by Matt Gephardt and Cindy St. Clair for KUTV.com
AMERICAN FORK, UT — (KUTV) Everything Steve Hirchak bought for his brand new puppy, Coco, must be thrown away. Just a day after taking Coco home from the pet store, she got sick.
“I noticed she had diarrhea really bad,” Hirchak said.
Coco stayed at the veterinarian's office on IV fluids for a few days, fighting for her life. Meanwhile, Hirchak complained to the American Fork, Utah, store from which he bought Coco, The Puppy Barn.
"They should be testing these dogs before they hand them over to the new owners," Hirchak said.
Hirchak bought coco for $850 and Puppy Barn has offered him $1,000 to cover the medical bills. But Hirchak said it's not about the money. It's about the fact he was sold a puppy with parvo that he had been told was vaccinated against the disease.
"There's bad practices going on," Hirchak claims of Puppy Barn.
Puppy Barn's owner refused to talk about any of this on camera, stating that he feared for his life. In a statement, he wrote that all dogs, including Coco, are vaccinated against parvo, and tested, but that "some viruses can in fact remain undetected for seven days."
Puppy Barn claims the store's staff bleaches the kennels nine times a day to keep diseases from spreading.
Puppy Barn’s owner went on to attack Hirchak, calling him a liar and saying he’s completely unreasonable and likely unstable.
Puppy Barn wrote it plans to sue Hirchak for slander, tortious interference and incitement of the public as a result of Hirchak’s posting critical comments about Puppy Barn on Facebook.
It's a Facebook post that now has the attention of Utah state senator Jim Dabakis, who was among the post's commenters.
"This needs to change and it needs to change right away," Dabakis told Get Gephardt.
Dabakis laments that Utah laws do not currently regulate pet shops. He says he's currently researching laws in place in other states.
"I will be running a bill to cover this,” he said. “We need action."
Dabakis seems confident, though unable to offer details about what his proposed regulation might entail at this point.
"It's about protecting Utahns who are making a business transaction, but it's also about the health and safety care of a lot of incredibly important people in our state, and that's our pets," he said.
As for Coco, she made it through the virus and Hirchak has accepted the Puppy Barn's $1,000 offer to help with the vet bills.
"I hope that his practices change," he said.
We asked one veterinarian what regulation they would like to see for pet stores. We were told a law that required animal vaccinations to be given by medical professionals who document their work – rather than by breeders or pet stores as is often the case, now.
That vet also stated that dogs along the Wasatch Front are seeing a spike in parvo cases.