In Arizona, breeders do not need a license and are largely unregulated. This means that potential pet buyers need to be extra careful before putting any cash in.
QUEEN CREEK, Arizona – Dog and puppy sales soared last year when families turned to a furry friend during our many extra hours at home. But not all sales went as buyers had hoped.
“There are just so many emotions,” said Kristina Proctor. “You think what do I have to do, what do I have to do to get ready in the house.”
But she was ready for the big investment. In September 2020, she sent a $ 500 deposit through Venmo to Littlefoot Yorkies in Queen Creek and reserved her spot to get a Yorkie from the next litter, she thought.
“I had a name for her and the whole thing. It was hard,” said Proctor.
Now, almost six months later, there is still no puppy, no refund, and no word from this obvious breeder.
“You feel stupid, you are angry because someone took you,” she said.
She is not alone. The 12 News I team spoke to 17 people across the country, all of whom said they sent deposits to Littlefoot Yorkies and never got their dogs.
One of them was Sheri Tucker in Oakland, California, who sent $ 350 as a surprise for her son to have a puppy in December 2020.
“It hurts my heart,” she says. “My son, when he found out on his birthday that he wasn’t getting a dog, he was really disappointed.”
Then there’s Christy Frazier in the suburbs of St. Louis.
“I think she was playing with my emotions,” explains Frazier. “I had just lost my 15 year old dog.”
She sent $ 700 to Littlefoot Yorkies to cover the bail and transportation fee and take the new dog to Missouri. She even signed paperwork and promised to get a healthy dog.
“I’m closer to 60 here,” she adds. “I’ve never been betrayed in my life and I couldn’t believe anyone had the courage to do so.”
12 News does not currently name the owner of Littlefoot Yorkies as she has not face any charges. Pinal County confirms they are investigating complaints about the company and owner and will refer the investigation to the county prosecutor when it is complete.
In all cases of those who spoke to 12 messages, people depositing said the breeder sent them photos of their future pooches first. Through social media, many people found they were being sent pictures of the same dogs or dogs from different breeders that were out of the question.
After a while, most people say the breeder blocked them when they started asking questions.
The owner of Littlefoot Yorkies gave different excuses to different people. Some people say she told them that their mother or father was sick. Other people say she told them she was sick.
When 12 messages reached her by phone, she said that another person who was working with her was trying to take the customers and the trash away.
According to receipts, the 17 people who spoke to 12 messages sent more than $ 10,000 to Littlefoot Yorkies. As of last week, only 5 of them said they had received refunds. After 12 messages interviewed the breeder over the phone, 4 other people said they had received their refund after waiting for months.
In the same telephone conversation, the breeder claimed that she had refunded all but two people.
“The breeder’s behavior is that the breeder knows they did the wrong thing,” says Steve Lee with Steve Lee & Associates.
He is a fraud expert unrelated to this case.
“From the outside, it looks like a scam,” he explains.
He says cases like this can be difficult to prosecute because investigators have to prove their intent. Agencies may also lack the resources to conduct smaller investigations.
“They tend to react to bigger dollar numbers that are unhappy because victims like this get stuck in their own situation,” says Lee.
The options for a victim are limited. Lee says they could file a lawsuit to get a refund or keep trying to get one from the seller and see if law enforcement will take action.
Lee recommends using resources like the American Kennel Club to help veterinarian breeders.
Some advice from investigators and other volunteer rescuers when buying or adopting a pet:
Visit the facility where you want to adopt
Be aware when employees answer questions or evade them
Make sure they have an active nonprofit board of directors
Check to see if the dog has a collar or ID
Check that the animals have been neutered, vaccinated, vaccinated or microchipped and that they are bringing documents to support these records
For many of the people who spoke to 12 News, the red flags didn’t come up right away. Tucker says she was referred to Littlefoot Yorkies by a friend who actually bought a Yorkie from the same breeder.
The others say they checked them through social media sites that are now gone.
The address given for Littlefoot Yorkies is now an empty house for rent in Queen Creek. Someone at the breeder’s home address told us that Littlefoot Yorkie was no longer a business and that they couldn’t explain what happened.
“I wouldn’t send money over the internet,” says Sheri Tucker. “Meet with the person. Make sure they are real.”
Learn about other 12 News investigations by subscribing to the 12 News YouTube channel and viewing our I-Team playlist.