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I hate that I have to share this story, but I want to get the word out to as many people as possible and personal experience is best.

I have been looking for a maltese for several months. Not knowing any better, I searched online.***first mistake. Last Monday a female puppy became available for a very cheap price***first red flag. The "private breeder" lived in Montgomery City, MO, which is only an hour away from where I live (St Louis, MO). I emailed the woman, I will call her Mimi, and gave information about myself and what I was looking for. She responded immediately with very little information about the dog and with no questions for me besides where I could meet***second red flag. The pictures of the puppy were so beautiful--I was transfixed by her and agreed to meet her on Wednesday.

Mimi said she could meet me at a McDonald's right off of the highway (which made it closer for me)****third red flag. We communicated only via email, though we did exchange numbers (initiated by me) in case of a change of plans.****fourth red flag.

On Wednesday, I drove with my boyfriend and sister to the pickup location. A man pulled up next to me with an adorable maltese****fifth red flag. I asked him a couple of questions about the puppy and the litter and vaccinations. He could only sort of answer the questions and said he was just the delivery man (her husband)****sixth red flag. She was a beautiful little girl and I just couldn't let her go back to whereever she came from, so I gave him the money. He gave me a note card with the dog information on it and the vaccination dates****seventh red flag.

We were completely mesmerized by this little girl. She was spunky, playful, cuddly, and intelligent! She seemed to really respond to her name, Ella, and was just so happy. After 24 healthy, joyful hours, Ella started vomiting and having diarrhea. I was so worried about her, and stayed up with her all night as she was sick. The next day (friday) I took her to the vet. They did a wellness exam--everything appeared healthy but they went ahead and tested her for parvo and sent me home with medications to curb the diarrhea and vomiting. The next day (saturday) they called and said the test was positive for parvo. We immediately took her to a different pet hospital as referred by the vet. She went into 24-hour care. They said the chances of survival were 85-90% for a dog being treated there. Of course I was going to give her the best treatment available. (even though the estimated costs were $800-$1400)

I emailed the breeder minutes after hearing Ella was positive for parvo and urged her to take necessary precautions for other puppies/owners. (short response asking if she would be okay)

I visited Ella every day, even though it made me so upset to see her in so much pain. She was so small. Only 3 pounds and 12 weeks old. Three days after being in the hospital, I got a call notifying me that Ella had passed away. She had taken a turn for the worse and her body just couldn't handle it.

I immediately emailed the breeder again to let her know about Ella. (no response)

Since then I decided to ask for reimbursement from the breeder for the cost of Ella. It just didn't seem fair that I purchased a pup who was exposed to and contracted the virus before I had her. (the incubation period for parvo is 3-7 days) I sent her a very detailed, formal email explaining the entire situation again-though I had emailed her every step along the way. I wanted documentation of my final request.

She responded saying she was only a middle man, doing her friend a favor by placing the dog in a home. (and I thought her husband was the middle man...) She said she got $100 for doing so, and she would have her husband return that to me, but that I needed to contact her friend (whom I have never heard of before this time).

I emailed Mimi back saying that since she was the one who I was consistently in contact with, I would expect her to get the money and reimburse me. She emailed me saying that she would be out of town and couldn't make alternate arrangments but that she would pass along my number, again saying her husband would meet me whenever to give their portion of the money back.

I am currently in the process of contacting the "original owner" and I am not sure what the outcome will be, but I did want to make a post so that other people could see the dangers of adopting a puppy from an unreliable source. Some of the things I have learned through this awful process are listed below.

1. Shopping online--in this day in age it seems we can securely buy anything online. However you just can't trust everyone anymore (I am sad to discover). There are reputable breeders with listings online but you should find them through other recommendations--either by word or AKC, AMA listings.

2. Getting a purebred for a cheap price (and not from a rescue or an older dog) will probably be the result of a puppy mill or irresponsible breeder. You could very well adopt a healthy, beautiful dog, but you are also promoting these individuals.

3. Having communication only through email and not being asked any personal information about you and your home will not come from a responsible breeder.

