Kyla Tippett, a Gander resident and mother of four, was searching online for dogs to buy for her kids in May, when she came across what she thought was a great deal.
"[They were] $150 to $200 [each], or two for $300. So I figured, 'Well, that's cheap. So I can get two pugs and have cute little doggies for the kids,'" she said.
She later saw a Boston Terrier puppy that caught her eye. So Tippett sent a total of $970 through email money transfers to cover the costs of the three dogs and the shipping from Quebec.
The seller was Rian Hicks, a man originally from Bonavista who's now living in Montreal.
Weeks passed, but she says there was no sign of the animals. She claims the seller gave her only excuses instead.
A month later, she received her dogs. But Tippett says they were not what she had bargained for, or paid for.
She got a much older pug named Max — not the year-old dog she says she was promised.
According to Tippett, Hicks told her that the second pug was sick, so she agreed to a Pekingese instead.
"They were full of fleas. I had to bathe them right away," Tippett said.
"Max had no fur on his face. He had gouges out of his elbows. His nails were so long... they couldn't go any shorter, because the quicks were so long."
She says Nicki the Pekingese was not family-friendly. Hicks arranged for that dog to go to another home in Bonavista.
Tippett claims she was promised a replacement, plus the third dog that had yet to arrive.
She says she is still waiting.
Selling on Facebook
Rian Hicks has many animals for sale on two Facebook profiles, with pictures of more than 25 breeds of cats and dogs. He also has more exotic pets for sale, including micro pigs, sugar gliders — even horses.
Hicks told CBC Investigates he has sold between 70 and 80 animals to people in Newfoundland over the past year, everything from cats to pigs to Dobermans.
"If it's something that they're looking for, I get it for them," he said.
Hicks says he has hundreds of happy customers back on the island, including some repeat clients.
Hicks offered to put CBC Investigates in touch with some of those satisfied clients, but did not do so despite repeated requests.
While Hicks acknowledges there are some people still waiting for their pets, he says it's only because they still owe him money.
"The people that [are] sending me the money for animals, is either they're not finished sending me the money that they owe me for the animals, or they're too cheap to pay for the shipping to get them home," he said.
CBC Investigates spoke with three other people from across Newfoundland, who have sent proof of their email money transfers to Hicks — which they insist include the shipping costs. They say they have yet to receive the animals.
Hicks disagrees. He says unpaid shipping costs are the hold-up for anyone who has yet to receive their pet.
He says Tippett won’t get anything else from him now that she has gone public.
"She thinks she got another dog going home to her now, but once I just heard what you said, she [isn’t] getting another dog,” he said. “For the price that she paid, she got her dogs."
In the past, Hicks has blocked those Facebook who are too persistent in asking for a delivery date.
"I've made a couple people wait sometimes, yeah, if they get nasty on the computer with me,” Hicks said.
“But there's nothing wrong with what I'm doing.”
Pictures appear to be on other sites
Hicks posts pictures of animals on the Facebook sites he uses to make sales.
But CBC Investigates found that some of those photos appear to be the same photos of the same animals found on other breeders' websites.
A picture of Himalayan kittens posted on Hicks’s Facebook account in April appears to be the same picture posted on another Montreal breeder’s website at least three years ago.
And an image of Lhaso Apso puppies for sale on Hicks’s Facebook site seems to be the same photo on the website for the American Kennel Club.
But Hicks insists his photos are genuine.
"There's no false advertising,” he said. “The pictures that are on my account are coming from people here in Montreal that are breeding them.”
Animal breeders in homes
Hicks says his animals come from breeders that breed in their homes.
"It's all people I know that raise them in apartments and houses. There's nothing coming from any kennels or anything," he said.
"I get my animals off the computer, if it's not something we breed ourselves. I only breed three races of dogs myself.
"All we got here is a couple of pugs, and a couple of Himalayan kittens... that I got my own. I breed bulldogs. I don't have my bulldogs with me. We place them out in homes that people raise them for us, and once they're ready to breed, we breed them twice and that's it."
SPCA has received complaints
The Montreal SPCA says it has received complaints related to Hicks's operation — both dealing with consumer protection, and the welfare of the animals.
Alanna Devine, the organization's director of animal advocacy, says the organization is investigating.
"Our cruelty inspection investigation department is gathering information," she said.
“We'll continue to look into it and hopefully get to the bottom of where these animals are coming from and if this individual is a breeder or a broker, know what exactly is happening to these animals from the time that they leave Montreal and get to these Eastern provinces."
Meanwhile, back in central Newfoundland, Kyla Tippett says she's learned a valuable lesson.
"I would say buyer beware," she said.