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Lake Elsinore Investigation

On June 19 2009, LCA's Special Investigations Unit (SIU) investigator accompanied the Director of Animal Friends of the Valley (AFV), Willa Bagwell, and their humane officers to a residence in a quiet neighborhood in Lake Elsinore, CA. Based on LCA’s complaint and investigation, AFV raided the individual’s home and seized 34 dogs and puppies.

LCA’s SIU had been searching for this distributor for months. The distributor specialized in “designer breeds” of puppies that sold for up to $2,500 retail. Because the individual operated “under the radar”, without any local County or USDA licensing, she was difficult to uncover.

In September of 2008, during LCA’s investigation into the origins of puppies sold in Los Angeles pet stores, LCA received information about an individual who had a long history of selling sick puppies to various “boutiques.” This kind of pet store caters to a high-end clientele with many well-known celebrities amongst their customers. The puppies are advertised and sold as originating from loving homes and are supposedly hand raised. However, what LCA discovered at the residence in Lake Elsinore was the antithesis of what the customers had been told. As can be seen in the video evidence, the yard looked more like a garbage dump. It was a minefield of dog and rat feces in amongst beer bottles, and broken down vehicles and appliances were some of the items set haphazardly around the property.

After the raid was executed, LCA learned that the individual was the “middle-man” for this dubious enterprise. The puppies distributed were bred in the surrounding area, the distributor would then take possession of them when they were only a couple of weeks old and raise them until they were sent off to pet stores in the Southland. Although the distributor denied breeding dogs, LCA found a couple of 2 day old pugs with their mother on the premises. LCA had uncovered a filthy breeding facility, there were basset hounds, pugs, Japanese chins, a rottweiler, cocker spaniels and terriers, all living in cages and in cramped, wretched conditions.

The Lake Elsinore Fire Department responded to the scene as did the local Sheriff. The distributor was told she would be charged with numerous violations of the California Animal Welfare Act. AFV brought in additional staff to process the 34 puppies and dogs rescued from the deplorable conditions at the residence. The puppies were taken to AFV’s location, where they received proper medical care and food. Unfortunately, several puppies were harboring the European Parvovirus and eventually succumbed to the disease, despite the heroic efforts of AFV to save them. Due to the investigative efforts of LCA, several puppies were given the chance of enjoying a normal life.

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