4. Meeting someone at a location other than where the puppy was raised and not being shown any pictures or given any information about the puppy's background allows breeders to cover up bad conditions.

5. Having a "delivery-man" and never actually speaking with the initial seller via phone or in person is another sign that there are multiple people involved and that they don't care about the fate of the puppy.

6. If whoever is handly/delivering/communicating with you in any way about the puppy doesn't know how to answer questions about the puppy/litter/vaccination records you should find someone who does!

7. If the only thing you get in exchange for the money is a notecard (without a health guarantee or at least a receipt of sale) you should demand something else in writing or go somewhere else!

It is becoming more and more evident that this could be a puppy mill or just individuals who are not concerned about the puppies they place. I want to get this story out so that people know what kinds of things to look for (that I didn't think about before now).

Good luck to everyone and if anyone has any ways for me to help out the fight against puppy mills/irresponsible breeders I would love to help out. I live in St. Louis, Missouri.

I want others to be aware of the risks and I don't want any more puppies to suffer! Parvo is an absolutely awful virus...let's come together and limit the number of dogs who are exposed!
 

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Poor sweet Ella, I am sorry you had to go through this and your sweet baby to suffer so. I really think that's a good idea to post your information to get the word out about these kind of people. Wishing you good luck when you decide to get another fluff, and never have to go through this again. RIP Baby Ella
 

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Emily,

Thank you so much for posting this information which I am sure will be very valuable to people. I would add to your list of information to 1) ask for vet and previous puppy owner references. 2) make sure you are able to meet the parents of the pup and have an opportunity to interact with them so that you have a chance to observe their personality and temperament.

I am so sorry for what you had to go through. What a hard lesson to learn. I hope you find comfort in knowing that for just a bit of Ella's short little life, she knew what real love and caring was because of you.
 

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Emily,

Thank you so much for posting this information which I am sure will be very valuable to people. I would add to your list of information to 1) ask for vet and previous puppy owner references. 2) make sure you are able to meet the parents of the pup and have an opportunity to interact with them so that you have a chance to observe their personality and temperament.

I am so sorry for what you had to go through. What a hard lesson to learn. I hope you find comfort in knowing that for just a bit of Ella's short little life, she knew what real love and caring was because of you.

I should qualify #2 up above by saying, if at all possible try to meet the pup's parents. I know there are several good exhibitor breeders out there with established reputations that many people could feel comfortable about purchasing a puppy from them and having it shipped without meeting the pup's parents or seeing the home. For me, seeing the parents and seeing the home environment was personally a non-negotiable item on my list but that is just me.
 

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What a sad story. So sorry that you lost your little pup. Do you think you will try to find a new puppy from a reputable breeder? There is lots of info on this site for you to benefit and learn from before you get another puppy. And what you have shared will hopefully save someone else from the heartbreak that you experienced.
 

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Emily - we've all been living through your sad experience of trying to save Ella and we've mourned her passing. You have handled everything so beautifully and I'm so sorry that you and Ella were put through such pain. I would strongly guess that this was a puppy mill from the sound of it all. Indeed the woman could be the conduit but she's just as much to blame. Did you have to pay them cash? Another red flag if so. Thank you so much for summing up your experience. I hope others will learn from it. I'm wondering if I might be able to copy it and share it on FB as a warning to others. Let me know if that would be alright. Again, lots of hugs to you and as we all said, we'll try to help you find your next Maltese for after your move. :grouphug:
 

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I have kept up with your thread about Ella and it made me very sad. It was kind of you to warn others, hundreds of people who aren't member still read our post and learn things.

I just have to say that searching for your puppy online was not a mistake. The majority of showbreeders have web-sites that contain a wealth of information. What you should avoid is puppy broker sites, or sites that advertise puppies for sale. A reputable breeder features their dogs. A reputable breeder will talk with you on the phone, not only by e-mail. A reputable breeder will send you a contract before the sale is made..a legally binding contract.
 

