“I wanted to go there myself to see if there were any animals inside,” the officer said. “We received multiple reports from the community that there was abuse that we did not observe.”
The officer added, “Now there were complaints that there were cats in there that you could hear screaming and there’s nothing inside there at all. There are not even fish inside.”
The officer also noted that a Department of Health official was inspecting the premises upon arrival to the scene.
While police said they saw no abuse, a few members of the community were reporting unsanitary conditions, with reports of animals inside being fed little and infrequently.
It then came to light that the store was operating without the proper permits, as cited in one of three summonses issued to shop owner Efrain Davila by the state Department of Agriculture and Markets.
A civil suit has also been filed against the pet shop by Jamie Raia and John Oliveira, a couple who boarded their seven-pound mini pincher, Roo, at the Fresh Pond Pet Shop not knowing the store was not legally allowed to be providing that service.
The couple then had trouble with retrieving Roo from the shop. When they did get in touch with Davila to open the shop, their dog Roo was in a cage marked “For Sale.”
“I plan to push this as far as I can,” Oliveira said. “Nobody should be able to do this to somebody’s pet, or to any other living creature.”
Anthony Caracci, founder and former owner of the store, said he had high hopes for Davila and his girlfriend Kim Ruiz when they took control of the business in November of last year.
“When I first met them, they said they knew the basics,” Caracci said. “The male said he worked in an animal shelter helping out and sold animals online. The female said she had worked at a zoo.”
He noted that Ruiz, who identified herself as a co-owner of the business in an interview with NY1, was not a signer when Caracci sold the business to Davila.
He reported that several of his employees, who had stayed on as volunteers, were all quickly “weeded out” by Davila and Ruiz.
Caracci said he was saddened by the news of the pet shop’s fall from grace. He is doubtful that anyone will ever run a pet shop at that location again with all the negative press now linked to the address.
“I think stress overwhelmed them and their priorities weren’t straight. When you’re open for four hours a day, something isn’t right,” Caracci said. “They took a thriving business and just destroyed it.”
More than anything, though, he was upset knowing the store was keeping such short and irregular hours with animals inside who need frequent and specialized care.
“A puppy can slip away into hypoglycemic shock in six hours,” Caracci said. “They have to eat (every) four to six hours. If it’s not treated right, it can be fatal.”
Local resident Angela Connell was critical of what she perceived to be a lack of the enforcement infrastructure required for police to truly take over for the ASPCA in dealing with animal cruelty cases.
“They can’t charge them with animal cruelty because it takes a while for them to see this over and over,” Connell said. “They’re so new to doing the animal welfare, so they’re not really sure how to handle it.”
Davila was not available for comment as of press time.