More than 60 puppies were placed under the care of Tyco Animal Control after New Jersey police found them locked in steel crates inside of a van.
The discovery was made around 3 a.m. April 4, The Record reported. Officers Daniel Derienzo and Matthew Lombardo heard crying and whining coming from a van parked behind Just Pups, a dog store in Paramus.
The officers approached the van and smelled a strong odor of feces and urine. They opened the unlocked sliding door and found 67 dogs, some covered in feces, crammed into small metal crates.
Officers said the temperature was 38 degrees Fahrenheit inside the van. They added that ventilation was poor and that some of the crates, which held two to four puppies each, did not contain food or water.
Just Pups is a part of a chain owned by Vincent LoSacco, who is already facing charges of animal cruelty in relation to another of his stores. Police said the van was registered under his name.
LoSacco argued that the puppies were kept in a “customized transport van that is isolated and temperature controlled.” He said the van was being used to transport puppies to the Paramus store from his breeding kennel in Missouri.
“It’s not [abnormal] to leave them [the puppies] in the van, as long as they have air conditioning or heat — depending on the season — and food and water,” LoSacco said. “It’s the same thing with the pet store. People aren’t there 24 hours.”
According to the New York Daily News, LoSacco also refuted claims that the cages were overcrowded. He said the low temperature reading by police was probably recorded after the van’s sliding door was opened and added that dogs may have become covered in feces after authorities loaded the van onto a flatbed truck to transport the puppies.
The 67 dogs were taken to Oradell Animal Hospital, a hospital spokesperson said. Fifteen of the puppies require further medical treatment.
“When we got the call, we kind of mobilized our team and brought in technical staff,” hospital spokeswoman Nancy Miles told The Record. “We’ve had incidents with pet stores in the past, but this is the most we’ve ever received.”
Miles added that the Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office would determine what happens next with the puppies.
“Right now it’s all up in the air,” she said.
The Just Pups store was closed April 4 by the Health Department pending investigation.