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Discussion Starter #8
Emily - we've all been living through your sad experience of trying to save Ella and we've mourned her passing. You have handled everything so beautifully and I'm so sorry that you and Ella were put through such pain. I would strongly guess that this was a puppy mill from the sound of it all. Indeed the woman could be the conduit but she's just as much to blame. Did you have to pay them cash? Another red flag if so. Thank you so much for summing up your experience. I hope others will learn from it. I'm wondering if I might be able to copy it and share it on FB as a warning to others. Let me know if that would be alright. Again, lots of hugs to you and as we all said, we'll try to help you find your next Maltese for after your move. :grouphug:
You may definitely share my story in part or in its entirety. I want as many people to know about it!
And yes I am already starting to look forward to my move and would like to start looking at options to find a puppy that will be safe in my home. So if anyone has any ideas of places or people to start asking please send them my way.
 

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I have kept up with your thread about Ella and it made me very sad. It was kind of you to warn others, hundreds of people who aren't member still read our post and learn things.

I just have to say that searching for your puppy online was not a mistake. The majority of showbreeders have web-sites that contain a wealth of information. What you should avoid is puppy broker sites, or sites that advertise puppies for sale. A reputable breeder features their dogs. A reputable breeder will talk with you on the phone, not only by e-mail. A reputable breeder will send you a contract before the sale is made..a legally binding contract.
That's how I found you all--searching for something maltese related online! So glad I found you. :)
 

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I don't know about St. Louis but her in Louisville we have a reporter called the "trouble shooter" he handles cases like this. Getting the info out to the public might be a good idea.
 

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Emily, I am so sad you had to learn such a terrible lesson about puppymills. What you dealt with was a broker for one of the many Missouri puppymills. Not sure what you paid for Ella, but the millers usually sell the puppies for a couple hundred dollars to brokers or middlemen for the pet shop industry. When they end up in pet shops, they have big price tags, as much as puppies from reputable breeders.

Did you get papers with Ella? They should have the breeder's name on them. Of course, you dealt with Mimi so that is the only person you can go after.
 

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A reputable breeder will talk with you on the phone, not only by e-mail. A reputable breeder will send you a contract before the sale is made..a legally binding contract.
Great point. I talked with Bella's breeder (both husband and wife) on the phone many times before I went ahead with the purchase. They asked me A TON of questions about myself, my family and my home. This reassured me that they really cared about where she was going. They also sent photos of her parents, grandparents, and littermates - all before I had ever finalized my decision to get her. There was never any pressure from them that I HAD to make a decision right away or that "someone else was interested in her so I better hurry and commit." Clearly, they wanted the right home for her and the right pup for me.

When I went to meet her and decided that she was "the one", they had all of her paperwork (vet record, AKC paperwork, contract, billl of sale), all in order and ready for me. It was very professional. They took down all my contact information as well as asked me for an emergency contact so that if for some reason they could not get hold of me, they would have a way to track me down. I was pretty impressed.

I think you are extremely brave for sharing your experience. I applaud you and know that it will help other unsuspecting people. I'll be praying something wonderful happens for you very soon.
 

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Dear Emily, I love you with all my heart. Thank you for your kind heart in sharing a story, that was so difficult for you, but will help so many others. Bless you sweetheart.

Emily, good for you, for being perisistent with the one who you have been in contact the whole time. And good for you, for moving to the next step.

The one thing I BEG you to do, is NOT, meet the man, if he or anyone suggest that, to get the rest of the money. I say that for your safety. Sorry, I am just extra cautious with these things. Even if you have someone with you, still please don't do it this way, I say it out of love.

I am sure there are a number of ways they can get the money to you, without knowing your home address. If they already know it, then they can send it there. If not, perhaps other members can advise you where the return of the money can be sent. But please, do not meet anyone on the roadside.

My heart and love and all our love are with you. Thank you for sharing, what is such a painful story for you, but it will be a blessing to so many and you will have avoided them, having the same heartache.

Love you dearly,
Christine
 

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Emily, I am so sorry you wen through all of this and sad that precious Ella had to suffer! My guess is the mill realized they had parvo and tried sell the puppy before she came down with symptoms. Bottom line, they only care about the money! You are doing the right thing by getting the word out. Your next experience with a sweet angel will most definitely be a better one. Hugs to you as you grieve this terrible loss!

