PLATTSBURGH — A Plattsburgh pet-store owner was charged with 20 counts of cruelty to animals after an unannounced inspection.
Tammy Staley, 33, owner of Northern Puppies in Plattsburgh Plaza, was arrested by Plattsburgh City Police at 8 a.m. Tuesday.
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She was released pending an arraignment in Plattsburgh City Court on July 25, City Police Lt. Scott Beebie said Wednesday.
The investigation began in June as a joint effort between the Plattsburgh City Police Department and the New York State Agriculture and Market’s Division of Animal Industry.
A “spot inspection” with uniformed officers and Ag and Markets representatives uncovered two dead kittens and several other kittens in poor health in the back room of the pet shop, Plattsburgh City Police said in a news release.
“The Ag and Markets inspectors, when dealing with pet dealers, can walk in unannounced and do an inspection at any time,” Beebie said. “It’s part of the license (conditions).”
Since the animals were seized, three other kittens have since died, succumbing to medical issues they incurred as a result of Staley’s criminal conduct, City Police said.
During the inspection, several other animals were found enclosed in cages too small for them, covered in their own feces and urine, City Police said.
In total, 36 puppies were in the store, along with an unknown number of “non-companion animals,” including birds, lizards and snakes, Beebie said.
Other than the five dead kittens, 25 others have been seized by Plattsburgh Police Department, Beebie said. That includes a cat that was given to the store that had just recently given birth to five kittens.
Eighteen kittens of mixed breeds were taken to Eagle’s Nest Veterinary Hospital in Plattsburgh for treatment of multiple medical issues, including ringworm, malnutrition, ear mites, fleas and eye and respiratory infections, police said.
Also, animals that were quarantined were being housed in the back room of the store with non-quarantined animals, police said.
In pet stores, new animals that are received must be quarantined for a certain amount of time before their health can be verified by a vet, Beebie said. And animals already in a pet store are required to be quarantined if they become ill.
Beebie could not release details regarding the conditions he observed in the store, as it could compromise further investigation, he said.
“All I can tell you is the condition of the animals seized were in need of medical care.”
Since they were seized from Northern Puppies, the animals have been examined by a veterinarian and have received food and water daily.
They will be placed in foster care until completion of the case once they are deemed healthy enough to leave the vet.
For animal-cruelty cases, City Police assume ownership of the animals and then work with Elmore SPCA to facilitate adoptions of the animals, Beebie said.
Cruelty to animals is a Class A misdemeanor, the most severe designation for that category of criminal offense.
Staley’s pet-store license has been suspended pending an Agriculture and Market hearing on July 16 in Albany.
As of 3 p.m. Tuesday afternoon, Northern Puppies was still open.
Press-Republican reporters observed 18 small puppies and one St. Bernard puppy that were enclosed in two large pens in the store. The water bowl in one of the pens was empty, and two puppies were curled up inside it sleeping.
City Police Corp. James LaPierre said that, to his knowledge, Staley opted to keep the puppies in the store, but she is not allowed to sell them, pending the results of a hearing.
She is, however, still permitted to sell non-companion animals, LaPierre said, stating his understanding of the situation.
After her arrest, Staley was released from custody pending a July 25 appearance in Plattsburgh City Court.
Staley declined to comment on the charges being brought against her or on the conditions in her store.
On June 1, she wrote on her Facebook page that she was seeking new puppies for her shop.
“If they haven’t had any shots or vet visits that’s ok too cause we have the vet check out all our new puppies before we let them go,” Staley wrote.
“We don’t kennel any of our puppies here. They stay in a large penned in area till they go to their new homes. We also treat them for fleas and worms. So they will be very well taken care of here.”
The purebred and mixed-breed dogs sold in Staley’s store ranged in price from $200 to $895, according to the Facebook page.
Northern puppies was also selling baby ferrets, chinchillas, hedgehogs and sugar gliders, Staley wrote on the page.
Beebie said City Police have dealt with several animal-cruelty cases in the past, although none recently, to his knowledge, involving poor conditions at a business.
“Unfortunately, we’ve been down this path before.”
Local photographer Damian Battinelli of Plattsburgh said he saw rabbits at Northern Puppies that were dyed different colors in April 2012, close to the Easter holiday.
He gave a statement to City Police and emailed the information to Ag and Markets.
Tina Rock of Peru bought her Yorkshire terrier, Milo, from Northern Puppies. It was soon after the shop opened that Rock went in and saw a large mastiff chasing the tiny puppy, which weighed just one pound, she said.
Rock left the shop that day with the terrier, paying $700 for him.
She said went into the shop a few more times. Each time, the puppies were wet, Rock said.
“They were just soaked with urine all the time,” she said. “There were fleas. There were bulged bellies.”
After seeing what she described as poor conditions on her third visit, she went to City Police, showing them several photos she took with her cell phone that show the store’s puppies in a pen littered with feces.
After her family posted the pictures on Facebook, they went viral, compromising the investigation, Rock said.
When Rock heard of Staley’s arrest, she was relieved.
“I have goosebumps on my arms still,” she said Tuesday evening.
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