Thursday, March 23, 2006
Black market puppies crossing southern border
People will do most anything for a buck. That's one reason why border smuggling is so prevalent. But while most of us are familiar with stories of human beings and drugs being smuggled across the border, I wasn't quite so familiar with another type of smuggling...that of puppies.

Smugglers are going to puppy farms in Mexico, where they are able to buy very young and often very sick puppies for a low price. They then gamble they won't be stopped at the border. Once they get into the United States, they place want ads and sell the puppies for a huge markup in arranged meeting places to people who think they're getting a good deal.

But it is illegal in some places, such as California, to sell puppies under eight weeks old. And what often happens is the people who buy these very young puppies see them get sick very quickly.

We spent time going undercover with puppy sellers in Mexico who wanted to sell us 6-week-old ill-looking puppies. We then watched police conduct a sting operation to arrest a woman they claim makes a living by selling young, sick puppies in California. And we spent time with two families who bought puppies on the street for their children, only to see the dogs die in a matter of days.

The story is very sad and increasingly prevalent, according to U.S. authorities and human society officials. Small dogs are trendy right now, and when people see a sad puppy on the street, sometimes their better instincts leave them and they decide to buy them. And that is what is leading to an increase in this puppy black market.
Posted By Gary Tuchman, CNN Correspondent: 2:48 PM ET
  52 Comments
This is the very reason we have animal shelters. In addition to rescuing unwanted pets, they provide a very valuable service in making sure these animals are healthy before finding them responsible homes. Anyone who feels inclined to buy a puppy "off the street" should remember that they are supporting this reprehensible market and instead should visit their local animal shelter to not only see what healthy animals need homes, but also to report anyone selling a puppy on the street.
Posted By Anonymous Roxanne, Falls Church City, VIrginia : 3:23 PM ET
Thanks so much for doing this story. Millions of dogs and cats are in U.S. pet shelters waiting for homes or being euthanized. Then there's this. Maybe your report telling people that this smuggling goes on is one way to help stop it. Please follow up with future reports to let us know what happens.
Posted By Anonymous Lenore Krasner, Chicago, Illinois : 3:30 PM ET
Can't the Mexican government stop this or is it "whatever goes" there as far as making money off of the United States? These poor animals are just used and thrown away. We just have to stop this cruelty to animals.
Posted By Anonymous Penelope - Hilton Head, SC : 3:31 PM ET
At least people have the ability, even if not practiced, to prevent the abuses rampant in coming over the border illegally. These poor animals have no choice. That being said, caveat emptor, is still the rallying cry for the day - you get what you pay for. If the deal seems too good to be true - it just may be.
Posted By Anonymous Kristen (Columbus, Ohio) : 3:31 PM ET
These people should be ashamed of themselves for irresponsibly breeding these little pups and encouraging cruelty to animals. There are tens of thousands of healthy dogs in animal shelters nationwide who NEED homes. Maybe those who want "trendy, small dogs" should re-evaluate their morals on the subject; do they want the responsibility of a living animal, or just a fashion accessory a la Paris Hilton's Tinkerbell?
Posted By Anonymous denise, belmar NJ : 3:33 PM ET
I am more worried about the other things being shipped across the border ilegally, like people and drugs. Who really cares about the puppies?...just make me a coat out of them and ship that across the border... it would give PETA something to protest about.
Posted By Anonymous Brant, Madison Wisconsin : 3:36 PM ET
How incredibly heartbeaking! It should be such a joy for a child to receive a pet - not a nightmare! It makes my sick that people can be so greedy to take that joy away from a child, and that their greed can overshadow being humane to these poor animals. I hoped they are stopped!
Posted By Anonymous Victoria Pittsburgh, PA : 3:39 PM ET
Sick, sick, sick. Stick those people in the worst jails in their country & let them rot!
Posted By Anonymous Cassandra, Wspt CT : 3:41 PM ET
Hi Gary,
As you stated in your post, Puppies, are not the only thing crossing our border. We all hear this everyday and do nothing..Maybe we should all stop complaining and take a good look in the mirror. Actions, have always spoken louder than words. If there is no market for a commodity, whether it be a sweet puppy, or anything else, it ends..Take Care
