SAN DIEGO, July 26 (UPI) -- Southern California officials are struggling to stem the flow of diseased puppies being smuggled in from Mexico, the Los Angeles Times said Monday.
Animal control officials estimate thousands, of puppies have died since an underground market was uncovered last year.
The dogs are usually small breeds like poodles, pugs and Chihuahuas and are typically sold through newspaper ads to bargain-seeking buyers who pay cash.
Some of the pups suffer from parvovirus and distemper, as well as scabies, which can be transferred to humans.
U.S. Customs agents, responding to requests from local agencies, have added sick puppies to their list of contraband items, like drugs and weapons, as they search vehicles crossing the border at San Ysidro.
"There is no such thing as an ugly puppy," said John Carlson, director of San Diego County's North Regional Animal Shelter. "It's almost like drug peddling, except that it's not illegal to possess a young puppy. But it is illegal to be selling young puppies that are sick."