For three years, Karen Leland looked before she found the one.
"I don't know, Zoey's picture just got me one day," she told the Contact 5 Investigators.
So in 2008, Karen paid nearly $1,500 for the pup she found on buypuppiesdirect.com. The company operates under purebredbreeders.com, one of the nation's largest online puppy sellers. On its website, the company boasts that it opposes puppy mills and offers customers only the best purebred puppies for sale.
"They assured me their breeders all have to go through a process, they were pre-qualified, they were not puppy mills," said Leland.
But just a few days after Zoey arrived from Missouri to her new home in Tequesta, she got sick and became sicker. Zoey died in Karen's arms just one week after they met.
"She howled really loud, twice. She just couldn't make it, there were too many things wrong with her."
Karen later learned Zoey's health records from the breeder weren't complete. Zoey also hadn't received the property vaccinations despite what agents from buypuppiesdirect.com told her.
Karen is now one of nearly a dozen consumers suing purebred breeders and its owner, Jason Halberg. The lawsuit accuses them of unlawful and deceptive practices by selling sick puppies from substandard breeders to consumers nationwide.
"We're going to do our best to put them out of business," said Palm Beach Gardens civil justice attorney Ted Leopold, representing the clients.
"It's all about them making a profit and as a result, they're killing animals, treating them inhumanely and breaking the hearts, as you've seen with Karen, of families."
The Contact 5 Investigators have learned customers, like Karen, aren't the only ones coming forward with concerns about Purebred Breeders.
The Humane Society of the United States spent three months investigating the company and captured video at six of its breeders where dogs were found stacked in wire cages, often in dirty conditions; classic signs, they say, of puppy mills.
Purebred Breeders denies the accusations. A company representative told the Contact 5 Investigators on Wednesday that they do everything they can to ensure their breeders are perfect but some, "fall through the cracks."
It's a case leaving animal experts warning about online puppy buying.
"Go visit the animals, visit the parents of the animals make sure they're healthy, possibly look at pedigree paperwork," advises Captain Dave Wilesky of Palm Beach County Animal Control.
For Karen Leland Zoey is a painful memory, but one she's determined to keep alive.
"I believe everything happens for a reason. I was just picked to be her little helper. If we could help others or prevent these dogs from being born or people's greed reigned in, that would be nice."
The Humane Society urges consumers who purchased a sick puppy from an online seller to fill out a complaint form by visiting . http://www.humanesociety.org/forms/puppy_buyer_complaint_form.html .
Copyright 2011 Scripps Media, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
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