OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – The Old Paris Flea Market has been family-owned for the last 47 years, but recently, hundreds of customers have come forward saying they purchased sick animals from both indoor and outdoor sellers.
KFOR was first alerted to the market’s animal welfare crisis through social media.
When several Facebook group chats were asked if anyone had seen or heard of sick animals being sold at the Old Paris Flea Market, over 300 people reached out with their experience.
One customer of Old Paris’s, Travis White, came forward about a dog he purchased in July of 2021, saying he noticed hardly any life in his dog.
“Since I got the puppy, I realized she was very lethargic, wasn’t very active, wasn’t really even drinking water and it was a fairly warm day, so I knew something was wrong,” said White. “I gave her a couple of days, though she wasn’t improving.”
Once White realized, his dog, Tilly was not improving, he rushed her to Neel Veterinary Hospital where he found out she had contracted parvovirus.
White has owned a dog before with parvovirus who later died, so he was “fully prepared to lose the dog.”
White spent nearly $400 on at-home care in an effort to keep Tilly from hospitalization and even bigger vet bill.
“I worked intensively, I stayed up with her basically for eight hours, gave her injections, I gave her intravenous,” added White.
Tilly originally costing $100, left White missing thousands of dollars worth of income.
“I was not able to go to work so I could take care of her. I had to forego some work activities, so it cumulatively probably cost me another couple of thousand dollars just in in potential income,” he said.
After about a week, White said Tilly began to pull through, and now she is fully recovered.
Parvovirus is the tip of the iceberg for diseases Old Paris customers have come forward with. Other sicknesses include syphilis, coccidia, kennel cough and worms.
Another Old Paris Flea Market customer, Kayla Sawyer, told KFOR she bargained with an outdoor seller from $300 to $95 for a dog she described as “lifeless.”
Sawyer wasn’t planning on purchasing a dog when she went to the market, but said she couldn’t leave him there in the condition he was in.
When Sawyer purchased the dog, though, she never imagined what else she had signed up for.
“He had some major fleas and it led to stomach worms. He also got kennel cough, which is pretty severe in puppies his age,” Sawyer added.
Sawyer immediately bought treatment for her dog, Zues, which in turn cost over $300.
The process of removing and killing off fleas took a few days, but to de-worm Zues, it took a couple weeks.
“It was very painful for him,” she said.
As Sawyer watched Zues struggle through his health complications, her heart broke for him.
“It was really hard, especially when he got kennel cough. I sat up with him all night long, every night, for weeks, just because he sounded like he couldn’t breathe,” said Sawyer. “It was scary at some points. It was heartbreaking to see him go through something so difficult.”
Neither Old Paris customer said they would change a thing about their situation because the outcome led them to a new furry family member.
White told KFOR he did go back to the market, though, to let those in charge know of his dog’s health issues.
“The owner told me that none of the other pups had parvo, so I don’t know if that was factual or not, but that was the story that he gave me,” said White.
Tilly’s case is just one of hundreds Rock Knoll Animal Hospital veterinarian, Dr. Sherrie Payne, has seen over the years.
In the last year, Dr. Payne has recorded about 200 dogs having come in with parvovirus in which their owners claimed to have purchased them from Old Paris. This year alone, she has seen just over 60 dogs with parvovirus where the owners claim they came from Old Paris.
When parvovirus is treated, it typically costs anywhere between $700 and $5,000. At Rock Knoll, the most someone has paid for parvo treatment is $2,000.
Dr. Payne said it breaks her heart to treat these animals as parvo is “easily preventable” and it starts with the breeders.
“Keep them off the ground, the breeders explaining that they’ve old had usually one vaccine,” added Dr. Payne.
Dr. Payne said keeping those dogs off the ground is number one as parvo lives in the ground.
Once a dog who has parvovirus goes number two on the ground, the disease stays there for about six years, according to Dr. Payne.
“Flea markets are a place where it’s all over,” stated Dr. Payne.