Posted By Anonymous Lorie Ann , Buellton,Calif. : 3:42 PM ET
This is very sad, and I think that it points to a widespread lessening of respect and value for life--people, animals and the environment. Of course, it's important to ask what conditions exist and are created that lead people to do this, but such discussion will give no comfort to these creatures in the here and now. Thank you for covering this issue.
Posted By Anonymous Candice, Iowa City, IA : 3:47 PM ET
This is a really disturbing situation. What a horrible way to make a buck.
Posted By Anonymous Jennifer , Durham, NC : 3:47 PM ET
My heart aches when I think of the puppies who are not getting proper medical treatment. This is just as bad as using Labrador Puppies as target training for fighting Pit Bulls. It sickens me to the core. Anyone who does this sort of thing is as bad as a child molester in my eyes, regardless of age, ethnicity,socio-economic class or gender. These are the kind of people that are truly evil and should be put to death. Shame! Shame! Shame!
Posted By Anonymous WDesroche, Jupiter, Florida : 3:48 PM ET
I have actually seen this taking place on the streets of San Diego. On most weekend nights there are people selling puppies (for cash) outside the downtown bars and restaurants. I've often wondered where the dogs come from. The Mexican border is only a few miles away...
Posted By Anonymous Craig, San Diego, CA : 3:49 PM ET
Hey people, Wake up.
No one cares about puppies and kittens when there's a profit involved. Those of us who put so many hours of effort into supporting things like the Humane Society and the SPCA get no support from the current administration and their lackeys in Congress. Until we get them out of power, we have no way to stop this despicable use of innocent lives for profit. When was the last time our government did anything to help animals? When was the last time our government did anything to help oil-companies increase profits?
Our morals at the highest levels are just too screwed-up.
Posted By Anonymous Chris Kovalesky Orange,CA : 3:50 PM ET
Nothing disgusts me more then cruelty to animals. It makes me sick to know that these innocent little creatures are suffering just so someone can make a buck. This problem is all over, is isn't limited to Mexican smugglers. Look at puppy mills and pet stores right here in the US. Selling animals that often become ill and required hundreds even thousands of dollars in medical care. Most die long before their time. When we will start treating animals with the same love and respect they give to humans.
Posted By Anonymous Abby Knoxville, TN : 3:51 PM ET
I thought I had see and heard it all when I started to research Puppy Mills - which are extremly inhumane and should be shut down immediatly. But this story just tops the cake! I can't believe that people would actually buy a pet like that, let alone someone selling one!! This has really hit home and I hope that there is something that we can do about the whole "sick puppy" ring in America. Thank you for bringing this situation to light and I hope that you are able to follow this issue in the future.
Posted By Anonymous Erica, New York City, NY : 3:51 PM ET
This is a horrible state of affairs. As if the United States doesn't have enough of an over population of unwanted, sickly and abused puppies already! Now the swinging door that is the border between the U.S. and Mexico is giving us more: more puppies, illegal aliens and drugs? When will this nightmare end?
Posted By Anonymous D. Evans, N. Beach, MD : 3:51 PM ET
Thank you for posting this. People need to know the truth about what is going on.

These puppies cannot speak for themselves, and it is up to us to do it for them.

It is so upsetting to see the images of these innocent animals suffer such extreme abuse and neglect.

The world must become educated on what they are perpetuating by purchasing animals off the black market.

Most Americans do not even know what a puppymill is an where there purchased puppy is coming from, namely the cute puppies displayed at pet stores.
Posted By Anonymous Elizabeth, Ridgleland, MS : 3:54 PM ET
People have no shame. Once again, this comes back to lax border security between Mexico and CA. We import trash (in various forms of crminial activity) from Mexico and it's lucrative for the perps. So let's ask, why is import of illegal activity so prevalent? Because it's so so easy. You almost can't blame these people. Our government lays out the red carpet for them... if you want to see where the red carpet is, it starts just north of Tijuana.
Posted By Anonymous Sylvia, Portland, OR : 3:56 PM ET
That people would use loving and innocent creatures such as puppies for their financial gain is reprehensible to say the least.

