

The ad the Risers found on Craigslist has been taken down. Cleveland 19 News called the woman who sold the dog to the Risers. At first, she denied knowing the dog was sick and said she wasn't responsible because the other dogs in the litter were fine. However, Riser has texts showing the two had a conversation about Teddi's medical conditions.

"I texted the breeder and I said, 'You know, he's been in the hospital for a few days. We're up to $2,700 at this point with everything we had spent over the week.' She goes, 'Well, I did everything the vet told me. I'm sorry you got a sick dog. All my other dogs aren't sick," Riser said.

Later on in the conversation, the breeder told Cleveland 19 News she would refund some of the $650 dollars the Risers spent to buy Teddi. We're waiting to see if that happens.

Teddi's medical bills added up to more than $4,000. A family friend set up a GoFundMe Page for donations to help pay for some of Teddi's care.

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