A total of 39 puppies were removed from a Brick pet store after an anonymous tip led to a multi-agency response Thursday.
Officials from the Ocean County Health Department along with volunteers from the Jersey Shore Animal Shelter removed 39 dogs from Puppies Galore, a puppy store located in the Brick Mall shopping plaza at the corner of Brick Boulevard and Hooper Avenue.
Brick Police kept watch over the scene.
"The concern was the overall welfare of the 39 puppies that were here," said Dr. Adam Christman, a veterinarian from Brick Town Veterinary Hospital.
Christman was called to the scene after the county health department contacted the Jersey Shore Animal Center Thursday afternoon. Of the 39 puppies at the store, 26 were determined to have health problems, including four with serious health issues.
The four with the most serious health issues, which Christman said appeared to be pneumonia, were taken immediately to NorthStar VETS in Robbinsville, a 24 hour veterinary emergency trauma center.
The other sick puppies, which varied in size and breed, will be treated at local animal hospitals and shelters, including St. Hubert's in Madison, the Monmouth County SPCA in Eatontown and the Jersey Shore Animal Center in Brick. Those puppies were determined by Christman and another veterinarian on scene to be suffering from mild to moderate respiratory issues, gastrointestinal problems and intestinal parasites.
"Things that will be deemed treatable," he said.
"Our mission right now is just to take care of the welfare of the animals," Christman said. "They're going to be divided up and, at least, have their care provided for until the legal process has transpired."
Ryan Griffin, Senior Public Health Investigator for the Ocean County Health Department, said the store was issued an unsatisfactory notice Tuesday, and agreed to voluntarily shut down. But a tip from an individual prompted the response Thursday. The tip, according to Christman, included a report that one dog had escaped from its pen and was running around the store.
"The township was in the process of reviewing continued licensure," Griffin said.
Griffin said an investigation is ongoing, and animal cruelty officers will be making a determination as to whether any charges will be filed against the owners of the pet store, identified by a county representative on scene as Maria Desantis and Nat Sladkin.
Christman said Desantis was "belligerent" toward officials who came to the store to investigate the complaint.
Neither owner remained on scene, though Christman said he knew of multiple "unfit for purchase" letters filed by local veterinarians against the store, which entitle purchasers of sick puppies to receive refunds and recoup expenses.
Neither Desantis nor Sladkin could be immediately reached for comment.
A check of public records showed Desantis registered the business with the Ocean County Clerk's office last July.