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IRCSO: Two Arrested and Charged with Animal Cruelty and Fraud

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Dogs found at a the home of Michael Mendez and Shelby White
Michael Mendez and Shelby White.jpg
Michael Mendez and Shelby White

Indian River County - Wednesday December 7, 2022: The Indian River County Sheriff's Office reports that a months-long investigation of a puppy mill has resulted in the arrest of two people on animal cruelty charges. The investigation, 'Dubbed 'Operation Blue's Clues', found dogs that were being held in deplorable and unsanitary conditions inside a Vero Beach home.

A puppy mill is defined as "an establishment that breeds puppies for sale, typically on an intensive basis and in conditions regarded as inhumane".

A search warrant was executed Tuesday on the home of 26 year old Michael Mendez, and 25 year old Shelby White. They were arrested on numerous charges including felony cruelty to animals and fraud. Two dogs were found living in deplorable conditions, with signs of numerous dogs being held there overtime at the residence.

“The home was full of animal waste and the animals were living in inhumane conditions”, said Agricultural/Marine Unit Deputy Bobby Gage.

A release from the IRC Sheriff's Office states that Mendez and White listed puppies for sale via roadside signs throughout the Treasure Coast and Space Coast. The caouple is also accused of making “for sale” posts on Puppies.com and Craigslist. After the sale, victims complained that their new puppy was either not full-bred as advertised, or it was sick, or had its hair dyed a different color to match the breed listed for sale.

Multiple victims have already come forward during the investigation, but it is believed there are many others.

Mendez and White have been charged with:

- Organized Scheme to Defraud
- Felony Animal Neglect (2 counts)
- Selling a Dog Less Than 8 Weeks Old (3 counts
- Selling a Dog Without a Certificate of Veterinary Inspection (8 counts)
- Unlawful Use of a Two-Way Communication Device
- Felony Driving While License Suspended (Habitual Traffic Offender)

Their bonds were set at $185,000 and $91,000 respectively.

If you have purchased a puppy from either Mendez or White that was not as advertised, sick, or without a proper health certificate, the IRC Sheriff's Office is asking that you contact the Agricultural/Marine Unit as soon as possible at (772) 978-6240 and reference IRCSO case number 2022-81715.