Also to others, it is not always a bad thing not to meet the breeder in person - IF you have the right connections. I was fortunate to have shown my Bichons and had friends in the dog world that I trust completely. I had very specific desires and the breeder met every one of my expectations. I have yet to meet my breeder, Mary ann Paul, (Petite Maltese in Tampa) but we have talked extensively and she is always there for me.

Again, I am so sorry for your loss!
 

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Emily, thank you for sharing your story. Even with all the red flags these beautiful puppies pull at our heart strings and can lure us into making purely emotional decisions even against our better judgement. This is why all these puppy mills are still in business. I hope you will continue to share your story, shoot, shout it from the roof tops! I think people just don't know what really goes on behind closed doors. Don't realize how much that "bargain" puppy is really going to cost them in the end. I hope you get your money back from these horrible people. Please search and see if you can find a way to leave a negative review for the breeder or broker or website where you purchased her from. And keep your chin up. Your next puppy will be beautiful and healthy, I know the SM members will guide you!
 

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I don't know about St. Louis but her in Louisville we have a reporter called the "trouble shooter" he handles cases like this. Getting the info out to the public might be a good idea.
Here in Columbus, Ohio we have 10 On Your Side... It would take a story, such as yours and investigate and post it on the news!!!
 

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Emily - I've said from the beginning that your story would be very interesting to the local news media. Now that you've written what happened, send a copy of it to your local stations and newspaper - you've written things so well that their work is practically done for them. It's especially good for an investigative or consumer type reporter.
 

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Great point. I talked with Bella's breeder (both husband and wife) on the phone many times before I went ahead with the purchase. They asked me A TON of questions about myself, my family and my home. This reassured me that they really cared about where she was going. They also sent photos of her parents, grandparents, and littermates - all before I had ever finalized my decision to get her. There was never any pressure from them that I HAD to make a decision right away or that "someone else was interested in her so I better hurry and commit." Clearly, they wanted the right home for her and the right pup for me.

When I went to meet her and decided that she was "the one", they had all of her paperwork (vet record, AKC paperwork, contract, billl of sale), all in order and ready for me. It was very professional. They took down all my contact information as well as asked me for an emergency contact so that if for some reason they could not get hold of me, they would have a way to track me down. I was pretty impressed.

I think you are extremely brave for sharing your experience. I applaud you and know that it will help other unsuspecting people. I'll be praying something wonderful happens for you very soon.
I know your pup came from Texas who is the breeder?
 

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Emily, thank you so much for taking the time to try to educate others through your mistakes. It is very difficult and sometimes embarrassing to admit our mistakes. I’m so impressed that even through your grief, you are able to reflect so wisely to educate others.
I lived in Missouri most of my life, (am now on the Kansas side of the greater Kansas City area), and what many people may not know is that Missouri is the number one state for puppy mills. Even though voters in Missouri recently passed a law that would require certain minimum standards be met by all breeders, the congressmen of Missouri bowed to pressure from lobbyists and overturned the law!!!!!!! The last time I was in California, I walked into a pet store that sold puppies. Every one of them was Missouri.
It does sound like the person you dealt with was a broker. They often serve as the middlemen for puppy mills and buyers.
Most people I meet are uneducated as to how to buy a puppy. I have many friends that have purchased puppies from a high end pet boutique here. They are misled into thinking it is a reputable place to buy a dog because it is owned by a vet. Another teacher at my school recently went online and bought a maltese. Until I found SM, I didn’t know how to find a reputable breeder either. Thank heaven, I was one of the lucky ones that found this site months before actually purchasing a puppy.
Emily, I’m so sorry your mistake ended in tragedy. Many of us get lucky….we make the same mistakes as other people, but have a good outcome. I admire your bravery and know that your crusade to help educate others will help your heart to heal. :wub:
 

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Emily, this is a great post! Thank you! I also know the heartache of losing a pup. I am so sorry for your loss.
 
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