LAKE SAINT LOUIS, Mo. (KMOV.com) -- A local grandmother said it was bad enough when her sweet little Maltese puppy got sick and died. She only had the dog for two weeks. But it was made even worse when the bills kept coming.

Ever since her husband died years ago, Myrna Evert has turned to dogs to keep her company.

“All I got is the dogs and the television,” she said.

Though she already had her dog named Apple, in September, Myrna decided she wanted a pure-bred Maltese.

After a Google search, she discovered a fluffy little puppy at Petland in Lake Saint Louis.

At the store, she was smitten. Evert took the paperwork, brought the little one home and named her Crystal.

But right away, Evert noticed something was wrong.

[RELATED: Puppies may be making people sick, CDC says]

“She just wasn't well, she wasn't like a dog should have been,” said Evert.

Only two weeks after she got Crystal, Evert said, “I picked her up and I started crying because it was like I picked up a stuffed toy.”

At the vet’s office the puppy died. The necropsy determined she had a hereditary disease.

“I think she was dying when I got her,” Evert said.

Devastated, Evert still has Crystal's cremated remains. But that wasn't the only sad reminder of the dog’s short life.

In the mail, Evert kept receiving monthly statements saying she owed more than $2,000.

“I didn't feel like I should pay for a dog that was dead,” Evert said.

Turns out, Evert bought Crystal on a Petland credit card. Once Crystal died, she stopped paying and the bills piled up at a 30% interest rate.

Evert admits she hadn't really read the fine print.

Petland offers a warranty for dogs found to have hereditary or congenital conditions, but instead of a refund, she said she was only offered another puppy. That was something she just couldn't bear.

“That it was hereditary, that it came from the parents and so you don't sell dogs like that, do you? Would you? I wouldn't do it to nobody,” Evert said.

In 2017, News 4 reported on another family, upset after a puppy they purchased at Petland also died. This time it was from a contagious virus, parvo.

[RELATED: Family devastated after dog purchased from Lake St. Louis store suddenly dies]

So News 4 investigates went to the store's owners.

They declined our repeated requests for an on-camera interview, but sent a statement saying: "We are very sorry for Myrna's experience with her puppy. We never want to see that situation occur."

They went on to say Crystal's illness is an "unfortunate situation, but it is rare. “We have seen only a couple cases in the 13 years we have been in business.”

The representative also said: "All pets are examined by up to 3 vets prior to finding a home" and the customer can receive another free vet visit within four days of adoption. They said Crystal's illness, however, may go undiagnosed until the puppy is older.

“It’s a completely different transaction than buying a refrigerator,” said Chris Thetford with the BBB. He said getting a pet is an emotional purchase.

He said they do get complaints against dog breeders and retailers, so consumers need to protect themselves.

“Any part of the bargain that would make them feel more comfortable in a transaction, a consumer should never hesitate to ask. So if you want to ask for vet bills, that's perfectly fine, ask for the vet bills,” he said.

Evert has since gotten another puppy from a different breeder altogether but she said she simply wanted to warn others before getting a new four-legged friend.

“It aggravates me and it upsets me,” she said.

After News 4 talked to Petland, Myrna said they provided her a full refund, something she said she never would have gotten had we not gotten involved.

Petland said they will no longer be getting puppies from the same male and female dogs that Crystal came from but said they may again get puppies from that breeder.

If you are looking for more information on how to protect yourself when getting a pet, you can find it here.

Full statement from Petland:

Q: Can you provide general comment as to Myrna’s situation?

A: We are very sorry for Myrna’s experience with her puppy. We never want to see that situation occur. Myrna’s Maltese puppy, Crystal, was diagnosed with a portosystemic shunt a couple weeks after going home.  It is an unfortunate situation, but it is rare – we have seen only a couple cases in the 13 years we have been in business.  This shunt is possible in all mammals, but, for canines, the Maltese is a breed that is more at risk for such a condition, although the genetic basis of the problem is unknown.

 

Q: What precautions does Petland take to determine if the puppies for sale are healthy and free from congenital defects?

A: All pets are examined by up to 3 veterinarians prior to finding a home.  After going home, the customer receives a free vet visit for an additional examination within 4 days after adoption.  Unfortunately, with a shunt, clinical signs may not manifest until a puppy is older and, thus, would go undiagnosed until those symptoms appeared.

 

Q: The warrant states that a customer will be offered a new puppy if theirs falls sick with a congenital disease? Why that policy and not offering a refund?

A: Correct.  The warranty is written to cover to cover a full 3 years of the puppy’s life.  If a congenital or hereditary defect is discovered during that time, our agreement with our breeders is for a replacement puppy and we offer that same agreement to our customers.  There is no timeframe related to the replacement – they can come the next day or wait until years later.  It’s available to them whenever they are ready. The policy is explicitly stated on the first page of the warranty paperwork and is discussed in detail with the customer prior to signing the agreement, so they are aware of it before taking the puppy home.  That being said, in the unlikely event that a hereditary/congenital issue is found immediately after the puppy goes home, a refund would be possible if the customer requests it – as was the case in Myrna’s situation.

 

Q: How does Petland educate its consumers about the credit card and especially the 30% APR? is that clearly explained to the customers?

A: We have multiple financing options available and the details of the financing are disclosed in 3 phases prior to finalizing the sale.  First, customers are verbally told the terms of all options.  Once approved, a disclosure document is provided to the customer (I have attached one page of the Petland Credit Card agreement that Myrna received for reference). Lastly, the final terms are presented to the customer before signing. Many customers apply for financing prior to coming into the store and already have received the terms online.  The financing companies we use are many of the same companies that you would see in furniture stores, flooring outlets and many other retail establishments, so there is nothing unusual about what we offer.  Additionally, the financing comes with up to 12 months of payments with deferred interest, so the vast majority of customers pay off their loan before the end of the grace period and pay no interest at all.

 

Q: you recently advertised some Maltese puppies online? Did they sell? What breeder did they come from?

A: I’m not exactly sure which puppies you are referencing, but all Petland puppies always find a home.  We get Maltese puppies from a number of different breeders.

Q: Did the store continue using Miller’s Breeding after Myrna’s Maltese died?

A: We have not received any puppies from this breeder since then.  However, a shunt is specific to the puppy and its parents – it is not related to the actions of the breeder. Generally, when a puppy is diagnosed with a shunt, the breeder is notified and that breeder will spay/neuter the parents of the puppy and find them homes.  So, while we would not get another puppy from that same sire and dam, we would continue to work with the breeder if they maintained appropriate standards, including a clean USDA report – which is the case with this particular breeder. 

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