EAST BRUNSWICK, NJ - In a Special Council Action Meeting of the East Brunswick Town Council tonight, Just Pups, a Route 18 pet store that was recently closed due to deplorable conditions, poor management, and incomplete recrod-keeping, had its license revoked by unanimous decision. Just Pups had twice been declared quarantined due to illness among the dogs and was subsequently shut down for violations of state and local health code when no remedies were made.
Said Council President Michael Hughes of the decision, "It was the only choice available. I'll sleep easier tonight."
The meeting lasted almost three hours, with representatives of state, county, and local health and animal safety offices presenting information regarding several inspections, recommendations, and customer complaints about Just Pups. The council meeting room was nearly filled with animal rights supporters, township officials, media representatives, and concerned citizens. Although testimony was detailed and extensive, the "buzz" in the room was electric due mostly to the high energy of the animal rights advocates who came to repsesent their ongoing interest in the proper care of pets in shops and shelters.
Attorney Jean Cipriani represented the township of East Brunswick and brought forth witnesses to attest to the process by which Just Pups was evaluated and and eventually closed. The Council could decide to take no action, to suspend the license, or to revoke the license for Just Pups, which has been closed for the past few weeks.
Attorney Anthony Arturi represented Vincent LoSacco, 50, the owner of Just Pups. He accused the East Brunswick council of "pre-judging the issue" and called for an end to the licensure proceedings, noting that he intended to see damages on behalf of LoSacco. Arturi asserted that East Brunswick had not followed proper procedure in the issuance of the recommendation for revoakation or suspension of the shop-owner's license. He objected to all witnesses and to the procedure itself.
Council President Michale Hughes heard but dismissed Arturo's complaint, and let Cipriani proceed to bring forth witnesses attesting to the validity of the findings of the East Brunswic, Middlesex County, and State of New Jersey health departments.
Lester Jones, Director of the Middlesex County Health Department, testified that he made a verbal recommendation to township Business Administrator White (whose last official meeting was tonight) to close Just Pups in the middle of January, following a staff inspection.
East Brunswick's Animal Control Officer JoAnn Lesko described how she responded to a complaint about Just Pups on January 22 about puppies that were ill and quarantined in-house at Just Pups. From her experience, she knew that "kennel cough" and some other illnesses were common at pet shops, but the number at Just Pups was "very abnormal." In her report dated February 1, 2016, Lesko noted that she observed "42 puppies with kennel cough" at Just Pups. she also observed a German Shepherd pup that was "listless" and "skin and bones." That dog was transferred to a veternarian immediately. The quarantine was tne extended to the entire facility. In the following week, conditions improved, but returned to a poor state soon thereafter.
Greg Laszlo, Chief Registered Environmental Health Specialist for the Middlesex County Health Department, spoke about his having rated the shop as "Unsatisfactory" three times and Conditionally Satisfactory twice as conditions fluctuated over the 8 weeks of observation at Just Pups. On February 19, Laszlo and his team discovered the bodies of three dead puppies frozen in a small freezer in a storeroom at the facility. The dogs wre not identified in any way. the bodies were sent to a state laboratory where one dog was evaluated to have had distemper. Assertions were made that the enire store was exposed to distemper at some point.