Public awareness of this issue would help to curb it, along with the announcement that puppies should only be purchased from reputable breeders. Any other such puppy sales should be brought to the attention of local animal shelters and/or animal control officials. That way the illegitimate puppy sellers will not profit from this abuse. It would help to end this misery.
Posted By Anonymous Rod Thornton, Oakland CA : 3:59 PM ET
Thank you for your indepth article. This so sad on many levels for the animals first and foremost, the people who buy these dogs to watch them die or infect their healthy pets when they bring them home. The penalty for these animal related crimes needs to be stiffened if they get a fine oh well the cost of doing business. Put them in jail with a fine they might reconsider.
Posted By Anonymous Robin Toronto, Ontario : 4:00 PM ET
This is just one more reason why there must be a North American pact that universalizes higher standards in everything from pet stores to education to minimum wage.
Posted By Anonymous Mel; Stockbridge, Georgia : 4:00 PM ET
The irony here is in many cases, people are paying thousands for sick purebred puppies with dubious breeding and backgrounds, when they could be getting a puppy of the same breed with Champion-titled sire and dam from a responsible US breeder for far less. Many responsible breeders sell their puppies with a minimum two-year health guarantees against genetic defects, some even offer lifetime guarantees.

It's a shame that people don't put as much research into getting pets as they do into getting cars. And many times, pets are with us longer. How many of us have pets that we've had longer than we've had our current vehicle? I know I do.
Posted By Anonymous Michelle, Auburn, Alabama : 4:01 PM ET
The problem is that when looking at other cultures we inadvertently project our values and morals onto them as a way of wrongfully judging their progression. Not withstanding that this way of thinking is essentially flawed, we find it easy to point and comment on what we perceive to be a culture's retarded advancement if their values do not agree with ours. However, I think we tend to do that because we don't want to see it in ourselves as being capable of those same actions that we are so quick to judge.

I've seen this story in the local news here in California. The story centered on the puppies' poor health due to their breeders not taking proper care of them. It also blamed US buyers for creating a demand and being somewhat responsible for the puppies' well being. In the story they showed footage of sick and malnourished puppies. Some of them had even died. They also interviewed some of the US buyers and made them out to be horrible and socially irresponsible people.

Before I state my opinion on this let me make it clear that I do not own any pets. With that being said, I took a completely different view to the story. The way I saw it, the reporters were more concerned for the puppies' health than for that of the breeders. In other words, they care more about an animal than a human being. Remember, we are talking about Mexico. There aren't exactly a lot of job opportunities there. So it's quite possible that for these breeders there is no other source of income. So they either breed puppies and take care of them at a standard that is lower than what we as Americans deem as appropriate, or these breeders possibly go without a meal or maybe even forgo proper care of their own children's health because they don't have a sufficient source of income. Seriously, this could quite possibly be the only way the breeders can provide for their families.

I also took a different angle on the American buyers. Because of these Mexican breeders, some Americans were able to get the breed of dog they wanted for hundreds of dollars less. They were able to save money and still get a breed of dog they wanted, which perhaps they might not have been able to afford if they had to buy one in the US. Maybe their little son or daughter has been begging them for a particular kind of dog and this is the only way they could make their wish come true (I'm not saying that kids should be spoiled).

Finally, this is going to make me really unpopular, what is so wrong about a few sick puppies living in what Americans deem a sub-standard living situation for dogs? I know they showed footage of a few dead puppies, but look deep down inside yourself and ask what is so terrible about a few dead dogs? Would we feel sorry for them if they were rats, crows, possums, cows, chickens, or a countless number of different animals? No. Do you know there are over 100,000 cows slaughtered in the US every day? Yet cows are considered holly in India. Maybe we have it wrong. We only feel bad because in the US dogs are pets. You might already know this, but in some countries they are food. That's right, dogs are food, and it's perfectly legal.

