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Simi Valley animal shelter owner investigated after parvo reports

January 1, 2013 12:00:00 AM PST
The owner of an animal shelter in Simi Valley is under investigation after several animals from the shelter reportedly caught parvo. Two puppies at the shelter have died.

Marilyn Condit is devastated. Within days of getting her puppy, Gidget, for Christmas last week, it was obvious something was wrong.

"She wasn't playing anymore, she was just laying there. She wouldn't even lift her head up, she couldn't eat, she was vomiting," said the Burbank resident.

As it turns out, Gidget was suffering from pneumonia, parasites and parvo, an intestinal virus which can be fatal for puppies.

"They get it from another dog," said Pavlina Burpee, a veterinarian. "They get it through fecal, a small amount, it can be almost undetectable amount, and they just have to lick the paw, or lick that surface, and they get the parvo virus."

Condit believes Gidget contracted the virus from the Healing Hearts Animal Rescue in Simi Valley, a place where the Ventura County Humane Society believes nearly two dozen dogs and cats infected with parvo have been sold.

"We did come to the store Friday, found sick animals, the owner was not at the store at the time, we spoke to her by phone and required she get vet care for the animals within 24 hours," said John Brockus with the Ventura County Humane Society.

The humane society says the owner did not get the animals the needed medical care, and when the officers returned the next day, two dead puppies were found inside the store.

Eyewitness News was unable to reach the owner of Healing Hearts, and the humane society says she is now under investigation and could face criminal charges.

Officials with the Ventura County Humane Society say situations like Gidget's happen more often than not. Individuals purchase dogs and cats from various shelters for a nominal fee and then resell them for hundreds of dollars each.

They say the problem with this rescue operation is the puppies were kept in cages together and not vaccinated. When new owners took them home, many animals got sick and some even died within days.

The two cats and 17 puppies impounded from the shelter are now receiving intensive treatments for parvo at various vet clinics. Some may survive, some may not.

As for Gidget, doctors say she has a 50/50 chance.

"It's just heartbreaking," said Condit. "She's just so little, and she's just 11 weeks old and she can't even lift her head, and I'm just so made at that woman."

Condit says she's already spent about $3,000 treating her new puppy.

The Ventura County Humane Society says it's still unclear exactly what criminal charges the owner of that pet rescue could face. They also say they are continuing to receive more calls about sick pets adopted from that store.