PHARR – Nestor Navarro had only had his green eyed, tiger-striped pit bull puppy Hache for two months when he took the pup to get his shots at Andy’s Pet and Feed Store.
But after employees in October vaccinated the puppy at its location at 134 W. State St., Hache rapidly deteriorated, Navarro said.
“He started getting sick and he wasn’t eating and we took him back and they said it was normal for him to be like that, so they recommended we give him some medication that they sold us,” Navarro said. “One or two days passed and we saw he wasn’t getting better.”
By the time they went back, Hache was coughing up blood. The dog died.
According to Navarro, an employee told his mother Idalia Valdez that there was something wrong with the vaccines and that a couple of other dogs had also died. She said she spoke to owner Andres Torres, who offered to reimburse half of her money.
“The money wasn’t the problem, it was just how they said it, I guess, that they would refund a portion of our money because our dog died,” Navarro said.
On Thursday, Torres said he didn’t remember Hache, Navarro or Valdez and denied knowing anything about a dead dog.
“They didn’t talk to me,” he said in Spanish. “I would remember that.”
He said he buys vaccines only from a reputable veterinary supply company and hasn’t sold any that were bad or expired. He also denied Navarro’s account that his employees had been paid to give the dog its shots.
The feed and pet store doesn’t employ anyone licensed as a veterinarian. Some medications and vaccines can be sold over the counter for owners to give their pets, but if someone selling them were to administer them it would qualify as practicing veterinary medicine and would require a license.
“We never usually (inject) them here, we just sell them,” said employee Luis Pulido.
An Andy’s employee had a needle drawn and appeared he was about to give a shot to an 8-week-old puppy whose owner held it down on the countertop Thursday. But after a Monitor reporter snapped a photo, the employee capped the needle and took the dog into a back room.
Its owners said they had brought it in to get treatment for a hurt leg.
A COMMON PROBLEM
The store isn’t the only place in the Rio Grande Valley accused of giving unauthorized medical treatments to animals.
Edinburg police Thursday arrested the owners of pet grooming salon Pampered Pooches, after an investigation into employees of the shop reportedly posing as veterinarians, spokesman Lt. Oscar Treviño confirmed.
"We had already had previous information that an employee or employees were passing themselves off as licensed veterinarians," he said. "They were examining animals, giving diagnoses and giving medications."
Treviño said police worked with the Texas State Board of Medical Examiners to investigate the location after receiving a complaint. He did not know whether any animals had gotten sick or died because of the treatment they received there, but said the department had not gone after a faux-vet since he'd been there.
"This is the first time we've encountered an investigation like this in Edinburg, so that's why we jumped on it," he said.
Veterinarian Dr. Kelly Macmanus, who works only a few blocks away from Andy’s at Valley Animal Hospital, said he hears frequently about people taking their pets to unlicensed locations. He warned that taking your pets there can expose them to disease, though you can buy medications and bring them home to administer.
“The difficulty with them taking them to a pet or feed store is feed stores are not set up for sanitation or disinfection or anything, so anytime someone drags a sick dog to have them look at it, they drag the disease with them,” he said.
He noted that immune systems are temporarily weakened when vaccines are administered and said he had seen many dogs that had gotten so-called treatment at Andy’s and other stores come through his clinic.
“We’ve seen all kinds of weird things where people brought in dogs that they’d attempted to stitch up or whatever,” he said. “It really depends on who’s working there at the time, but it usually turns into disaster.”