Marisa Soto said she was initially excited to welcome a new puppy into her home as a birthday gift for one of her daughters, but when the dog — and a replacement — died, her exuberance turned into anger.
“We were looking to add another dog into our lives,” she said. “It’s heartbreaking.”
After conducting a web search, Soto, who lives in Staten Island, decided to buy the dog from Shake A Paw in Lynbrook. In early August she bought an 8-week-old Chiweenie — a cross between a Chihuahua and a dachshund — which she and her children, Tristan, 18, Arianna, 15, and Gabriel, 9, named Betty. Soto said she looked forward to adding the puppy to her family, which also included a 15-year-old poodle and a rescue pit bull that is blind and can’t walk.
The puppy started coughing in the car, and the family initially thought it had kennel cough. When Soto got home, the dog had diarrhea, and she called a veterinarian whom Shake A Paw had recommended. When she took her to the vet, she was told that everything should be fine, but the next day, the puppy stopped eating and began vomiting. Soto said she called back, but was told the vet was too busy to see the dog again and that she should take her elsewhere. Three days later, Betty died.
Soto said that when she called Shake A Paw, the employees were apologetic, ex-plained that that was an uncommon occurrence, and offered her a refund or a new puppy free of charge. After a discussion with her children, Soto decided to try again, and they brought home an 8-week-old dachshund, which they named Dottie.
This time, Soto said, she decided to take the dog to a veterinarian closer to home, which has cared for her other dogs. A few days after the purchase, the puppy developed diarrhea, and was taken to the vet and euthanized. Both puppies died of parvo, a highly contagious virus that causes an infectious gastrointestinal illness in puppies and young dogs.
“The first one was really devastating to my daughter and to us because it was sort of shocking,” she said. “We’ve had dogs before, we’ve had puppies before, and that’s not something that has ever happened to us. The second one, I was more angry than anything else.”
A Herald reporter twice contacted Shake A Paw, where an employee took a message each time, but no one from the store had responded by press time.
Soto’s issue comes after the New York state attorney general’s office announced in March 2018 that it was investigating Shake A Paw stores in Lynbrook and Hicksville after receiving 30 complaints from customers across Long Island who said they were sold sick puppies. A representative for the attorney general’s office told the Herald in an email that the investigation was continuing.
The state Department of Agriculture and Markets also received four complaints about the store in 2017, and all were settled. “All four complaints were reviewed by the department and were either resolved or closed,” Lisa Koumjian, the department’s public information officer, told the Herald in 2018. “During the department’s most recent inspection of Shake A Paw, the company was found to be in compliance with the state’s pet dealer regulations.”
When Soto called Shake A Paw after the second puppy died, she said, she was reimbursed for the dog, but the store would not reimburse the $3,000 medical bill she received for the second puppy because, she was told, she took it to a veterinarian other than the one the store recommended. The store also did not refund $600 Soto was charged for puppy supplies, toys, vitamins and a cage.
Soto said she wasn’t angry with Shake A Paw employees, and noted that they were respectful and emotionally supportive. She was, however, upset that she did not get her money back, though she had no plans to pursue the matter further.
“It’s all done,” she said. “I just wanted to be over with it. It was kind of traumatizing.”