Animal Cruelty Suspects Appear in Brick Court
Pet store owner could ask for change of venue
The owner and manager of the former Puppies Galore pet store were in Brick municipal court Thursday evening.
Maria De Santis, the store's owner, is facing 38 counts of animal cruelty related to her ownership of the business, which was shut down by authorities in January.
The store's manager, Nathan "Nat" Sladkin, is facing four counts of animal cruelty.
Municipal Court Judge Robert M. Lepore granted De Santis' attorney's request for a 45 day period of discovery, during which she and her attorney can comb through the documents that make up the state's case against her.
De Santis' attorney said after the discovery period, the defense may request a change in venue due to statements that have been made by people associated with the township.
It was the first time in court for De Santis, a 57-year-old Old Bridge resident. She said virtually nothing to the judge, instead allowing her attorney to answer questions posed by Lepore.
De Santis would not comment to a reporter outside the court room.
It was the second appearance in court for Sladkin, who told the judge he has not yet retained an attorney because he has been suffering from heart health issues.
"I've been sick," he said. "I'm on a heart monitor now."
Lepore gave Sladkin two more weeks to hire an attorney, but warned him against putting it off any longer.
"The wheels of justice don't stop because someone is sick," Lepore said.
Charges were filed against the pair in February, a few days after the puppies were removed from the Hooper Avenue store. Officials have said 26 of the dogs were sick at the time. The bulk of the cruelty charges stem from the defendants' alleged failure to provide necessary sustenance in the form of veterinary care for the puppies. The remaining criminal charges were filed for failure to provide proper shelter and water.
The township council revoked the store's business license last month.
Both De Santis and Sladkin face up to six months in jail, plus fines.