I want to finish with the following summary to make sure that I'm not misunderstood. Yes, I find it sad to see dead puppies. Yes, I wish they were better taken care of. But am I going to take away what might be a person's only source of income because of it? No.

What I find more disturbing is the thousands of dollars that some people spend on their pet's medical bills. Never mind there are millions of people around the world, including the US, that are starving. But maybe it's easy for me to feel this way because I have never owned a pet myself.
Posted By Anonymous Matias, Long Beach, CA : 4:01 PM ET
Brant from Madison, Wisconsin should be immediately deported to Iraq and made responsible for finding and disarming ALL IED's. No further comment needed.
Posted By Anonymous Chris Kovalesky Orange,CA : 4:04 PM ET
PUT THE HEAT ON YOUR ELECTED REPRESENTATIVES TO ADD THIS TO THE LIST OF REASONS WE NEED TO STOP ILLEAGLE IMMIGRATION AND THE NEED FOR BORDER CONTROL.
Posted By Anonymous PATTI LAGUNA BEACH CA : 4:05 PM ET
Where I live in South Texas, people selling puppies on the roadside is sadly too common. As a PETA member and animal protector, I believe that educating people about puppy smuggling and even puppy mills will help to curtail this problem by exposing the cruel nature of selling a living, sentient being for profit. People need to be informed that millions of unwanted animals are euthanized at animal shelters due to lack of good homes. Shelter animals are the best option because they are healthy. If an animal is sick even after medical attention, it is euthanized.
Posted By Anonymous Jessica Garcia, Brownsville, TX : 4:06 PM ET
While we're at it, people buying from pet stores are getting a bad deal too (most of the puppies come from puppy mills). People need to realize they are getting ripped off when they get a pet from anyone but a reputable breeder or an animal shelter!
Posted By Anonymous Carrie, Greeley, CO : 4:07 PM ET
I am outraged at the heartlessness of these people. How can people take something like an innocent, scared little puppy and use its life to make a buck? This is incredibly sickening and I'm so glad that you are exposing this crime on television.
Posted By Anonymous Kristy Waco, Texas : 4:09 PM ET
It's great that you're giving attention to this horrific practice.
Hopefully you'll stay with the story, and impact some changes.
Animal abuse is a global problem, including the fur trade from China.
Please keep doing stories like this so more people become aware of the reality.
Posted By Anonymous Sylvia Glover, Washington DC : 4:10 PM ET
Smuggling puppies is just like with drugs and children/prostitutes -- as long as there is a market for it here in the U.S., then someone is going to risk bringing them across for the profit involved.

That's so sad.
Posted By Anonymous Linda, Boulder, Colorado : 4:13 PM ET
Thank you for doing this story. Recently I also heard about drug smugglers using these puppies for transporting drugs.. they open the dogs abdomen and stick bags of drugs there and then you know the rest...
Keep up the great work!
Posted By Anonymous CreekerMom, Louisville, KY : 4:15 PM ET
This is just another disgusting example of depravity among the desperate poor who sneak into the U.S. Until we can address the global issue of poverty, things like this will continue to happen. Sealing our border would help a lot, but the underlying issue is still there.
Posted By Anonymous Hillary, Denver, CO : 4:17 PM ET
It never ceases to amaze me that people want something for nothing, or in this case, almost nothing and these puppies are paying for it with their lives.

