In Irvine, California, a woman faces multiple charges of animal cruelty after allegedly setting up a fake dog rescue organization and selling puppies that were too young or sick. Megan Ann Hoechstetter was arrested on Friday after the Irvine Police Department stated she sold a sick puppy that died one week later to a local family. At least four other puppies sold to families or individuals have also died.
“So she was advertising these animals online and selling them for hundreds of dollars apiece. She would find the customers that way, and she would then take these animals and sell them to people in parking lots and public places,” stated police spokesperson Kim Mohr.
Authorities have not determined where the puppies were came from, however when they entered a hotel in Cypress where Hoechstetter had been living, 13 puppies were found. Another six puppies were rescued by Animal Services from a separate location. It is believed Hoechstetter obtained the puppies from Mexico. At this time it is still unknown how many more sick and dying puppies have already been sold to families. All 19 puppies, who are about 8 to 10 weeks old, are currently in the care of the Irvine Animal Care Center and receiving treatment. Authorities said the puppies will not be available for adoption at this time because of their fragile health.
Authorities are reminding everyone interested in getting a dog to be careful and be suspicious towards any group only communicating online. Meet the breeder, go to their home where the parents of the puppies can be seen. Interact with the puppies. Check for cleanliness and the condition of the puppy’s parents. Ask for veterinarian records.
In California, it is against the law to sell a puppy younger than eight-weeks of age. Hoechstetter is facing multiple felony and misdemeanor charges. Any victims or people with more information relating to this case are asked to contact Animal Services Supervisor Kim Cherney at 949-724-7091 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
(Photos of fake dog rescue screenshot via Irvine PD and Irvine Animal Care Center.)