Dog with rare congenital condition purchased from Hollywood pet store

Owner saddled with medical bills after purchasing dog from Puppy Palace

JBI Puppy Palace 11p
JBI Puppy Palace 11p

HOLLYWOOD, Fla. – We've all heard the warnings about buying puppies from pet stores. In some cases the dogs are brought in by backyard breeders or purchased from puppy mills.

But as Local 10 News animal advocate Jacey Birch found out, instead of buying food and toys, new owners could be saddled with a sick animal and mounting medical bills.

Kevin Graver always adopted shelter dogs in the past, but not this time.

"We've been going to Puppy Palace in Hollywood probably for the last 20 years, looking at puppies," said Graver. "We went in there one day and we saw Helga, and we fell in love with her so we purchased her."

But the love affair quickly turned into a medical nightmare.

"As soon as we took her home, we noticed something was wrong," Graver said. "It wasn't that she wasn't housebroken yet, it was just that she was, like, leaking all the time."

It was a rare congenital condition called ectopic ureter, where a connection to the bladder is missing.

"She has to have a diaper on constantly, because it's been a year and a half of pee all over the house, and having to wash the bed stuff every day and wet towels," said Graver.

Three surgeries later and the English bulldog still has to be dressed like a baby, kept in a cage and injected with medicine twice a day.

"Even though she went out and peed, there's a long trail of urine here," said Graver. "This is the new antibiotic she's on."

Even with all these efforts, it still may not be enough.

"We've already been told she's going to have a very short life," Graver said. "She's probably going to have infection after infection until she has kidney failure."

"What has your communication with Puppy Palace been like?" asked Birch.

"It was decent in the beginning," Graver said.

When Graver purchased Helga from Puppy Palace, he spent about $1,300. But since then he's paid twenty times that amount just in Helga's medical bills.

"It looks like we paid $5,000 that day," said Graver.

By law, Puppy Palace had to give back the price of the dog, and it did. But Graver is suspicious the pet shop is aware of these reproduction repercussions.

"They know they are breeding unhealthy dogs with medical conditions that will pass on to the puppies, and they breed them anyway," Graver said.

Local 10 went to the pet shop in Hollywood, but nobody wanted to answer our questions.

"I just wanted to ask whoever is in charge about the sick puppies. We're hearing that there are sick puppies that are sold here," Birch said. "Can you just tell me about the accusations that have been made? Do you buy from puppy mills?"

Local 10 was asked to leave. Puppy Palace told Birch it was closed.

"You're closed? Are you closed because we're here?" asked Birch.

"No, not at all," a Puppy Palace employee said.

But problems with Puppy Palace are not new. Protests outside the 25-year-old pet shop, dozens of lawsuits and Better Business Bureau filings have all accused the owners of selling sick puppies and buying from backyard breeders or puppy mills. Even a Yelp review page is filled with complaints.

Hallandale Beach City Commissioner and animal advocate Michele Lazarow is fighting city by city to abolish the retail sale of cats and dogs.

"They are inbred, overbred, they live their lives in squalor, they're sick and they arrive to the stores sick," said Lazarow. "The reason I started this work is because I, in 2004, bought a dog from Puppy Palace. The dog was sick, ultimately, and I had 10 years of medical issues and medical bills, and he died this year."

Florida is leading the way -- 35 municipalities in the state have decided to change the way pets are purchased, changes Graver hopes can come soon and save others from the heartaches he's endured with Helga.

"How do you feel that Helga may have been a puppy mill puppy?" asked Birch.

"I feel awful because she's had a terrible life," Graver said. "If Puppy Palace and all other pet shops can be closed, at least nobody else would have to go through this in the future, which would be a good thing."

Helga had a close call last week, but an emergency vet visit saved her life.

Below is a list of Florida cities banning the retail sale of cats and/or dogs:

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