Smugglers selling sick puppies from Mexico in U.S

Smugglers are buying puppies at rock-bottom prices in Mexico and selling them in the United States for as much as US$1,000, or about Ђ836, often to owners who later find the canines are too sick or too young to survive on their own. The Border Puppy Task Force, a group of 18 animal control and health agencies and animal protection groups, said Tuesday that a two-week operation at San Diego's two border crossings confirmed what they long suspected: Mexico is a breeding ground for unscrupulous puppy peddlers.

"It's a profit-driven practice, it's a disturbing practice," said Capt. Aaron Reyes, director of operations at the Southeast Area Animal Control Authority in Los Angeles County. From Dec. 5 through Sunday, agents at the San Ysidro and Otay Mesa border crossings ordered vehicles carrying anything with "feathers, fleas, fur or fangs" to a separate area for more thorough inspections.

The searches turned up 362 puppies under 3 months old, 155 between 3 and 6 months and 1,061 adult dogs. Canines were found in trunks and under seats.

It's unclear exactly how many of those dogs were smuggled, it’s legal to ferry dogs if they are declared at the border and they have rabies shots and health records, but Reyes said the "vast majority" of those under 3 months were probably contraband. About half the puppies between 3 and 6 months old were likely smuggled, he said.

The puppies, typically small breeds like poodles and Chihuahuas, are thought to be purchased in Mexico for between US$50 and US$150, or Ђ40 and Ђ125, then sold at street corners, parking lots and flea markets in Southern California for between $300 and US$1,000, or Ђ250 to Ђ836, apiece.

On Nov. 15, federal agents searching a Honda CR-V at the Otay Mesa crossing found 16 undeclared puppies in three cages that were covered by blankets and boxes of laundry detergent. The suspect, a Mexican woman with an animal cruelty record, allegedly told investigators she needed the money and had lots of orders to fill.

The Border Puppy Task Force formed last year after a spate of complaints from brokenhearted owners who reported their dogs were turning sick and often dying. They were getting socked with thousands of dollars in veterinarian bills. Common diseases include distemper, rabies, parvovirus and ringworm, reports the AP. I.L.

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