The two operators of the former Puppies Galore pet store in Brick must pay thousands of dollars in fines and restitution, and have both received a lifetime ban from engaging in animal-related businesses.
Maria De Santis, 58, of Jackson, owned Puppies Galore on Hooper Avenue. Nathan "Nat" Sladkin, 72, of Farmingdale, was the store's manager. The animal cruelty cases against both were resolved last week.
On Jan. 26, 2012, authorities removed 39 puppies from the store – which was already closed due to health violations – after receiving a tip from a member of the public. The puppies were found to be sick and malnourished, officials said at the time, and some were taken to emergency animal hospitals for treatment.
The store's operating license was revoked after a special hearing before the Brick Township council a short time later, and a combined 42 counts of animal cruelty were brought against De Santis and Sladkin after the puppies were removed.
As part of a plea bargain with a special prosecutor, De Santis pleaded guilty to two civil counts for failure to provide a living creature with necessary sustenance in the form of veterinary care for sick dogs maintained at her store, as well as a municipal ordinance violation, NJSPCA President Rick Yocum said Monday in a statement on Monday.
She was fined $750 for the violations and ordered to pay $7,500 in restitution to various entities that provided veterinary care and sheltering for the animals, plus the prosecution of the case. She also agreed to a lifetime ban which prohibits her from "engaging in any business that is involved in the sales, brokering, or consulting of any domestic animals including dogs and cats in the State of New Jersey," Yocum said.
Sladkin pleaded guilty to two criminal crulety charges for failure to provide a living creature with necessary sustenance in the form of veterinary care for the sick dogs maintained at the store, as well as a municipal ordinance violation.
Sladkin was fined $1,000 for the violations and, ordered to pay $8,000 in restitution. He, like De Santis, also is now banned from participating in any business that deals with domestic animals.
"We are very pleased with the outcome, believe justice was served and appreciate the lifetime bans placed on both defendants," said Yocum. "I would like to thank the Jersey Shore Animal Shelter who was instrumental in helping us assemble the information to help us prosecute this case. We would also like to thank the special prosecutor assigned to this case for working closely with the NJSPCA and seeing this case to the end."
Yocum credited Lt. Thomas Yanisko of the NJSPCA’s Law Enforcement Division for being instrumental in bringing the case to resolution.
Neither De Santis nor Sladkin could be reached for comment. Several phone numbers associated with both had been disconnected or otherwise unavailable when a reporter attempted to call.
The case brings to a close Sladkin's well-documented and controversial participation in the business of selling animals.
A pet store he previously owned in Point Pleasant Beach, Pet Depot, was the frequent site of protests, and he had faced criticism in Pennsylvania on allegations that he sold dogs from so-called "puppy mills." He was also once profiled in the Wall Street Journal.
The Puppies Galore case eventually led to a ban on new puppy stores in Brick Township, as well as a state legislative bill that would more heavily regulate the business overall.