'Kritter Heaven' To Close Amid Mounting Complaints

Nearly Two-Dozen Say Dogs Sick Or Undelivered

Hours before a Call 6 investigation was set to air on 6News Wednesday, the owner of Kritter Heaven, billed as a dog rescue, said she plans to shutter the Cloverdale-area business.

Complaints have again been mounting against Tammy Gilchrist's business, which Call 6 first investigated in 2006, accused of selling sick dogs to unsuspecting animal lovers across the country, Call 6's Rafael Sanchez reported.

Gilchrist said she would close the business and give away the last of her dogs on Wednesday. She said she has financial and health problems that are too overwhelming for her to continue the operation.

Before Call 6 learned of Gilchrist's closure plans, one of her former customers, Erin Jackson, recalled the death of her puppy, Wrigley. Her fiancé, Ben Nickel, had bought the pocket beagle from Kritter Heaven.

"(Wrigley) pretty much ... died in my arms, like he just fell asleep. It was just horrible," Jackson said.

"We only had him for seven days, but for that seven days this was our child," Nickel said.

Shortly after Nickel bought the dog, it was diagnosed with parvovirus, a highly contagious illness that can be especially dangerous for puppies.

Erin Jackson and her financé say their pocket beagle Wrigley came from Kritter Heaven. It was diagnosed with parvovirus shortly after they bought it, and the dog died soon after that, they say.

"I called her to tell her that ... my vet told me that he had parvo, and she said, 'Well, your vet's a liar,'" Nickel said.

The dog was dying, and several visits to the vet could not save Wrigley.

Two other Kritter Heaven customers, Jenny Burns and her daughter, were lucky. They said the puggle puppy they bought there was sick, but the dog survived after they spent about $1,000 on veterinary services.

"Other people said, 'Don't you wish you'd never gone out there?' I said, 'Yes, but then again, our puppy would be dead,'" Burns said.

Two years ago, Indiana Attorney General Steve Carter's office sued Gilchrist, alleging that she failed to deliver dogs, sold sick animals and operated without a proper kennel license.

Shortly afterward, Gilchrist got a kennel license and signed an agreement that she would turn things around, Sanchez reported.

Since then, Call 6 has learned of more than 23 new complaints about sick or undelivered dogs.

"There is nothing wrong with the dog when it leaves. What the dog is exposed to is not anything I can deal with," Gilchrist said.

Tammy Gilchrist

Gilchrist said she has had only one case of parvo at her rescue since 1983.

"I can't control these vets. It's always parvo. And it's not always parvo. I'm sorry. I've seen too much," Gilchrist said.

Nickel said that when he tried to tell Gilchrist his dog had the virus, she told him it was something else and gave him some unconventional advice.

"She was saying that Mountain Dew and penicillin would cure the dog, and she was recommending peanut butter," Nickel said.

Vets with whom 6News checked said they had never heard of the treatments Nickel said Gilchrist suggested.

Call 6 recently purchased a puppy from Kritter Heaven and took it directly to Dr. Janet Lubinski at the Humane Society of Indianapolis. During two check-ups, Lubinski found two common parasites: coccidia and giardia.

"It's something he's likely had since he came to you," Lubinski said. "It would have to be something he got from a contaminated environment with other animals."

In an e-mail, Gilchrist said Lubinski's diagnosis was impossible and claimed that the state said no animal in Indiana has had giardia since 1999. Call 6 checked with state health and animal health officials, who said they never made such a claim. Several area veterinarians also said they regularly see giardia.

Lubinski spotted another issue. On the contract listing the puppy's shots, one vaccine had expired in Oct. 2007, a month before the dog was born.

"I would definitely be concerned, and if it were my dog, I would be bringing it to the attention of the person who you got it from," Lubinski said.

Gilchrist looked at the label on the contract and said that it should have said 2009.

"We don't give these exact shots. This is just a reference for the vets, and vets aren't stupid," Gilchrist said.

Most of the vets with whom 6News checked said they would expect the labels to be from specific shots the animal received.

Gilchrist said she administers most of the vaccines herself. Despite her claims that she works with at least three vets in Nashville, Bloomington and Cloverdale, they told Call 6 they haven't worked with her for many months.

"I don't lie to anybody. I'm not going to start now. My goal is to save lives," Gilchrist said.

Gilchrist has operated businesses in the past under several different names, including Tammy Workman, Tammy Boston and Samantha Workman.

She also used several business names, including AKA Kennel, Puppysrus.com, TEKS Kennel and Affordable Pups.

The attorney general's investigation is ongoing. There was no immediate word about when it might move forward.