PLATTSBURGH — For Tammy and Michael Staley, the past five weeks have been a nightmare as they have struggled to deal with charges of animal cruelty and abandonment.
They want an outraged public to know that there is more to the story.
“I understand the public reaction, but if they had any idea of what we’ve been going through, they would think differently,” Mrs. Staley, 33, said in an interview with the Press-Republican on Monday.
She explained that the situation began when she was charged July 9 with 20 counts of cruelty to animals after an unannounced inspection at her pet store, Northern Puppies in Plattsburgh Plaza.
The morning employee, Mrs. Staley said, had not had time to feed the kittens and clean up after them and dispose of one that had died overnight before the inspectors came in.
“They came in first thing in the morning, and if she (employee) had about 20 more minutes, the kittens would have been fed and cleaned and the dead one would have been dealt with, and none of this would have happened,” she said.
“They always tell you deal with the well animals first before the sick ones, and that’s what she did.”
As a result of the violations, Mrs. Staley’s license to sell kittens and puppies was suspended. She said she was also told that she could not give away the 24 remaining puppies or give them to the SPCA.
That meant she had to take care of them until her case was resolved, but her next court date is not until Aug. 22.
Mrs. Staley said she did her best to care for the puppies since her arrest and spent about $3,000 in veterinarian bills.
In the meantime, her business suffered because of the negative publicity the store received along with the charges against her.
And the couple struggled to pay bills and provide for their five children.
Mr. Staley, 36, said he didn’t know what else to do.
So unbeknownst to his wife, he hatched a plan to fake a break-in at the store and take the puppies.
He said he brought them to places he felt they would be quickly found and taken to good homes.
“He never went into the woods with those puppies,” Mrs. Staley said.
“He put them in places where he knew people would find them. He even said, ‘Sorry,’ to them as he dropped them off.”
As police investigated, they tracked the global positioning system device on Mr. Staley’s mobile phone and found it had been to several of the places where people reported that they had found puppies.
With that evidence against him, Mr. Staley confessed; he said he offered to help police find the missing dogs.
“I drove in the truck with them and pointed right where they were left,” he said.
“I knew they would be found. If I wanted to, I could have gotten rid of them, and nobody ever would have found them, but I didn’t want to do that.”
“We had to borrow money to buy groceries right before this all happened,” Mrs. Staley said.
Mrs. Staley said that when she found out what her husband did, she was not happy but quick to forgive.
“I was pissed off, but I love my husband, and we have been living this together for five weeks, and I completely understand why he did it.
“And now, all those puppies have good homes,” she added.
As of Monday, 19 of the 24 puppies had been found, but Mrs. Staley believes the missing five are safe as well.
“With all these people out looking for them, they either would have found them alive by now, or if they were dead, they would have found something,” she said.
“We even went out and looked ourselves for two days.”
‘WON’T CLOSE SHOP’
Her father, Kevin Linsley, has been supporting his daughter and son-in-law.
“What he did was stupid, but everybody has a breaking point,” Linsley said.
Mrs. Staley said the whole situation never would have happened if she had not been charged with animal cruelty because of the kittens.
“This never should have happened,” she said proclaiming that she will be found innocent of the animal cruelty charges.
“They hurt my business, but nobody ever wants to talk about all the dogs and animals that I’ve saved here by taking care of them and getting medicine for them.”
Last week, several protesters stood outside the store demanding that Northern Puppies be closed down.
Monday night, pets in the shop included hedgehogs, chinchillas, hamsters, two parrots and at least one snake.
Mrs. Staley said she has no intention of closing.
“I’m not going anywhere. I didn’t do anything wrong, and I don’t give up easily,” she said.
Email Joe LoTemplio:firstname.lastname@example.org