'Deplorable' conditions at Florida rent-a-dog co.

MIAMI - K-9 International rents guard dogs to businesses in Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Tampa and Orlando. But a WPLG-TV investigation found the company keeps dogs in deplorable conditions.

Animal rights activists say the dogs are not given adequate care. They are boarded up in outdoor kennels with barely any ventilation.

Some of those dogs at the facility's headquarters were covered in ticks.

Tara Ana Harris first discovered the dogs caged on a South Florida car lot while she was shopping for a vehicle, and she was left completely in shock by what she saw.

"Last time I was here, almost a year ago, there were five of them starving," Harris said. "I mean they're supposed to be shepherds but they look like hyenas because they are so starved and abused."

But auto dealer manager, Alex Aviles says he's used K-9 International guard dogs for the last three years and has never seen the dogs being treated poorly. However, he does admit the dogs are left alone for 48 hours every weekend.

"They're out all night and basically the weekends they're out all day," Aviles said.

Miami-Dade Animal Services is in charge of every single pet in the county, including these working security dogs. But there are limitations.

"It's really difficult for the lack of information we have on the guard dog industry to really tell how they operate," said Sean Gallagher of Miami-Dade Animal Services.

Guard dog business do not have to be licensed in the county, they don't have to provide an address for their business and they don't even have to report how many dogs they rent out. 

In 2011, K-9 International was charged with animal cruelty in Palm Beach County. But those citations did not stop them from doing business in Miami-Dade and Broward County.

Sean Gallagher has worked for Miami-Dade Animal Services for 18 years but says his hands are tied when it comes to watching over the watch dogs.

"As far as regulation, I think there does need to be a lot more," he said.

After K-9 International was run out of Palm Beach County for a series of animal cruelty charges, the county implemented stricter regulations for guard dogs. They now require a commercial guard dog permit and all dogs must be registered in the county.

The hot box cages in which the dogs are kept are also now illegal in Palm Beach County. If the temperature in a cage rises above 90 degrees, a ventilation fan is required. None of these rules currently exist in Miami-Dade and Broward counties. But K-9 International's continued practice in South Florida has some fighting for the tough animal care measures to be brought here too

"OSHA protects their two-legged citizens but nobody protects our four-legged citizens, so we need laws in each county to protect them," said a South Florida resident.

Repeated attempts to contact Gus Artiles, the owner of K-9 International, by phone and at his house, have been unsuccessful so far.

WPLG did find him one morning in Hialeah, but he sped away without answering any questions.

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