BAY HARBOR ISLANDS (CBS4) – Inspectors offered a warning Thursday to everyone who’s considering buying a pet such as a puppy this Christmas holiday season: make sure you check out the paperwork and the store where you are doing business.

The warning comes as a CBS4 news crew was allowed access inside the stops made by inspectors from the state Department of Agriculture and the Miami-Dade Dept. of Animal Services.

As the puppies barked, state inspector Robert Capote and county inspector Richard Smith probed for problems. They were trying to make sure that the pet you buy won’t get sick after you take him home.

Capote and Smith checked a total of 23 puppies at two stores in Bay Harbor Islands and Miami Beach and made sure they all had the appropriate paperwork. Both stores passed inspections.

CBS4 followed them during this tour which is in the heart of their annual Christmas holiday season inspections. They are checking more than 60 pet stores in Miami-Dade and Broward. Infractions can be serious, ranging from a simple warning to thousands of dollars in fines.

“When you go into a store, make sure you check that health certificate and make sure it’s signed by a state licensed and USDA-accredited veterinarian,” said Mark Fagan of the state Agriculture Dept. A health certificate ensures that your pet has all the appropriate shots and vaccinations.

“You can check the Department of Consumer Services to find out what stores have had complaints and what complaints there are against them,” said Fagan. You can call 1-800-HELP FLA or 1-800-435-7352 to reach that Department.

“You also want to go to a reputable place, a place like the one I am standing in right now. A reputable store that is in compliance with state statutes.”

Fagan told CBS4’s Peter D’Oench that if you want to file a complaint against a pet store, you can the Division of Animal Services at 1-850-410-0900 or log on to the Department’s website at

“There’s another message,” said Fagan. “Make sure you can take care of the pets you buy.”

On Bay Harbor Islands, at the Teacup Couture at 1048 Kane Concourse, all 7 of owner Eve Huerta’s puppies had health certificates. She also had some advice.

“If pet shops would purchase from a USDA certified breeder, that would help control the problems with puppy mills that are going on,” Huerta said.

She also said she is especially careful with her own puppies.

“If customers come to see me and the puppies, I do not let them touch them if I see that they have hairs on themselves,” she said. “I mean that’s how you cross contaminate them.”

The inspectors also stopped at Les Petits Puppies at 933 Washington Ave. on Miami Beach. They found all 16 puppies had health certificates. Dominque Casale’s business also passed the inspections.

“I feel great,” Casale said. “This should be done regularly. You should get puppies that are healthy. You do not want puppies to die after you get them. I mean I cry when these puppies leave here. I get so attached to them.”

You should also familiarize yourself with the state pet law. It specifies the protections that are given consumers.
Under that law, you are given the right to return an animal and receive a refund of your purchase price, sales tax and “reasonable veterinary costs” if you can provide a copy of a veterinarian’s examination showing that pet was “unfit for purchase.”

“We give our consumers a one year warranty on these puppies,” said Casale. “We never want our puppies leaving the store sick.”

Store owners welcomed the inspections.

“I’m glad that they are inside my store,” said Huerta. “I wish they would do this more often.”

Peter D'Oench