Florida Backyard Breeder Accused of Scam -- Selling Unregistered Dogs as AKC Registered
Isn't it a sad commentary on our society when someone gets a harsher fine for selling a dog without papers and lying about it than they would if they had horribly abused the dog! I'm all for prosecuting scammers like this one but shouldn't we wonder about who does more real harm?
And by the way, this is another great example of why someone looking to buy from a breeder should check them out with several sources.
This article comes from The St. Petersburg Times.
Breeder accused of falsely selling dogs as AKC purebreds
By DEMORRIS A. LEE
A Clearwater woman is accused of getting top dollar for dogs she falsely claimed to be purebreds registered with the American Kennel Club.
Vilisity Dawn Stow, 28, has been charged with two counts of grand theft and four misdemeanors. She is accused of selling dogs that may not have been purebreds as advertised and selling dogs without the proper medical paperwork certifying a dog's health.
The charges are the result of a criminal investigation launched after nine complaints were made to Pinellas County's Department of Justice and Consumer Services.
Gary White, an assistant state attorney with the State Attorney's Office in Pinellas County, said Stow advertised the dogs in the St. Petersburg Times classifieds as registered with the American Kennel Club AKC.
"And these people bought and paid for dogs thinking they were AKC," White said. "It turns out, they were not."
The American Kennel Club is a nonprofit organization that maintains a purebred dog registry, sanctions dog events and promotes responsible dog ownership, according to the AKC Web site.
Stow, who was released from Pinellas County Jail on $10,000 bond, faces a maximum sentence of 10 years if convicted of the two felony charges.
White said Stow has sold hundreds of dogs and that there are still 25 open complaints under investigation.
"This is just the first group of charges," White said. "I would contemplate that there will likely be more criminal charges."
Stow's attorney, Roger Futerman, said his client is innocent and will be vindicated.
"We are looking forward to trial and I believe she will be acquitted of these charges," Futerman said. "She's accused of grand theft. She didn't steal anything. She didn't steal a penny."
The investigation was conducted between April 2005 and September 2006, according to court documents.
It was discovered that on Feb. 15, 2004, Stow sold a Papillon puppy for $595 to Christie Pump. The dog was advertised as AKC certified. Pump purchased the dog, and was told by Stow the AKC papers would be sent later. The papers never came.
"Mrs. Pump stated that she would never have purchased the puppy in the first place had she known that it was not AKC registered," court documents said.
A similar scenario played out in November 2004 with Kim Perkins, who wanted a chihuahua. After seeing an ad in the Times, Perkins contacted Stow, who told her the chihuahua she was selling was an AKC-registered tiny tea cup chihuahua. The price would be $495, instead of the $395 advertised price.
"Stow told Ms. Perkins that she would provide the Certificate of Veterinary Inspection the following day, along with the AKC registration paperwork," court documents said. "Ms. Perkins has never received the AKC registration papers from Stow."
White used a subpoena to get classified advertisement records from the Times and Stow's account information from Bank of America. While advertising with the Times from December 2002 to June 2006, 11 separate debit account numbers were used with no less than 72 different names.
Records from Bank of America determined that all the debit card accounts were linked to one account in the names of Richard D. Stow and Vilisity D. Landerer, which is Vilisity Stow's maiden name, court records said.
"I fear there are a lot of potential victims out there that might not be aware that they are victims or that there is something that can be done about it," White said.
Stow is also accused of selling the dogs without required medical paperwork. Pat Callahan of the Pinellas County Animal Services said some of medical paperwork may have been forged.
Futerman said Stow is a responsible breeder, and he provided letters from former clients to show it.
One letter was from Debbie Wood, who adopted a female Maltepoo puppy last December. "I do hope that you are still breeding these beautiful, loving and extremely intelligent puppies," Wood said in the letter Futerman sent by fax to the Times.
According to Florida's Pet Lemon Law, a breeder must provide documentation that a puppy has been seen by a veterinarian and given the proper shots before it can be sold. In addition, in Pinellas County, a bill of sale must accompany the sale of a dog. A copy of the bill of sale is forwarded to Pinellas County Animal Services. The bill of sale allows the county to track the dogs for care and numbers.
"You don't need to take a chance with what you are getting," Callahan said. "Without the paperwork, you have no recourse and you are buying as is. It's like a used car. You must get the paperwork."
Lisa Peterson, a spokeswoman for the American Kennel Club, said Stow registered a litter with the organization in 2001 and three in 2002, but there is no way to determine the breed of pup that was registered. No other litters have been registered by Stow since that time, Peterson said.
In 2005, Peterson said the AKC received a compliant about a dog Stow had sold.
When it comes to determining if a dog is a purebred and has been registered with AKC, Peterson advises buyers to not leave a breeder's house without the AKC papers.
"No papers, no puppies," Peterson said from her office in Manhattan. "A responsible breeder will have your AKC papers for you. The papers will have our embossed AKC seal and an individual application on it."
When a breeder seeks AKC documents, they register the litter by providing documents that both mother and father of the pups are purebred animals. Once that has been verified, the AKC will then send an application back to the breeder for each individual member of the litter. The puppies' new owners would then fill out the application and return it to the AKC.