Dozens of animals were seized from a High Desert man’s home Wednesday after he was accused of running a puppy mill and selling sick puppies for high prices across SoCal.
Officers with the Humane Society of San Bernardino Valley executed a search warrant at the Phelan home of Rick Kenney. The man calls himself a pastor on his Facebook page.
Investigators believe the alleged pastor and his family sold dozens of sick dogs to people all over Southern California. At his Phelan home, dozens of animals were found living in filthy conditions.
"The last that we know was about $1,100 to $1,200 a piece,” Officer Frank Padilla of the Humane Society said.
Investigators said it all began about four years ago when they got several complaints from victims who found puppies for sale on the internet.
According to officers, the victims would then meet Kenney or one of his family members at a parking lot to sell the animals. But days later the puppies would get sick.
"They were diagnosed with parvo. Some of them wouldn't make it after thousands of dollars being spent on vet bills,” Padilla said.
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Canine parvovirus is a contagious virus characterized by vomiting, diarrhea, and weight loss.
When the victim's tried to get a refund, officers say Kenney would stop communicating, or send threatening messages.
Investigators say it’s been a tough case to put together because the Kenneys’ would often use fake names and disposable phones.
During Wednesday’s raid, officers seized more than 30 dogs and puppies.
"Some of them were in the house, in a tub. No food, no water. There were kennels outside with no food, no water, living in filth,” Padilla said.
As veterinarians continue testing the animals for any illnesses, officers are hoping this story will be a warning for anyone who may be thinking about buying a puppy from a private seller on the internet.
"Call the local animal agency and find out if they are reputable,” Padilla said.
It was still unclear Wednesday if or when the dogs would be available for adoption.
San Bernardino County Sheriff’s deputies said they arrested Kenney for being a felon in possession of firearms.
Kenney was not arrested for animal cruelty, but officers said the case is being handed over to the district attorney’s office very soon.