CHICAGO - A heartbroken couple from Chicago's Pilsen neighborhood turned to the I-Team, saying their French bulldog was taken from them by the breeder who sold them the pet in the first place.
The couple said the breeder took their dog for a photo shoot last week and never brought the dog back. They have plastered their neighborhood with flyers, but the breeder is claiming they were only "dog nannies."
"He has not contacted us at all. He is ignoring us, he is acting like we don't exist," said Michelle Carranza.
"This is devastating. Everyone knows my dogs are like my children - even my parents treat them like their grandkids. I love my dogs more than anything and this is very hard. I grew so attached to him, especially because he has all these medical conditions. He was my special little boy," Carranza said.
Carranza and David Zapata are praying they'll get back their French bulldog, who they call Kayo. They've posted flyers alleging breeder Jeremy Roger Paul Lopez took Kayo last week and hasn't yet brought him back.
"We thought he was our friend. We thought you were our friend, Jeremy, we trusted you with a lot, we trusted you with our dog, our money and our friendship. This really hurts," Zapata said.
"I'm going crazy. I don't know what else to do. I am just out of my mind right now, I haven't slept or eaten in days," said Carranza.
The couple said they had an unconventional agreement with their breeder, saying that because he gave them a deal on Kayo and their other dog Frankie, they agreed to allow Lopez to pick up Kayo for photoshoots.
"It was just, pick him up every now and then to take pictures with him, and he did it for a whole year, seven to 10 times, and he would bring him back the same day a few hours later, only this time has been gone eight days now," Zapata said.
The I-Team reached out to Lopez and Chicago Frenchies, and received an email back saying: "...Kayo does not nor has ever belong to David and Michelle. I have papers and contracts to prove it. There is a contract that he himself has signed stating he is the nanny and not Kayo's rightful owner. My lawyers is working on this case..."
"What did we pay $3,000 for? To babysit a dog?" Carranza responded.
Carranza and Zapata said they never signed such a contract and they filed a police reports. They showed the I-team Kayo's medications, medical records, dog grooming records, a rabies vaccination through the county and hundreds of pictures dated throughout the year. They have a receipt for a $600 payment, but said they paid the rest of the $3,000 price in cash installments.
They also have pictures of Kayo and Frankie plastered throughout their home.
"She grew up with him, she doesn't know life without him, she will just sit on the couch crying by herself. She misses him," Carranza said of Frankie since Kayo's been gone.
And one cage sits empty.
"No one really understands because he is a dog, he's not a human. No one feels the way we do, and that is why we are reaching out to our dog community on Instagram. They are the only ones who understand that kind of pain is devastating," she said.
The I-Team asked Chicago Frenchies to provide the signed nanny contract they referred to in their email, but they have not responded.
According to the Illinois Department of Agriculture website, Chicago Frenchies and the breeder are not licensed.
Experts say you should only buy from licensed breeders.
The Better Business Bureau of Chicago offers the following tips for pet owners using a breeder:
Always visit the breeder. Responsible breeders and rescue groups will be more than happy to offer you a tour.
Search for website warning signs. The reason fake breeder websites look real is because the content is typically stolen from another site. Look for duplicate sites by copying a line from the website into a search engine and looking for identical wording elsewhere on the Internet. Also, search for the domain name on "WHOIS Lookup." Make sure the site is hosted in the country where the breeders claim to be located.
Pick your puppy up at the kennel. Don't rely on the breeder to ship the puppy.
Check references. Talk to others who have purchased pets from this breeder and the veterinarian the breeder works with.
Pay with check or credit card. If a breeder pressures you to pay by wire transfer or prepaid debit card, it is probably a scam.