LARGO, Fla. — After a six-month investigation, Orange County deputies have arrested three people for their roles in a dog trafficking operation.
The investigation started after a dog owner was robbed at gunpoint in Orlando.
In March, Orange County detectives said Johnny Matos was robbed at gunpoint in Orlando while out walking his dog. Detectives said the suspects stole his French bulldog named Bugsy.
"In their quest to find Bugsy, they stumbled into these really chilling activities involving these dog trafficking organizations so they found these criminals that would steal puppies and dogs from pet stores and in this case, from their families," said Orange County Sheriff John Mina.
More than six months after the robbery, Sheriff John Mina said Matos has been reunited with Bugsy.
"To not have him home, it was tough going to sleep at night when he's not by your feet and being so used to that," said Johnny Matos, Bugsy's owner.
Sheriff Mina said detectives received numerous tips during their investigation.
Orange County deputies arrested Ronnie Baker and Quantavious Williams for the armed robbery in Orlando and for numerous burglaries at pet stores in the Tampa Bay area. Sheriff Mina said the suspects would sell stolen dogs for cash or use them for breeding.
Detectives said Baker was arrested in May for unrelated charges. Deputies said he was in possession of an English bulldog. Detectives discovered the dog with fresh wounds and determined it was stolen from a pet store in Largo.
"The wounds on her back were discovered to be from the botched removal of her original microchip. After her microchip was removed, a new one was inserted and she was sloppily and improperly sewn back up and the wound became infected," said Detective Mike Peers with the Orange County Sheriff's Office.
In April, Largo police said the suspects stole 12 dogs from "All About Puppies" in Largo. The suspects smashed open the front door and shoved the dogs into backpacks.
A month earlier, a similar burglary occurred in Manatee County. Deputies said the suspects stole six puppies worth $35,000 from Petland. Detectives have located one stolen dog from the burglary.
The Orange County Sheriff's Office said detectives received a tip that lead them to a home in Orange County where deputies arrested Bobby Rivera about 3 months ago. Deputies said Rivera would remove microchips from the stolen dogs so they could not be traced.
"The investigation revealed that in addition to chip removal, Rivera would perform other veterinarian tasks to include cropping ears, artificial insemination and putting dogs under anesthesia even though he was not a veterinarian," said Detective Peers.
Detectives said they located a bloody desk and rags on the property. Detectives said they also found nine dogs including a dead dog. The dogs did not have access to food or water, according to deputies.
Authorities said all three men are facing charges related to their roles in the operation.
"That's just people being selfish and just looking at these animals as money. They're not money, they are family," said Matos.