Swap Shop: Pet shop owner caught peddling dogs in Lauderhill

Local 10 receives calls about puppies crying, being kept in unsanitary conditions

By Jacey Birch - Anchor/Animal Advocate

LAUDERHILL, Fla. - Animals for sale right next to old electronics and knock-off bags -- puppies are being sold at the Swap Shop, but is anyone overseeing these sales or checking on the health of the dogs?

Local 10's Jacey Birch started receiving calls and emails about puppies crying and being kept in unsanitary conditions at the Swap Shop in Lauderhill.

A walk inside the OZ Petshop reveals birds, chickens, chicks and rabbits, but all the way in the back, puppies are for sale, too.

In a cellphone video, the puppies are seen kept in a cage, balancing on grates and forced to sit right over their own urine and feces. With no blanket, no bed and no comfort, the puppies beg for attention.

All of this happened at the back of the Swap Shop under the movie screens.

After the video was made, Birch went back to talk to the owner, bringing along a Local 10 photographer.

"You sell puppies here?" asked Birch.

"Oh, sometimes, not now," said an employee.

"Where do you get the puppies from?" Birch asked.

"I breed them," said the employee.

But this time, there were no puppies in the back and the shop owner was not around.

"Will you have the owner call me so I can ask him about the animals?" asked Birch.

"Yeah," the employee said.

Birch pulled up the OZ Petshop records in Lauderhill. As it turns out, owner Oscar Zepeda was shut down before in 2010 for animal cruelty.

According to the report, "multiple birds and chickens showed signs of abuse and neglect." That September Zepeda was ordered to close due to "permit/licensing code violations."

Zepeda also turned over "a large number" of "his sick and injured birds to the SPCA," or Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. At the time, Zepeda told Lauderhill police he was not aware of the rules and requirements.

Local 10 went back to the OZ Petshop, still trying to talk to the owner.

"When does Oscar come here to the pet shop?" asked Birch.

"I don't know," the employee said.

Local 10 then went to Zepeda's home and his central office but still couldn't find him.

"You have to have paperwork for the animals here to prove that they're vaccinated and they've seen a vet," said Birch. "That's the law so that the animals are properly cared for."

The employee seemed to plead the same ignorance Zepeda did four years ago, even though this is not allowed.

Birch got ahold of the dealer rules contract, and right on the front page it says: "No dogs allowed." Birch then contacted Swap Shop management to show them her videos.

"Are these dogs vetted? Do they have vaccinations? Do they have papers? You know all that is required by law, and I didn't get any proof of that," said Birch. "Nothing, right?"

It turns out Zepeda is not even allowed to sell puppies on the property.

"We're just going to shut him down and not let him open again," a management employee said.

Just like that, OZ Petshop is out of business.

"Do you think he was hiding those dogs in the back so that you wouldn't see them if you came by?" asked Birch.

"Absolutely," the management employee said. "That's why they were all the way in the back on the inside so we can't see them, because they know we check constantly."

Daily checks of more than 2,000 vendors across 88 acres -- it's easy to see how these pups could be peddled quietly.

"Now that I've seen the video, I mean obviously they're going behind our back so we're going to have to handle it differently," said the management employee. "We take very good of our animals, so we want to make sure nobody else is mistreating them."

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