A Downey man charged with selling sick puppies to unsuspecting families throughout Southern California pleaded not guilty Thursday to more than 70 criminal charges.
Gustavo Gonzalez, 26, is charged with 38 felony counts of cruelty to an animal, two felony counts of first-degree residential burglary and one felony count of grand theft. He is also facing 29 misdemeanor counts of petty theft and two misdemeanor counts of child abuse under circumstances or conditions other than great bodily injury or death.
The criminal complaint alleges that the crimes occurred between February 2018 and this June.
Gonzalez — who was arrested June 6 by Downey police — was ordered to remain jailed in lieu of $1 million bail while awaiting his next court appearance Aug. 23.
Co-defendant Nicole Gutierrez, who was identified by Fox11 as Gonzalez’s girlfriend — pleaded not guilty to two misdemeanor counts of child abuse under circumstances or conditions other than great bodily injury or bond. The 33-year-old woman was freed on $100,000 bond following her arrest last month, according to jail records.
Gonzalez sold puppies, including a French bulldog, a chocolate lab and a beagle, through the website craigslist, according to Ricardo Santiago of the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office.
Many of the puppies died after being sold, prosecutors said last month. Since that time, 20 additional charges have been filed.
After a brief hearing last month, defense attorney Robert Ernenwein told reporters that he hopes the public can keep an open mind and wait for the evidence to unfold.
“We plan on very carefully evaluating the evidence in this case and reaching a just conclusion, ultimately, whatever that might be,” he said then.
Fox11 questioned Gonzalez at least four times during a two-year investigation about allegedly selling sick puppies out of his car after advertising the animals on craigslist. A woman who bought two dogs from Gonzalez — both of which died — told the station that she “promised both of them that I would get him.”
“I told him I was gonna get him, and we got him, finally,” she said.
Fox11 reported that several dogs were found inside Gonzalez’s home when he was arrested, some of them dead.
The station’s probe eventually spurred the involvement of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, the Los Angeles County Department of Consumer and Business Affairs, the District Attorney’s Office’s Bureau of Investigation and the Downey Police Department.
“Families expect years of joy and great memories when they purchase a puppy. The last thing they should expect is to see their companion suffer pain or early death,” Joseph M. Nicchitta, director of the county’s Department of Consumer and Business Affairs, said in a statement released last month. “No business model should profit by exploiting unsuspecting families.”
Anyone who bought a dog from Gonzalez that had unexpected health issues or experienced premature death was asked to contact a Department of Consumer and Business Affairs consumer counselor by telephone at 800-593-8222 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.