Imported Pets a Growing Business in U.S.

Many people don't know they're buying an imported pup with health problems.

ByABC News via logo
February 6, 2009, 8:34 PM

Dec. 17, 2007 — -- Americans were outraged earlier this year when imported pet food made hundreds of pets sick. But what if you found out that thousands of puppies are imported from Eastern Europe, South America and Mexico, and they're already sick when they get here?

Man's best friend is also big business. Cameras caught a dognapper in Southern California stealing 22 puppies from a pet store. He did it because the dogs were worth about $30,000.

The Humane Society of the United States helped rescue close to 900 dogs from a Virginia puppy mill. The breeder was unlicensed and agreed to surrender them, losing about half a million dollars in revenue.

Some people look into a puppy's big brown eyes and see green, and now some in foreign countries want a piece of the action.

"We're seeing tens of thousands of these animals coming in, produced on puppy mills in foreign countries, sold in the United States often through Internet sites and we're seeing them treated like things and commodities," said Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States.

When alerted of a shipment, the Department of Agriculture inspects the conditions of puppies arriving at U.S. ports. The department took pictures of inhumane conditions, including a carrier meant for one dog with a makeshift shelf to hold multiple puppies and plastic bags around dog crates that ended up suffocating the animals.

Chad Mullins bought a bulldog pup named Otis as a surprise engagement gift for his girlfriend, Lisa Lekowski.

But the surprise turned to shock when Otis started developing health problems he had worms and trouble breathing. As time wore on, Otis developed pneumonia and heart problems.

Mullins and Lekowski now believe Otis was imported.

"We had an appointment with the cardiologist, which he never made it to, because he passed away," Lekowski said.

Otis lived for eight months after the engagement surprise and died on Mullins' birthday.