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Man, woman arrested on animal cruelty, fraud charges at 'puppy mill'

Michael Mendez, Shelby White operated business at residence in Vero Beach, Indian River Sheriff's Office says
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Posted at 9:09 PM, Dec 06, 2022
and last updated 2022-12-07 12:13:55-05

VERO BEACH, Fla. — A man and woman were arrested on charges of animal cruelty and fraud after a four-month investigation of a "puppy mill" in deplorable and unsanitary conditions, the Indian River County Sheriff's Office said Tuesday.

In "Operation Blues Clues," deputies arrested Michael Mendez, 26, and Shelby White, 25, on Friday on numerous charges at their residence in Vero Beach. Their first appearances were Tuesday.

"It had all the characteristics found in rescue-hoarder situations, whereas a puppy mill is defined as 'an establishment that breeds puppies for sale, typically on an intensive basis and in conditions regarded as inhumane,' the sheriff's office posted on Facebook.

After a search warrant was conducted at the home, two dogs were found living in deplorable conditions.

"The home was full of animal waste and the animals were living in inhumane conditions," Deputy Bobby Gage said.

The arrest report listed nine cases involving dogs dating to Sept. 10, 2020.

The report said Gage met with Indian River County Animal Control officers Jeff West and Eric Hummel on July 26 "in reference to fraudulent puppy sales." He was provided with numerous "victims buying puppies that were either not as advertised, in poor health, sold before they were 8 weeks old, or with no or fraudulent FL Certificates of Health."

Mendez and White listed puppies for sale via roadside signs throughout the Treasure Coast and Space Coast, according to the Indian River County Sheriff's Office. They also made "for sale" posts on and Craigslist.

After the sale, victims would soon learn their new puppy was not full-bred as advertised, sick and/or had its hair dyed a different color to match the breed listed for sale, deputies said.

The Indian River County Sheriff's Office said multiple victims have already come forward but it is believed there are many others. Anyone who may have purchased a puppy from Mendez or White that was not as advertised, sick or without a proper health certificate is asked to call the agricultural/marine unit at 772-978-6240 and reference case No. 2022-81715.

Bonds were set at $185,000 for Mendez and $91,000 for White. Their arraignment is scheduled for Jan. 12.

Charges include felony animal neglect and selling a dog without a certificate of veterinary inspection.

Deputies didn't say where the dogs were taken.