A Southern California woman has been accused of running a fake rescue organization and selling sick puppies to unsuspecting families.
Megan Ann Hoechstetter, 42, was charged Monday with 20 misdemeanor counts of keeping an animal without proper care and two misdemeanor counts of animal abuse by a caretaker, according to the Orange County district attorney's office. She is scheduled to be arraigned April 28 in Newport Beach.
The Irvine Police Department launched an investigation into Hoechstetter's fake organization, Pawlosophy, in January when they received a report from a family saying their puppy named Bailey died from parvovirus just eight days after they adopted the animal from her.
On Jan. 11, police contacted Hoechstetter as she was selling six puppies from the trunk of her vehicle, according to the district attorney's office. Police later searched her hotel room in Cypress, where they found 13 sick puppies, prosecutors said.
Hoechstetter was arrested after the discovery, police said.
The Irvine Police Department's Animal Services unit removed 19 puppies from the hotel and Hoechstetter's vehicle, authorities said. Nine puppies have been nursed back to health and were made available for adoption Wednesday.
Police later discovered that 155 people had purchased sick puppies from Hoechstetter. Authorities said Hoechstetter abused and neglected more than 100 puppies from March 21, 2014, to March 1 this year.
According to prosecutors, Hoechstetter advertised puppies through her website and claimed she was running an animal rescue operation. However, Hoechstetter's business was not a legitimate rescue organization, police said.
Authorities believe she may have acquired the puppies from Mexico and sold each 8-week-old puppy for $400.
Hoechstetter apparently knew that the puppies were sickly and that they did not have proper veterinary care, but she still failed to disclose the infections to families buying the dogs, according to the district attorney's office. The puppies suffered from viral and parasitic infections, including coccidia, giardia and parvovirus.
Authorities said 30 dogs died or had to be euthanized after they were adopted. Most of the dogs suffered from severe diarrhea.
Anyone interested in adopting one of the nine puppies that were rescued is urged to call Irvine Animal Care Center Supervisor Jim Warren at (949) 724-7162. To view photos of the puppies, visit the center's website.