SPECIAL REPORT (MyFoxBoston.com) -- FOX25 News spoke with local dog owners who say they spent big money for purebred German Shepherds, and now they're paying even more in veterinary bills.
They say they were willing to pay top dollar for the dogs because of who was breeding them. The breeder behind Griffin Shepherd Kennels, Augusto Deoliveira, is popular and controversial. Critics debate his training methods, dog breeding operation, and business practices.
But, Deoliveira told Investigative Reporter Kerry Kavanaugh he's the victim of false attacks.
Deoliveira invited FOX25 News to visit the 98 acres he shares with some 20 dogs and dozens of other farm animals in Hanson. The 23-year-old is a dog breeder and self-professed trainer. He says demand for his German Shepherds is so great, there's a wait list.
Deoliveira's success took off about two years ago. That's when he posted video of himself online, walking a pack of German Shepherds off-leash, through downtown Hyannis.
"I like most people was impressed by the way he walked his dogs,â said dog owner Kaitlyn Spink
"I saw him walking down Main Street and I liked how his dogs looked,â said Ally Peckham.
So much so, these women wanted their own.
Peckham says she met Deoliveira when he was breeding and training dogs out of a Barnstable home. She began making cash deposits before the puppy was even born. The litter arrived, September, 2014.
"I lifted him up and I said he's really light are you sure that he's okay,â Peckham said.
She says Deoliveira assured her the puppy was fine, and that she could join them at the vet.
"But he never called me,â Peckham said.
When asked if she thought that was a red flag, Peckam said it was, but he already had her money. She paid a total of $1,500.
"Right when I got home I started looking at him because his stomach felt funny, I saw huge fleas everywhere,â she said.
The parasites were only the beginning of the health issues for the puppy, Boston.
"Without insurance we would be at $8,000 dollars in vet bills," she says. "Boston's battled worms, coccidia, a galloping heart rhythm, anemia, a bladder infection requiring surgery."
Peckham's own veterinarian wrote she did not believe the puppy was âwell cared for prior to adoptionâ and that heâ did not seem fit for sale.â
That contradicted the health certificate Deoliveira provided, which said the entire litter was âsound and healthy.â
"Do your homework,â said Spink, longtime dog owner.
Spink says she paid a thousand dollars for her dog, Katie.
"When we took her home that night, he didn't have her AKC paperwork. He didn't have any vet records. There was nothing, was just the dog,â she said.
She went on to say that Katie struggles to maintain a healthy weight and has behavioral issues.
Deoliveira says those dogs are exceptions.
"I can't control every single puppy for the rest of their life and make sure that they are healthy,â he said. âI know that they are healthy when they leave here.â
"Are you knowingly selling unhealthy puppies?" Kavanaugh asked.
"No,â Deoliveira replied.
But Spink and Peckham aren't the only ones complaining, FOX25 News uncovered nine complaints about Griffin Shepherd Kennels filed with the Massachusetts Attorney General. Five included owners' canine health concerns and Deoliveira's refusal to grant refunds.
We also found numerous complaints filed with local authorities in Barnstable, where Deoliveira never had a business license.
Concerns were lodged by unsatisfied customers and neighbors, like Kelly Hliva.
"The amount of puppies being produced over there, it was litter after litter,â Hliva said.
The complaints prompted Barnstable police to file a search warrant of Deoliveira's home. It didn't lead to any charges.
But shortly after that, Deoliveira moved his business to the farm in Hanson. We checked and town officials say he's licensed and in good standing.
"A lot of this is why people don't like me because they don't agree with what I do and they can't do anything about it,â Deoliveira said.
He believes critics target him because of controversial practices. He feeds his dogs a raw diet. He doesn't believe in vaccinations. He says he only vaccinates for rabies, required by Massachusetts law.
"It's not illegal, it's not wrong and a there's many people that support it,â Deoliveira said.
But some customers say their sick dogs are evidence Deoliveira isn't all that he seems.
"Other puppies don't deserve to live in a vet's office,â said Peckham.
Deoliveira asked some of his satisfied customers to call FOX25 News. They did and said their dogs are happy and healthy. We have posted some of their photos attached to this story.
We spoke with other professional breeders who say each individual dog should come with a certified health certificate. The owners we met say that was something Deoliveira didn't provide.
Cox Media Group