When it comes to puppies, the smaller they are, the bigger the price tag.
They are called “Teacup” or “Micro” dogs- the smallest puppies, culled from the smallest breeds. And dogs like that are worth thousands.
Sacramento’s Ginger Turk is a peddler of dogs like that. And earlier this year, she got national attention when she and her online storefront, “LaChicPuppy” made the US Humane Society’s list of 101 Puppy Mills.
To find out why, FOX40 put in a call to Kathleen Summers, a Director for the United States Humane Society.
“Ginger Turk came to our attention for a couple of reasons,” Summers said. “There had been a court case where she had been charged with felony forgery, multiple counts of felony forgery, for forging the veterinary records that come with her dogs. ”
Summers is talking about a 2011 case in Sacramento County against Turk. Four customers said their dogs died of Parvovirus after Turk forged a veterinarian’s signature, giving them clean bills of health.
Turk was ordered to wear an electronic monitoring anklet, and once she got it off this summer we went out to see if she was up to her old tricks.
“Who knows how many animals they had coming and going,” said Jeff Barker, who claims to be a former landlord of Turk’s.
Barker said he rented his home to Turk and her husband in El Dorado County, but around the time he was learning about her history, she disappeared. He says she left behind a mess- a wrecked home, rows of tiny dog cages, even a notice from El Dorado County animal control informing Turk they intended to seize her animals.
Barker says she left behind something else as well: bank statements
“One month. It was over $200,000 of electronic deposits. Why are these people having trouble paying rent?” Barker asked.
Turk’s website, La Chic Puppy, was still up. But Turk was gone.
Then, in late August, a break. Another lawsuit filed against Turk, this time, she was living in Sacramento County. Another customer who says he got a sick dog. And this time the dog won’t fit in any teacup. Instead of the promised micro size, according to the suit, this dog grew and grew and grew.
It was enough for FOX40 to trace Turk to a southeast Sacramento neighborhood. And it wasn’t long after asking around about Turk that we got a call, late at night.
It was a woman, claiming Turk had thrown out a puppy and it’s body was rotting in her trash. The pictures were disturbing. But we could confirm it: it was a dead dog, one that looks very similar to animals Turk sells.
We immediately called Sacramento Animal Control.
“Based on the tests, yes. That animal tested positive for Parvo,” Gina Knepp, the head of Sacramento Animal Control, told FOX40.
We didn’t know it at the time, but Animal Control had brought in the trash, and done a necropsy on the animal’s body. But they didn’t bring in Ginger Turk.
So the next call we got on this story wasn’t from them.
It was the same source. Telling us again that Turk had thrown out another puppy. So after Turk put her trash out that week, we looked for ourselves.
It was the second dead animal in the span of a few weeks. Animal control didn’t seem to have an answer for what we were finding, so the time had come to get answers ourselves, from Ginger Turk.
“There are dead puppies coming out of my house?” Turk said in response to our question about the animal bodies we had seen. “No. Absolutely not.”
Her answer, over and over again was that she had no idea what we were talking about. Meanwhile, we asked animal control if they had grounds to shut her down.
“People should wonder how she can continue to operate. She’s, I hate to say this, she’s pretty good at what she does,” Knepp said.
She said that Turk could claim those carcasses, the dead puppies, were put in her trash by somebody else. And in fact, that’s exactly what she did claim, in a phone call to the FOX40 newsroom.
“There are many organizations that would like to shut her down. And will we eventually? Absolutely. The cases will keep mounting, the work that you’re doing, eventually we will shut her down,” Knepp said.
We spoke with Turk again before this story aired. She told us again that the dogs in her trash were planted there- planted by a woman she’s had business dealings with.
Turk told us that she still sells puppies occasionally, but that there is no problem with parvovirus in her house and no animals have passed away there. She told us, if a puppy did pass away in her care, she’d take its body to a vet.