By FELICIA KRIEG
---- — SARANAC — Tuesday afternoon, Tammy and Michael Staley surrendered ownership of 24 puppies abandoned in the woods to Plattsburgh City Police Department.
As of Tuesday evening — as a crowd demonstrated in Plattsburgh Plaza to demand all the animals at Mrs. Staley’s Northern Puppies pet shop be taken away — 17 of the young dogs had been found.
Thirteen had been rescued by Monday night, with four more Tuesday, Plattsburgh City Police Chief Desmond Racicot said.
And charges were pending.
The plight of the pups, who police said Mr. Staley dumped at various wooded areas Saturday, riled North Country residents and spurred them to search for them.
More than 20 people gathered at noon Tuesday in the parking lot of Saranac High School to organize an effort from that location.
“I brought a truck full of supplies,” said Kathy Ames of Saranac. “You’ve got to be over-prepared.”
Searchers, who came from as far away as Malone, Chateaugay and Rouses Point to help, planned to wear gloves to protect themselves from the possibly contagious diseases the puppies could have.
“I think it’s despicable,” said Amanda Racine of Rouses Point, speaking about Mr. Staley’s alleged actions.
She said she bought her pit bull, Sammy, from Northern Puppies after she caught wind of possible abuse there.
“I feel that’s a rescue more than a purchase.”
‘IT’S PRETTY SICK’
“It would be wrong for me not to be here,” said Carrie Redmond of Plattsburgh.
She volunteers at the Elmore SPCA in Peru and owns four rescued animals.
“It’s pretty sick that someone would take 24 puppies and dump them in the woods when they can’t defend themselves,” Travis Vann of Redford said.
Vann and Brandon St. John of Plattsburgh created the “Puppy Search” Facebook page encouraging people to pitch in.
St. John grew up on Pup Hill Road, one of the many roads police said the puppies could be.
“I’m just thinking of a puppy there all by themselves, cold and not knowing if it would make it through the night,” St. John said.
He was pleased with the turnout, since he originally thought only a few of his friends would show up to help.
Plattsburgh City Police first learned of the situation Saturday morning when a Northern Puppies employee called to report what appeared to be a burglary.
Police said Mr. Staley, 36, of Plattsburgh told them he staged the crime and dumped the 24 puppies in the woods to avoid large veterinarian bills because they were sick.
He was scheduled to give police a statement regarding the burglary on Monday but he came on Sunday instead and admitted to abandoning the dogs then, Racicot said.
ANIMAL CRUELTY CHARGES
Last month, Mrs. Staley was charged with 20 counts of animal cruelty after an unannounced search of the 11 Plattsburgh Plaza store found many sick kittens and other animals that were confined to cages too small for them, police said.
Joe Morrissey, spokesperson for the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets, said Tuesday that his office was waiting to hear back from the hearing officer on that case.
When Mrs. Staley was arrested, police couldn’t legally seize the dogs because she chose not to surrender them, Racicot said.
“It’s (was) still her property. It’s a legal process.
“We were doing daily inspections of the animals” with representatives from Ag and Markets at the store.
Whether the Staleys had an insurance policy on the dogs was still under investigation, the chief said.
LOOKED LIKE FOX
Amber Cane of Saranac notified police on Sunday that she had found two German shepherd puppies over the weekend.
She came upon the first dog at about 1 a.m. Saturday morning when she was riding an ATV with a cousin, Christy Cane, on Strackville Road in Schuyler Falls, she said.
“We saw what looked like a little fox or something, so we pulled up to it,” Amber said.
“The first one we found was very dirty,” she said. “It hadn’t eaten in almost a week,” she said, citing information from a vet.
“They’re about eight weeks (old).”
The puppy spent the night at Christy’s house, Amber said.
Amber was driving there at about 10 a.m. Sunday to check on the dog when she spotted a second German shepherd pup on Ore Bed Road in Schuyler Falls.
PRICEY VET BILLS
Luckily, the vet found the dogs, both females, to be in good health, except for being malnourished, Amber said.
She said she is keeping one of the pups, and Christy’s boyfriend’s brother is keeping the other.
“It makes me feel disgusted.”
The circumstances under which most of the dogs were found was unclear Tuesday, but Racicot said a Yorkshire terrier puppy was spotted and rescued by a man who was eating his lunch near the Saranac River on Kent Falls Road in Morrisonville over the weekend.
The chief said the pups would eventually go up for adoption to good homes.
Community response has also come in the form of cash donations to the Police Department for the dogs, and Racicot said any gift goes into an account used to pay the vet bills of animals in the department’s possession.
Between Mr. and Mrs. Staley’s cases, he said, the vet bills have amounted to almost $20,000.
At 10:30 a.m. Tuesday, eight rabbits, two ferrets, five hamsters, one chinchilla, two guinea pigs and two parrots remained at Northern Puppies.
The door was unlocked, and the open sign was on, but no one appeared to be minding the store.
Racicot said City Police had contacted a federal agency that handles cases regarding “non-companion animals.”
By evening, about six puppies remained missing.
“Our group searched all of Saranac and came up empty,” Vann posted on the Facebook page at about 6 p.m.
Police pinpointed Macomb State Park in Schuyler Falls as a possible location, along with the surrounding forests and these areas: Collins, Ore Bed, Strackville and Norrisville roads in Schuyler Falls; Soper Street, Morrison and Kent Falls roads in Morrisonville; and Burnt Hill, Pup Hill, Maggy and Cane roads in Saranac.
“I can’t imagine them being in good shape,” Racicot said. “As time goes by, their likelihood (of surviving) gets less and less.”
Police ask that anyone who finds a puppy to call the station at 563-3411.
Email Felicia Krieg: email@example.comTwitter: @FeliciaKrieg