QUEEN CREEK, Ariz. — A Pinal County breeder is in the dog house after a months-long Pinal County Sheriff's Office investigation.
A spokesperson for the Sheriff's Office said deputies arrested Shayla Petherick, 29, Monday on two counts of fraudulent schemes.
The 12 News I-Team first broke the story about a potential puppy scam in March 2021. At that time, 12 News tracked down 17 people across the country who said they sent money to Shayla Petherick, operating under Littlefoot Yorkies in Queen Creek and San Tan Valley, but never received a puppy.
Now, the Pinal County Sheriff's Office is saying it took in as many as 20 complaints, some as early as December 2020. Investigators think it's possible there could be more victims.
"We had reports she had gone to California and she came home for the holidays," said Pinal County Sheriff Mark Lamb. "We did some surveillance on a relative's home and yesterday we were able to take her into custody."
During the arrest, it was found that Petherick has been actively selling puppies under an alias and has puppies in her possession.
Petherick was booked at the Pinal County Adult Detention Center under a $1,500 bond.
The alleged scheme
In all the cases of those who spoke with 12 News, people who put down deposits said the breeder sent them photos of their prospective pooches at first. Through social media, many people found they were sent pictures of the same dogs or dogs from different breeders that weren’t up for grabs.
Most people who spoke to 12 News said the breeder blocked them once they started asking questions.
Petherick gave different excuses to different people as to why the puppies were not being made available. Some people say she told them her mother or father was sick. Other people say she told them that she was sick.
When 12 News reached Petherick over the phone back in February 2021, she said that another person working with her tried to take the clients and the litter.
PCSO says allegations against the breeder included accepting deposits for puppies amounting to over $10,000 then not providing puppies.
After 12 News started reporting on Littlefoot Yorkies, some prospective puppy buyers reported that they had received refunds after months of waiting. A handful of people received refunds before the report.
For many of the people who spoke to 12 News, the red flags didn’t pop up right away. One woman said she was referred to Littlefoot Yorkies by a friend who actually bought a Yorkie from the very same breeder.
The others say they vetted her through social media pages that are now gone.
In March 2021, the address listed for Littlefoot Yorkies was an empty house up for rent in Queen Creek. Someone at the breeder’s home address told us Littlefoot Yorkie’s was no longer a business and that they couldn’t explain what happened.
When 12 News tried to search for the Littlefoot Yorkies page in December 2021, the web page no longer existed.
"Just be leery anytime anyone is asking for large amounts of money upfront," said Sheriff Lamb. "Especially if it's online."
Some advice from investigators and other rescue volunteers when looking at buying or adopting a pet:
- Visit the facility where you’re looking to adopt
- Notice if staff members are answering questions or dodging them
- Ensure they have an active Board of Directors as a non-profit
- Check to see if the dog has a collar or ID tag
- Check if animals are spayed, neutered, vaccinated, microchipped and if they come with paperwork to support those records
Learn more about other 12 News investigations by subscribing to the 12 News YouTube channel and watching our I-Team playlist.