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Saturday, Oct 1, 2011County: Hunterdon
Alleged: Jessica Isenhour
A woman operating a North Carolina-based pet rescue has been charged with 15 counts of animal cruelty for allegedly selling sick puppies in pet stores and parking lots in and around Lambertville.
The New Jersey Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals filed criminal and civil charges last week against Jessica Isenhour, 33, the owner of the "Saving Fur Kids" animal rescue organization, for failing to provide proper veterinary care and for selling animals along a public road or at a shopping center.
A woman claiming to rescue pets from shelters in the South was actually selling disease-ridden puppies and dogs to unsuspecting buyers in and around the Lambertville area, authorities allege.
The New Jersey Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (NJSPCA) last week filed 15 criminal and civil charges against Jessica Isenhour, 33, head of the North Carolina-based "Saving Fur Kids" animal welfare organization.
"This was your typical rescue - quote, unquote - operation that goes astray," said Matthew Stanton, a spokesman for the NJSPCA. "She figured she could go make some money and it'll look like she's doing good for animals."
An investigation into an outbreak of canine parvovirus led authorities to Isenhour, whom the NJSPCA alleges sold puppies and dogs sickened with parvo and other illnesses. At least four dogs later died.
Spread through feces and unsanitary living conditions, parvo attacks the intestines and hearts of dogs, usually young puppies, causing diarrhea and vomiting. It is highly contagious and often deadly, but can be treated if caught in time, Stanton said.
Reached at a Clinton listing for Saving Fur Kids, Isenhour referred a reporter to her lawyer, saying only, "Everything will come out in court." That lawyer, Gina Calogero, said she hadn't been retained by Isenhour and couldn't comment on the case.
The NJSPCA has charged Isenhour with failing to provide proper veterinary care for the animals and for selling pets along public roads and shopping centers.
New Jersey law mandates that animals be examined by a state-licensed veterinarian before their sale, a requirement Isenhour failed to follow, according to the NJSPCA.
"The fact of the matter is Ms. Isenhour was not operating an animal rescue operation. She was hiding behind the alleged animal rescue veil to operate a for-profit puppy mill or pet dealership that sold sick dogs in the State of New Jersey" said Rick Yocum, president of the NJSPCA.
The animals were transported from the South and into New Jersey, where they were sold at pet stores and in parking lots.
Stanton said the rescue set up at locations in the Lambertville area, including the parking lot at the Tractor Supply store on Route 202 in Raritan Township. A house in Lambertville also served as a foster home for pets awaiting adoption.
From December 2010 to August 2011, Isenhour is believed to have sold approximately 40 dogs through Saving Fur Kids, Stanton said.
Adoption "donations" range from $270 to $400, according to the organization's website, and include fees for vaccinations, spaying or neutering and other medical care.
East Amwell resident Frances Gavigan defended Isenhour yesterday, saying she was the victim of a smear campaign perpetuated by unhappy pet owners. Gavigan said she adopted a dachshund mix from Saving Fur Kids last year and received a happy, healthy dog that had been dutifully cared for.
"An animal getting sick is not indicative of someone having been neglectful," she said.
A Dec. 21 court date has been scheduled in Lambertville municipal court.
Criminal - 4 Counts
4:22-17 a. (1) "deprive of necessary sustenance".
Civil - 4 Counts
4:22-26 a. (1) "deprive of necessary sustenance".
Criminal - 3 Counts
4:22-17 a. (2) "Cause or procure, by any direct or indirect means, including but not limited to through the use of another living animal or creature, any such acts are done."
Civil - 3 Counts
4:22-26 a. (2) - "Cause or procure, by any direct or indirect means, including but not limited to through the use of another living animal or creature, any such acts to be done"
Civil - 1 Count
4:22-26 m. "Own, operate, manage or conduct a roadside stand or market for the sale of merchandise along a public street or highway; or a shopping mall, or a part of the premises thereof; and keep a living animal or creature confined, or allowed to roam in an area whether or not the area is enclosed, on these premises as an exhibit."
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