Date: July 2, 2005 "For Immediate Release"
To: News Media
From: Sheriff Grady Judd
Media Contact:

Carrie Rodgers, (863) 534-6217 OR (863) 981-2374 Pager

Davenport Woman Arrested for Running Puppy Mill

Polk County Sheriff's Environmental detectives placed a woman under arrest this morning, and Animal Control officers seized approximately 60 dogs, after their investigation revealed she was running a "puppy mill".

Colleen Ross, DOB 12/26/50, of 306 Diamond Acres Road in Davenport, was selling toy poodle and shih tzu puppies from her home without the proper veterinary certifications. Several of the puppies that she sold later died from parvo, a highly contagious virus that can prove fatal to animals.

On June 22, 2005, detectives executed a search warrant at Ross' home based on the reports they received and an undercover buy - the dog purchased by the undercover deputy did not test positive for parvo but did not have the state-required health certificate. Reports were received from people all over the state who had purchased puppies from Ross. Ross had advertised the puppies for sale in the Tampa Tribune classified ads. When interested parties called, Ross arranged to meet them in public locations, often using an alias and never revealing where she lived. On the occasions where the sold puppies got sick or died, Ross would not answer phone calls.

The puppies were sold from $500 and up, and during the search warrant detectives confiscated over $39,000 in cash from puppy sales.  Detectives also found 9 altered veterinary certificates. Based on these findings, they obtained an arrest warrant for Ross and placed her under arrest at 10:00 a.m. on Saturday, July 2, 2005.

Ross has been charged with: 1 count Felony Organized Fraud (for misrepresenting the healthy dogs and taking in money); 1 count Not Keeping Correct Records; 9 counts Altering Veterinary Certificates; numerous counts of Merchandising Dogs without Official Veterinary Certificates.

The animals taken from Ross' home will be checked out by Polk County Sheriff's Animal Control veterinary staff and then turned over to the Florida Poodle Rescue until a trial takes place to determine custody of the animals.  There have been no visible signs of neglect to the animals although purchasers have said the puppies they purchased were dirty and had fleas. The investigation is ongoing.

"We believe that there may be other puppy mills operating in the county. We hope that others who try to operate this way will learn the serious consequences of selling puppies illegally," said Sheriff Grady Judd. "The proper care and concern for the well-being of animals is taken very seriously by our Animal Control officers. We know there are victims from throughout the state of Florida, and we encourage them to come forward."

If you feel you may have been a victim of Colleen Ross, who uses at least one known alias of Lou Ann Hefner and operates out of Polk County, please contact the Polk County Sheriff's Office at 863-533-0344.

Distribution: Chief of Staff, Division Commanders, Communications, News Media

A text only version of this release is also available.

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