A California woman is facing a series of charges after police say she set up a fake non-profit dog rescue organization and offered puppies for sale that were sick and too young to be sold.

Police in the upscale Southern California city of Irvine say they've arrested Megan Ann Hoechstetter after getting a complaint from a family who told police a puppy they had purchased from Hoechstetter through her apparently bogus rescue group was sick and died a week after they brought it home.

Police found 13 puppies in hotel room

When police and animal services officers went to a hotel in nearby Cypress, where Hoechstetter was staying, they found 13 puppies in her hotel room.

Animal services officers rescued another six puppies being kept elsewhere. The 19 puppies are being evaluated and tested for various illnesses. Officials say they’re too young and their health is too fragile for them to be put up for adoption at this time.

Investigators fear additional sick puppies were sold

Kim Mohr, a spokeswoman for the Irvine Police Department, told the Orange County Register that at least four puppies Hoechstetter sold later died. It’s believed that Hoechstetter obtained the puppies from Mexico and it appears she did not give them proper care. Investigators fear there could be more sick and dying puppies elsewhere that were sold to unsuspecting families and individuals.

“We’ve been inundated with calls since news broke,” Mohr told the newspaper.

The 42-year-old Hoechstetter is facing a number of charges, both felonies and misdemeanours, related to crimes against animals. Police believe besides the Southern California-based site she operated called Pawlosophy, Hoechstetter may have been running other businesses under bogus names.

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Authorities urge caution when buying puppies

With the case causing such heartbreak to the people who bought the sick puppies, and great concern to dog lovers everywhere, officials are reminding people who are thinking about getting a dog to be cautious about buying from groups or organizations who only communicate online. Instead, adopting from a local animal shelter or a humane society is recommended because such groups are required to provide medical attention and veterinary care for their animals.

It’s also recommended that a veterinarian examines the dog and that its previous vet records be available. Also, because puppies shouldn’t be taken away from their mother too soon, it’s against the law in California and other states to sell a dog younger than eight-weeks-old.