(WSVN) - A Miami man is facing a felony charge of animal cruelty. Police say he was buying and selling dogs using online ads. Karen Hensel has tonight’s 7 Investigates.
Meet Frida, a 12-week-old Chihuahua mix who had just found her forever home.
It was May, and the isolation of the coronavirus pandemic had set in.
Diana Reed’s 14-year-old dog had died in February, and she was ready for a new companion.
She found Frida on Craigslist for sale for $850. Reed says she thought she was helping a local family during tough times.
Diana Reed, bought sick puppy: “In the course of the conversation, you know, he’s telling me exactly what I wanted to hear: he’s a young father with a young son. He and his wife were both out of work, and that the pandemic had really been hard on them.”
The seller put what Reed thought was the state required veterinary certificate in her car.
She would not look at it until later.
Diana Reed: “To be able to hand a family maybe a month’s rent or a few weeks of groceries by paying for a puppy that they can’t take care of, it felt really good. I really felt like I was helping someone.”
But within just two days, the help turned to hurt.
Diana Reed: “She started having diarrhea and throwing up.”
Reed rushed Frida to two different animal hospitals.
Diana Reed: “I knew something was horribly wrong, so I took her to Hollywood, where she tested positive for parvo. I never saw her again.”
Parvo is a highly contagious and often deadly virus in dogs.
Reed racked up more than $4,000 in vet bills trying to save Frida, but the dog died.
And remember that vet vaccination record?
Diana Reed: “It’s just a couple of stickers on the back of some sort of car receipt.”
So, she called North Bay Village Police.
This detective works undercover, so we’re not showing his face.
North Bay Village Police detective: “He admitted again through the interview process that this dog was not taken to a veterinarian. He’s definitely not new at this.”
He is Jesualdo Rangel-Castillo.
The 54-year-old accused puppy peddler was arrested Tuesday, charged with felony animal cruelty and selling an unfit animal without a valid vet certificate.
According to the arrest report, “Frida was not adequately or properly vaccinated, which reflects directly on the neglect and direct disregard exhibited” by Rangel-Castillo.
Police say Frida was not the only dog he had for sale.
North Bay Village detective: “This individual had close to about 135 ads online. That tells me that we might have a lot more victims than we know about.”
7News obtained additional records by the state agency that regulates animal sales.
Investigators say Rangel-Castillo sold a Maltese for $2,400. He, too, died within days.
There’s also Archer, a Yorkshire terrier, sold for $1,000. The puppy developed pneumonia and spent three weeks in an oxygen tent.
His owner, a CEO of a local company, says it took $15,000 in veterinary care to save Archer’s life.
While he would not talk on camera, he told us, “This guy needs to be stopped.”
North Bay Village detective: “You’re buying a dog on the street, and then you’re flipping this dog for a profit.”
For Reed, it has been a hard lesson in love and loss.
Diana Reed: “Aside from feeling immensely sad and heartbroken, I feel stupid.”
And Diana feels that way because she deals with scams and rip-offs every day as part of her job.
She is an employee here at 7News in the investigative unit.
Diana Reed: “I’m an investigative journalist, and if one of my friends told me they were going to do what I did, I would have stopped them, but I didn’t stop myself. I didn’t stop to think. I didn’t investigate him.”
But now police are investigating Jesualdo Rangel-Castillo. If you bought a sick puppy from him, or know someone who has, police say contact Miami-Dade Animal Services or the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.
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