Lehigh Valley

Be aware of health dangers from backyard puppy breeders

*Video contains some graphic images*

"We just lost my Golden Retriever and I was interested in another dog that didn't shed," said Pam Aydelotte.

"This dog was so sweet and we were just over the moon with a new puppy," described Linda Mosser.

This past summer Bucks County's Linda Mosser and Wildwood New Jersey's Pam Aydelotte spent $1,500 for sheepadoodle puppies after seeing online ads showing puppies. The ads were posted online by Easton's Warren Austin, a backyard breeder.

"About three weeks after we got him, I asked my vet why he was so bowlegged. Then we noticed he started getting calluses on the side of his feet," described Aydelotte.

"They said there's no enamel on her teeth and the ones that are there are all broken. Then she had a misalignment of her jaw," Mosser said.

After six months and thousands of dollars in vet bills later, Aydelotte made the agonizing decision to put her dog, Moo, out of his misery.

She said the loss of Moo was harder emotionally wise, rather than financially. 

"He was special to us," she said.

Around the same time, Mosser and her husband were having similar issues with their pup Rosie.

Both dogs were diagnosed with an autoimmune disease, never before found in sheepadoodles.

Mosser, who also spent thousands in vet bills, had to put Rosie down six weeks after she and her husband got her.

Both women blame Austin.

"This is big business for him and he's selling sick puppies. I don't want anyone to go through what we just did," Mosser said.

The women connected over Facebook and found others who bought dogs from Austin, who were either very sick or had to be euthanized.

"If that is happening from dogs you're breeding, what do you say to those people?" 69 News Reporter Bo Koltnow asked Austin.

"What can you say?" He responded.

"You tell me."

"I can't say anything because I have the same emotions about my dogs," he said.

Austin says he found out only recently that his stud sheepadoodle has a defective gene that causes mutations.

However, both Aydelotte and Mosser don't buy that he only just found out.

Austin also admitted at least one of his litters was interbred by the stud and his mother.

"These unlicensed kennels have virtually no regulation," said Krysten Donmoyer.

Donmoyer, the Director of Pennsylvania's Bureau of Dog Law Enforcement, says any breeder with more than 26 dogs in a calendar year must have a license. This opens them up to strict inspections and regulations.

If caught, backyard breeders are subject to fines and penalties.

"If they come in and they cite someone and they're convicted for animal cruelty, that will prohibit them from ever getting a kennel license with our department," Donmoyer said.

"From what I've been able to speak to people they say you've bred 32 dogs this year?" Koltnow said to Austin.

"It's not correct," he said.

Austin says he doesn't' know how many he's had this year, which highlights the problem.

Donmoyer said her budget depends on sales of dog licenses and her staff has shrunk from 90 to 61 in recent years. This, she says, makes it harder to prove and convict backyard breeders.

She does rely on the public and social media to help track them. Donmoyer does say Austin is under investigation.

But all sellers licensed or not must provide customers with puppy lemon law info, which ensures the pup has a clean bill of health at the time of sale.

Austin said he did this. Those we spoke to say otherwise.

As for Aydelotte and Mosser, they just want to raise awareness..

"Do not believe what they say until you find other people that have dogs from them," Aydelotte said.

Austin still has 10 pups to sell and promises they'll be healthy. His vet did say she is checking in on the pups and there's a decent chance the pups have the mutation gene.

She said Austin needs to tell customers that health issues could manifest in the future. Austin points out that over years he's had many happy customers and says he's done breeding dogs.

"So you are done breeding dogs?" Koltnow asked.

"I said that before didn't I?" he said.

"So that means you're done?"

"I'm done," Austin said.

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