6abc Investigates: Underground dog dealer accused of selling sick puppies

October 31, 2013

Action News went undercover to confront the dealer.

Twenty-eight sick dogs were seized from William Roberts Gloucester County home in 2008. Officers with the New Jersey Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals raided his home, and briefly jailed Roberts. Those charges were later dismissed.

Then last year, the county issued a cease and desist order to Roberts after getting another complaint he was illegally selling sick dogs. But Action News found him violating that order, selling puppies out of his car again.

Action News found someone using the aliases John and Bill Roberts on puppyfind.com selling 15 different but very similar-looking dogs.

After calling "John," a man calling himself "Bill" met us in a parking lot as authorities say he does with most of his customers. This particular stop was in Bellmawr, New Jersey about 20 miles from his home.

Action News set up the meeting after we got a complaint from Joyce Camarota whose joy over a new puppy, quickly turned to sadness.

"She was so cute and I was just really overjoyed I was happy," Camarota said. "I just can't let him get away with it. "

Camarota paid Roberts $650 cash for a 10-week old Shih Tzu she named Molly.

"After he took the money," Camarota explained, "he says, 'Don't be surprised if you see blood in its stool.'"

Then, about four days later, Camarota continues, "She had bloody stool, she had blood all over so much and vomiting she couldn't stop. I mean she was just shaking; shaking uncontrollably. There was nothing I could do."

Camarota rushed Molly to an emergency vet. More than $1,000 later and after spending the night in the animal hospital, Molly died of Parvo in the veterinarian's office. It was only 6 days after Camarato bought the Shih Tzu from Roberts.

Roberts has a long history of complaints in New Jersey. According to the SPCA, he was housing nearly 30 sick puppies in his kennel when they raided his home in 2008. The New Jersey Health Department cited Roberts for unsanitary conditions in 2005 during an inspection.

Gloucester County issued a cease-and-desist order to Roberts after getting another sick dog complaint last year. But that hasn't stopped him from selling more puppies.

In spite of New Jersey laws that require dealers to be licensed, and for dogs for sale to be examined by a vet, Roberts didn't provide us or Camarota with any official veterinary records.

Authorities say he doesn't have a pet dealer's license. He told Action News during our meeting that he gives the dogs their shots.

Here's the conversation we had with him on a hidden camera:

Wendy: "At 13 weeks what kinds of shots have they had?"
Bill: "Shots are done. If you take it I am going to give it another shot right here."

Wendy: "So do you do their own shots?"
Bill: "Yes."

Wendy: "You do them yourself?"
Bill: "Yep. Because they only cost me $3."

When Action News told Roberts we were investigating him for allegations he was selling sick dogs, the conversation abruptly stopped.

The charges against roberts in 2008 were administratively dropped. Roberts said he intends to sue the SPCA for harassment, but he refused to answer any of our other questions.

Roberts and his attorney did not return multiple calls to discuss the active cease-and-desist order or why he isn't licensed as a pet dealer in New Jersey, which would require his home to be inspected by the health department.

When we asked for the vet records for the dog he sold Camarota and the two dogs that he showed us during our meeting, they refused to answer my calls.

He refunded Camarota the cost of the dog, but to date has not paid for any of the emergency vet bills.

When it comes to rules and regulations governing the sales of animals, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware all have varied enforcement policies and practices. Here are links to help you track down what you need to know.

Pennsylvania's Puppy Lemon Law:
Law in Pennsylvania requires that sellers and breeders of dogs in the state must have a sign posted that details consumers' rights and responsibilities under the Pennsylvania Dog Purchaser Protection Act, also known as the "Puppy Lemon Law". Sellers and breeders must also provide a written copy of the consumer's rights at the time of the sale.

Delaware's Pet Warranties:
Delaware also has legal requirements whenever anyone sells a dog. The seller must provide a written, dated disclosure signed by both the seller and the buyer. The disclosure must include a statement that either

  • The animal has no diseases
  • Discloses that the animal has a disease, illness or congenital or hereditary condition that adversely affects the health of the animal at the time of sale or is likely to adversely affect the health of the animal in the future.
You can get more information about Delaware's Pet Warranties by following this link to Delaware Code TITLE 6 - Commerce and Trade - SUBTITLE II - Other Laws Relating to Commerce and Trade - CHAPTER 40. PET WARRANTIES

New Jersey's Kennel Regulations :
In the Garden State, the Office of Animal Welfare handles oversight of the sellers of pets, and the regulations are posted at this link. Additionally, you can see the New Jersey's official inspection sheet used to check out kennels, pet stores and other pet selling facilities at this link.

You can also check out this list of Licensed Shelters and Pounds in New Jersey.

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