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KFOX14Investigates: City cracking down on illegal pet sales

SA Backyard Breeders STILL (1).png

The city of El Paso is cracking down on the illegal sale of pets in the city.

It can be hard to resist the cute puppies for sale online -- but by buying one, you could be contributing to an illegal business practice growing in the city: backyard breeding.

A quick scroll through Craigslist reveals hundreds of pets for sale in El Paso.

“We see everything,” said a K-9 officer with the Animal Services Unit, Karen Martinez.

But the cute photos don’t always show the whole picture.

Which can be the filthy conditions these pups are raised in.

“Some of the condition are unimaginable. People aren’t seeing what our officers actually see,” said Martinez.

Cracking down on backyard breeding falls to the Animal Services Unit.

“We need a ton of help from the public,” said Martinez.

A majority of these online sellers are breaking the law because they don't have a breeder's permit from the City of El Paso.

They're charging hundreds of dollars for a puppy -- sometimes $500 or more.

According to city ordinance, a single pet can be sold for $50 without a breeder permit, and a maximum of $150 if it's spayed or neutered.

“The more calls, the more information they give us, the better it is for us,” said Martinez.

It's also illegal to sell a puppy or kitten under the age of 8 weeks.

One of those puppies is a foster at Animal Services named Craig.

“His name is Craig because he was bought off of Craigslist,” explained Martinez.

Craig was sold at less than 5 weeks, ripped away from his mother at a critical age.

When he got sick, his new owner took him to the city shelter to be euthanized.

After making a recovery, Craig went to foster care and will hopefully find a new home.

Martinez says a sick animal is just one of the risks you assume when you buy online.

“If they are any younger, you are taking a huge risk,” said Martinez.

When Animal Services investigated the online seller, the number traced back to a burner phone.

Martinez said online sellers are getting sneakier, asking buyers to meet them in the county, outside city limits, using burner phones or phone apps.

But Martinez said they’re not a step ahead. The Animal Services officers are out there.

KFOX14 Investigates pulled the numbers of citations Animal Services officers issued for animal sales without a permit:

2013 - 14 animal sale no permit

2014 - 9 animal sale no permit

2015 - 36 animal sale no permit

2016 - 25 animal sale no permit

The crime carries a maximum fine of almost $2,000.

Plus, they've done some undercover stings.

“They were successful,” said Martinez.

In the last year, El Paso police have also issued about a dozen citations.

Still, that doesn't compare to the dozens of ads posted Wednesday alone.

Martinez says it comes down to manpower.

“We don’t have enough manpower, so we need our citizens to be forthcoming and let us know,” said Martinez.

And there's more that you can do: report online sellers and visit the shelters.

“We have full-bred puppies, we have full-bred dogs, and they come out vaccinated, microchipped, registered. There’s no reason for people to be shopping when you can adopt,” said Martinez.

A breeder's permit costs about $100 and an officer will do a welfare check on the animals 'living conditions.

Breeding is also what is contributing to our overcrowded shelters and high rate of euthanasia, so again -- the city encourages you to adopt and not buy animals online.

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