PLATTSBURGH — The Northern Puppies sign came down late this week and was replaced with a new one in the window that reads “Critter Hut Pet Shop.”
It also advertises a sale — up to 75 percent off on everything in the store, which is located in Plattsburgh Plaza on Cornelia Street.
But signs no longer call it a “going out of business sale,” as was promoted a few weeks ago when the Northern Puppies sign remained in place.
The shop became notorious over the summer, when owner Tammy Staley was charged with 20 counts of misdemeanor animal cruelty after an unannounced July inspection by State Department of Agriculture and Markets inspectors and Plattsburgh City Police.
Police said they discovered a dead kitten and several others in poor health, as well as animals covered in feces and urine and confined to cages too small for them.
Then, in August, Staley’s husband, Michael, dumped 24 puppies from the shop, many of whom were sick, in various locations in the woods around Clinton County.
He told the Press-Republican he did so because he couldn’t afford the veterinarian care for them.
Public outcry followed, with dozens of area residents searching for and finding 19 of the puppies and protests held near the store; the dogs were eventually adopted.
Mr. Staley pleaded not guilty to 24 counts of animal abandonment later that week and is due in Plattsburgh City Court at 8:30 a.m. Friday.
The date of Mrs. Staley’s next court appearance was not available at the end of last week.
“I haven’t been convicted of it (the charges),” Mrs. Staley told the Press-Republican on Friday, expressing her frustration with media reports that she says paint her as a “horrible person.”
“Nobody has the right damn story.”
Staley declined to say whether she changed the name of her store.
“We are aware of the name change and will continue to monitor the situation,” Joe Morrissey, Ag and Markets spokesperson, said in an email.
On Aug. 14, Agriculture and Markets Hearing Officer Susan Weber recommended the agency revoke Mrs. Staley’s license to operate a pet store that sells dogs and cats, Morrissey said, and that happened on Aug. 27.
Weber made her recommendation based on Ag and Markets Law regarding the proper care of animals by pet dealers and Mrs. Staley’s criminal charges.
Animal cruelty is a misdemeanor and carries, per county, a penalty of not more than one year in prison or not more than $1,000 in fines or both.
Since it is a criminal charge, it is under the jurisdiction of local law enforcement agencies, not Ag and Markets.
When asked if she would attempt to obtain another pet dealer license from Ag and Markets, Staley said, “I’m not going to do (sell) dogs.”
She also said she will not be selling cats.
‘NOT REQUIRED TO CLOSE’
A State Agriculture and Markets pet dealer license clears the owner to sell only dogs and cats, Morrissey said.
To have exotic mammals and other pets available for purchase, a shop owner is required to be licensed with the U.S. Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, he said.
The USDA is charged with enforcing any violations of those licenses, and Plattsburgh City Police Department does not partner with that agency the way it does with Ag and Markets, City Police Lt. Scott Beebie said.
“All we can do is to give them (Staleys) a heads up (on federal laws),” he said. “We don’t have any involvement with the feds.”
On Friday, the shop had rabbits, ferrets, hamsters, rats, mice and chinchillas for sale, along with a few snakes, a lizard and aquarium fish.
LIMIT WITHOUT LICENSE
Without a pet-dealer license, Morrissey said, no one is permitted to sell or offer for sale more than nine dogs or cats from an outside source or more than 24 dogs or cats born and raised on the person’s residential property per year.
There is no license required to sell pet supplies if no pets are offered for sale in the store, he said.
“Our pet dealer license does not prohibit whether or not a store may be kept open,” Morrissey said. “The license is only for selling, or offering for sale, dogs and cats.”
‘CAN STILL HAVE PETS’
Plattsburgh City Police and Ag and Markets also looked into a report that Mrs. Staley had a dog in her store on Oct. 10 that was giving birth.
They were told an employee was asking customers to stay at the front of the shop so the animal would not be disturbed as the pups were born.
City Police visited the Staley home on Friday, Beebie said.
“The Rottweiler is at her residence, and it is her personal property, and it is alive and well,” he said, adding that it is within Staley’s rights to own animals.
“She is still allowed to be in possession of animals. She is allowed to be a dog owner.”
On Friday, Staley said her dog did give birth to puppies but not in her store.
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