All this to satisy our sense of vanity.
Posted By Anonymous Liz, Montgomery, AL : 4:18 PM ET
This is the fault of the American public, not the Mexicans. This country is so obsessed with having "the best" of everything, name brands, and status symbols. I hate to sound judgmental, and I know this will offend many, but if you really want a pet, it shouldn't matter the breed or pedigree. There are so many animals that need homes. All of my pets came from shelters or my doorstep. They have been equally wonderful, loving companions. The breeders are simply taking advantage of our need to have "specialized" pets. It's economics, although I am not defending their actions. If we weren't so in need of designer pets, there would not be a market to over breed these animals and smuggling wouldn't be a problem. Wake up people. You are a big part of the problem. Be part of the solution and adopt a needy, wonderful animal from a shelter.
Posted By Anonymous Paige B., Austin, TX : 4:18 PM ET
First, have any of you been to Mexico? These people are poor. They do whatever they can to feed their family. If you want to stop this practice of selling dogs, give them some other means to feed their family. Don't condemn them, just don't buy the puppy. No market-no problem. Did you raise this much fuss over illegal people transporting across the border in which PEOPLE died? I love dogs very much but you must set your priorities.
Posted By Anonymous Chris, San Jose, CA : 4:21 PM ET
What needs to star happening is the people who bring these animals across the border should be prosecuted and locked up in a prison cell that will give them the perspective of the very animals they are selling... from behind bars. We can't prosecute the people running the mills but we could report and prosecute the people bringing these poor creatures over here. The lows some human beings will sink to still amaze me... makes you think... who is the real animal, the dogs or the heartless people selling them!!!
Posted By Anonymous Kris - Augusta, GA : 4:22 PM ET
This is greed on the Mexico side and a "something-for-nothing" attitude on the US side. Spay & neuter your pets and buy only from a breeder who will give you a health guarantee. A responsible breeder will winnow out those who want a fashion accessory and they will soon lose interest. Others will rescue from shelters and that's great too.
Posted By Anonymous Susan R., Charlotte NC : 4:24 PM ET
I worked the border for Customs and Border Protection at the San Ysidro POE for about 2 years before I moved onward in the federal government to a different agency. This problem is not recent it has been ongoing for the last 3 years. There were numerous times that we intercepted vehicles with dead and severely sick puppies hidden in gloveboxes or squashed under the front seats. However, whats even more disturbing is that not only have we caught puppies in places like this but we have also caught people. For example, people near death because the empty gas tank they were placed in ruptured a man made tube for the alternate fuel source and spewed gas back into the compartment. Imagine being trapped in a tank approximately 18 inches high and having to lay in about 2-4 inches of gasoline, ultimately inhaling fumes for about 2-3 hours and receiving contact burns as you wait in line to get across the border. I am not for illegal immigration, I am simply trying to show you at what length smugglers will go to make a profit. If they have no regard for human life, they surely will have no regard for that of an animal. The southern border is the biggest black hole in the federal government, all the stories and atrocities that happen never seem to reach the public.
Posted By Anonymous Anonymous, Washington DC : 4:24 PM ET
am more worried about the other things being shipped across the border ilegally, like people and drugs. Who really cares about the puppies?...just make me a coat out of them and ship that across the border... it would give PETA something to protest about.

