42-year-old woman charged, accused of running fake rescue organization, selling 100+ sick puppies
ORANGE COUNTY, California — More than two months after police arrested a woman who allegedly sold sick young dogs to unsuspecting new pet owners, she has been charged — and nine of the rescued puppies are up for adoption.
The dogs were recovered when 42-year-old Megan Ann Hoechstetter was arrested in January on suspicion of selling a sick puppy to an Irvine, California family, police said. That pup died of parvovirus a week after being sold to the family on January 1st.
Since then, police have identified 155 victims and more than 100 sick dogs connected to Hoechstetter.
The Orange County District Attorney’s Office on Monday, March 20th charged Hoechstetter, who allegedly operated under the business name Pawlosophy and possibly other false business names. She faces 20 misdemeanor counts of of keeping an animal without proper care and two misdemeanor counts of animal abuse by a caretaker.
She faces up to 12 years in jail if convicted. Her arraignment is set for April 28th.
The families who bought dogs from her bonded with the puppies, only to become distraught when the animals got seriously sick, prosecutor Jennifer Malone said.
“What struck all of this about the case is the emotional anguish of the families, not to mention the poor little puppies that were so ill,” Malone said.
Hoechstetter ran a fake rescue organization, selling animals she may have obtained from Mexico, police said at the time of her arrest. She met customers in parking lots and did not inspect their homes to ensure adequate animal care would be possible, police said.
After media coverage of her arrest, investigators identified 155 victims who got sick dogs from Hoechstetter, the Irvine Police Department said in a news release Monday. That figure is up from 37 victims the week that Hoechstetter was arrested.
The suspect, who also went by Megan Ann Nunez and Megan Ann Choate, charged $400 for each eight-week-old dog, prosecutors said.
Meanwhile, nine of the 19 puppies rescued upon Hoechstetter’s January 11th arrest have been nursed back to health at the Irvine Animal Care Center, police said. When she was taken into custody, police found six puppies in the trunk of her car and 13 more in a hotel room.
After being medically cleared, nine of the puppies will be available for adoption Wednesday, March 22nd. Five more are expected to be available Friday. The final five will be available as soon as they are medically cleared, a police spokeswoman said.
“The public should keep in mind that these animals were very ill and lived through a traumatic experience,” Irvine police said in the news release. “Anyone wishing to adopt one of the puppies should have extra time to devote to their care and socialization.”
Hoechstetter is accused of abusing and failing to care for over 100 puppies between March 21st, 2014, and March 1st, 2017, prosecutors say. She knew but did not tell her customers the dogs she was selling suffered from viruses and parasitic infections including parvovirus, coccidia and giardia, prosecutors say.
About 30 puppies had to be put down soon after they were adopted, according to prosecutors. Most of the dogs suffered from severe diarrhea.