BRICK TOWNSHIP, NEW JERSEY — Health inspectors closed a township pet store Thursday, and animal welfare volunteers confiscated 39 puppies that were either sick or at risk.
The Puppies Galore store in the Brick Mall at Brick Boulevard and Chambers Bridge Road was closed about 1:30 p.m. because of a report of unsafe conditions and unhealthy animals, according to Ocean County Senior Public Health Investigator Ryan Griffin, who was at the scene Thursday.
The owners of the store, identified as Maria DeSantis and Nat Sladkin by Brick animal cruelty investigator Nanci Keklak, were told to leave. A “closed” sign was placed in the window while veterinarians examined the puppies.
Four puppies were extremely ill, and 26 of the 39 dogs suffered from illnesses ranging from mild to severe, according to Dr. Adam Christman, a veterinarian with Jersey Shore Animal Center in Brick.
Christman and Phillip Begun, a staff veterinarian with the Ocean County Animal Shelter, were called about 1:30 p.m. by health officials to examine the puppies. Police were called to the scene but no arrests were made.
A red certificate issued by the county health department and taped to the store wall showed the business had an unsatisfactory inspection on Jan. 20. “We performed different exams to determine the welfare of the puppies,” Christman said. “Four were deemed to have severe pneumonia and 22 had some sort of respiratory illness.”
The puppies ranged in age from 10 to 14 weeks, he said. Among the breeds were chihuahuas, yorkies and German shepherds, he said.
Sharon Kight of Brick — who is a member of the township Board of Education — said she called the health department Thursday as a concerned resident, after her sister told her about the conditions of the puppies.
“Why do people have to buy puppies from stores like this?” said Kight, who owns a dog that had been rescued.
The owners of Puppies Galore will not be allowed to reopen their business until after a court hearing, according to Mayor Stephen C. Acropolis, who was at the scene Thursday night.
Acropolis said the complaint was initiated by a concerned citizen who said a puppy was loose in the store when it was closed, and that some puppies appeared sick.
“It’s like human trafficking,” Acropolis said of the puppies, which humane officials said were overcrowded in pens and cages in the store. “The biggest thing is that people call us when they see something wrong like this. The health department makes inspections, but we count on people to be our eyes and ears in between.”
“Their license is suspended, and we didn’t want these sick puppies going out for sale anywhere else,” the mayor said.
Volunteers Thursday night were awaiting the arrival of shelter vans from St. Hubert’s Animal Welfare shelter and the Monmouth County SPCA, which would take the puppies to different facilities throughout the area for medical attention.
The four puppies with pneumonia were taken to NorthStar Vets in Robbinsville, Christman said. NorthStar is a 24-hour emergency veterinary center.