Posted By Brant, Madison Wisconsin : 3:36 PM

It is too bad we can't make a coat out of you. Ignorance is bliss.
Posted By Anonymous Karen, Chicago IL. : 4:31 PM ET
There are many organizations in this country involved with trying to intervene in breeding and selling dogs. Just look up any rescue league, they can be breed specific of which my family belongs to as a foster home"NERR", or there are ones involved with any breed. What they need is the support of people who feel the same way about the mistreatment of animals for profit. There is no need to go to a pet store to find a dog you want, they are medically taken care of with shots etc., they are evaluated before being placed in a home, and most importantly they are neutered in a effort to break this vicious cycle.
Posted By Anonymous Terry Flynn, Townsend, Ma. : 4:33 PM ET
Being the extreme animal lover that I am, that really pisses me off. It breaks my heart. It's times like this that I wish I worked for the government in the Border Patrol Division. I would probably get fired for what I would do to those people that I caught.
Posted By Anonymous B.Duoto, Houston, TX : 4:37 PM ET
Although I believe those who "puppy-smuggle" are inhumane individuals, I have a bit of empathy for them. Think about it: you're some random Mexican trying to support your family, and since you're probably uneducated, you turn to illegal acts to ensure food on the table at night. You do whatever it takes, and that may mean smuggling whatever it may be over the border. These people may feel pain for the puppies, but if it means money, they're there. It's just the way it works, and until these people have better lives, that's the way it will always work. End of story.
Posted By Anonymous Emily, Mendota Heights, MN : 4:38 PM ET
I have no tolerance for abuse to animals. I feel the same way as all these other people that wrote in. Instead of jail for their crimes, bring them to Vermont, throw them in the woods and someone will mistake them for a deer, even in the off season.
Posted By Anonymous Roxanne Stowe Vermont : 4:38 PM ET
Think this is bad Gary?... it sure is! How about a story on Dog Butchers in Korea and elsewhere that tie and dis-locate limbs to imobilize, feed the dog with a can tied to it's snout. Slaughter by bleeding out dog while still alive and then butcher it for human consumption. Now that's a story that needs to be told too!
Posted By Anonymous Steve Wilson, Columbus, Ohio : 4:39 PM ET
As sad as this is, the puppies are getting the better end of the deal. How do you think their mama's back in Mexico are being treated as they produce more and more litters without receiving veterinary care?
Posted By Anonymous Marilyn, Houston, TX : 4:40 PM ET
Brant from Madison, WI should take a look at the big picture. The puppies are also being used to smuggle drugs in. Smugglers are making small incisions in the stomach areas of the dogs, inserting the drugs and then sewing them back up. So, Brant, this should be a concern of yours.
Posted By Anonymous Nicole, Madison, WI : 4:41 PM ET
There are puppy mills in this country selling puppies to pet stores and essentially doing the same thing.
People aren't buying a companion, they're buying an accessory. Even if it lives past puppyhood, when they're tired of caring for it they're just going to dump the poor animal at the local shelter.
Who buys puppies for their kids off the street or out of someone's trunk anyway?
If there weren't a market for it here, it wouldn't be so prevalent.
Posted By Anonymous Sara Wagner, Ann Arbor, MI : 4:47 PM ET
Anytime you buy a dog...or cat, you should take it to the vet right away. There really is no other way to be assured that the animal was taken care of properly to that point. Beyond that, I think anyone with any sense knows puppies shouldn't be taken from their mother at any less than 8 weeks. While this should be stopped, our government is doing nothing about it, so its entirely up to us to not buy them.
Posted By Anonymous James, Galatia, IL : 5:01 PM ET
Animal abuse/neglect or whatever it may be called is simply appauling to say the least, it is a big fat SIN. God created animals for us. We need to get back to the basics, treating others (animal's alike) as we would want to be treated.....it is deplorable to allow this abuse to happen, just as it is just as bad how the government handled Katrina and many other situations. What will it take to wake us up???? The Lord is speaking, but very few are listening. Come on folks, wise up and smell the coffee. If we don't stand up for something - children, pets and adults will continue to be abused. This is a worthwhile story and thank you for bringing it to light. Now let's keep in afloat so it does NOT get put on the back burner. Yes, there are some terrible situations in Mexico as well as other countrys and the US, but, it is low step to abuse the less fortunte and/or those who have no voice......
Posted By Anonymous Anne J., Harrisburg, PA : 5:14 PM ET
This is very cruel, but if these were human beings would we be as willing to reply to this post? We see stories like that going on every day! Everyone is saying how horrible this is, but what about all the other innocent women and children who are sold on the black market for sex? The puppy incident is horrible, but it only demonstrates that the value of any life--human or not--is at risk to this kind of cruelty. And since this is a global issue--stretching beyond our borders-- every government should contribute in any efforts to abolish these acts of cruelty.
Posted By Anonymous Aimee, Rancho Cucamonga, CA : 5:17 PM ET
It's amazing that in the year 2006 we still have folks who want to make a buck off of the misery of other creatures. On many street corners in the middle of the summer, you'll see a cage of puppies who haven't had water in hours simply wanting someone to care about them. The only thing wrong they did was be in line to be born for an owner who is either too cheap to pay to have their animal spayed/neutered or who is trying to make a quick buck and have no conscience. Dogs and cats should not be licensed. Owners should be licensed.
Posted By Anonymous Mike Thornton, Allen, Texas : 5:19 PM ET
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