Dr. Sherrie Hudson with Neel Veterinary Hospital said she too has seen a spike in parvovirus cases recently, but couldn’t say if they were from Old Paris.
According to Dr. Hudson, the clinic sees 10-20 parvovirus puppies a day.
Dr. Hudson agrees though that parvovirus thrives in settings like a flea market.
“A reputable breeder is not going to take puppies to a place where they’re exposed to a lot of people or other pets to find homes for them. They will protect them from group settings so that they’re not as likely to get parvo or intestinal parasites,” said Dr. Payne.
Dr. Hudson said once a dog contracts the virus, it will take days to show up, but once it does, the dog will go through stages of vomiting, dehydration and diarrhea.
Puppies need to be on a scheduled parvovirus vaccine until about 16 weeks old, according to Dr. Payne.
If a dog has contracted parvo, Dr. Payne said hospitalization is required, but there are at-home treatments they’ll send owners home with.
As for a stomach full of worms, which is a health condition many viewers commented about on the original Facebook post, Dr. Payne said if the animal is having diarrhea, is vomiting, has pale gums, is refusing to eat, it most likely has intestinal parasites.
News 4 took a trip to Old Paris Flea Market to see first hand the selling conditions of these dogs. We found dogs crammed in cages, heat-exhausted and sitting in their own urine.
National Flea Market Association President Rick Landis sent in an email saying, “We do not condone the unethical treatment of animals of any kind at any of our member markets and remain steadfast against any such infractions. We have encouraged our member markets to work with local resources to ensure humane conditions exist in the limited number of member markets who sell animals.”
When we asked a few of the outdoor sellers if they commonly sell animals at the market, they said yes.
The property manager of Old Paris Flea Market, who did not provide his full name, told KFOR he was not aware of the sale of sick animals on the property.
As of June 18, the property manager also said the market does not vet their outdoor sellers. Sellers are required to provide their contact information, driver’s license number and a form of payment to lease a spot.
KFOR was shown how the market logs their sellers. That information is hand-written in a binder and kept in the front office.
A copy of the driver’s license is not made, proof of vaccination is not asked for and neither was an “outdoor sellers permit.”
A statement emailed to News 4 from the City of Oklahoma City’s Communications Manager, Zach Nash, reads, “There is a license required (outdoor sellers permit) for anyone selling pets while they are outside of the Flea Market setting. If they are inside a flea market there wouldn’t be a license required.”
As of June 21, via email, the property manager of Old Paris said they do require sellers to procure any governmental license or permit.
An outdoor sellers permit in Oklahoma City is $50 and lasts up to 90 different days.
If a vendor is selling at multiple locations, though, a different permit must be obtained for each one, according to Kristy Yager, OKC Public Information Officer.
According to an OKC attorney, Jessica Earley, there are no current state or city laws prohibiting the sale of animals at flea markets.
The OKC Animal Welfare unit has been called 10 times since January of 2021 for animal welfare checks at the Old Paris Flea Market, according to Nash.
The property manager of Old Paris also said the Animal Welfare unit does random checks on their vendors. The last check was June 18, where the report said all animals appear to be in good health, according to John Gary, OKC Animal Welfare Supervisor.
Gary said animal welfare is unable to write citations or violations for the lack of sellers permits. They can only issue a citation if an animal is visibly sick or there appears to be animal cruelty.
Since receiving more information from KFOR though, Gary said he will have a lead cruelty investigator walk through Old Paris on June 25.
As for the lack of sellers permits, Yager said there will be a meeting with several departments on Monday, June 27 to discuss a plan of action.
Yager said their first goal is compliance and to ensure everyone has an open line of communication and understanding.
Sawyer and White are hoping this will bring more awareness to the effects of “backyard breeders” as well as educate others on what to look out for when purchasing a dog.
News 4 has sent in an open records request for the Animal Welfare report from June 18. We’re still waiting for it to be approved.