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Case ID: 19254
Classification: Neglect / Abandonment
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Thursday, Jan 26, 2012

County: Ocean

Disposition: Alleged

» Maria De Santis
» Nathan Sladkin

Case Updates: 2 update(s) available

The owner and the manager of a Brick pet store that was shut down by authorities last month have been charged with a combined total of 42 counts of animal cruelty.

Investigators with the New Jersey Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals filed the charges late last week against Maria De Santis, 57, of Old Bridge, and Nathan "Nat" Sladkin, 71, of Farmingdale. De Santis owned Puppies Galore in the Brick Mall shopping plaza on Hooper Avenue, and Sladkin was the store's manager, authorities said.

DeSantis was charged with 38 counts of animal cruelty and Sladkin was charged with 4 counts of animal cruelty, according to SPCA Capt. Rick Yocum.

The majority of the criminal charges, Yocum said, were filed for failure to provide necessary sustenance in the form of veterinary care for the puppies. The remaining criminal charges were filed for failure to provide proper shelter and water.

After a complaint was filed with the Ocean County Health Department on Jan. 26, a total of 39 puppies were removed from the store and taken to a number of animal shelters and veterinary hospitals. Nearly all of the puppies were at least mildly ill, authorities said at the time, and four of the dogs were seriously ill.

Each criminal animal cruelty charge is subject to fines up to $1,000 and potential jail time of up to six months. Yocum said the SPCA may still file civil charges in addition to the criminal charges.

"The good news is these puppies were removed from a less than healthy environment," Yocum said.

The Ocean County Health Department had rated Puppies Galore as unsatisfactory, prompting its owner to voluntarily shut down the store before the puppies were removed. That case is still pending and a hearing in municipal court has been set for Feb. 14.

The store itself was empty Monday, and all of the cages, supplies and furniture had been removed.

De Santis and Sladkin are scheduled to appear in court in Brick on the animal cruelty charges on Thursday.

As the legal process continues, all of the puppies will remain at animal shelters and under the care of veterinarians.

"The puppies in our shelter are doing well," said Pat Wallace of the Jersey Shore Animal Center in Brick, where a number of the dogs are staying.

Yocum said the four most seriously ill dogs were taken to NorthStar VETS - a veterinary trauma center in Robbinsville - and all are recovering from pneumonia after receiving several days of treatment.

NJSPCA officers Lt. Thomas Yanisko and Officer Paul Schlossbach took the lead on the case on behalf of the NJSPCA, Yocum said. The store, which had been open for three months, was under investigation by the NJSPCA before the puppies were removed.

"This has been a very collaborative investigation," Yocum said.

Neither De Santis nor Sladkin could be immediately reached for comment

Case Updates

The owner and manager of the former Puppies Galore pet store were in Brick municipal court Thursday evening.

Maria De Santis, the store's owner, is facing 38 counts of animal cruelty related to her ownership of the business, which was shut down by authorities in January.

The store's manager, Nathan "Nat" Sladkin, is facing four counts of animal cruelty.

Municipal Court Judge Robert M. Lepore granted De Santis' attorney's request for a 45 day period of discovery, during which she and her attorney can comb through the documents that make up the state's case against her.

De Santis' attorney said after the discovery period, the defense may request a change in venue due to statements that have been made by people associated with the township.

It was the first time in court for De Santis, a 57-year-old Old Bridge resident. She said virtually nothing to the judge, instead allowing her attorney to answer questions posed by Lepore.

De Santis would not comment to a reporter outside the court room.

It was the second appearance in court for Sladkin, who told the judge he has not yet retained an attorney because he has been suffering from heart health issues.

"I've been sick," he said. "I'm on a heart monitor now."

Lepore gave Sladkin two more weeks to hire an attorney, but warned him against putting it off any longer.

"The wheels of justice don't stop because someone is sick," Lepore said.

The township council revoked the store's business license last month.

Both De Santis and Sladkin face up to six months in jail, plus fines.

Charges were filed against the pair in February, a few days after the puppies were removed from the Hooper Avenue store. Officials have said 26 of the dogs were sick at the time. The bulk of the cruelty charges stem from the defendants' alleged failure to provide necessary sustenance in the form of veterinary care for the puppies. The remaining criminal charges were filed for failure to provide proper shelter and water.
Source: - Mar 16, 2012
Update posted on Mar 16, 2012 - 9:59AM 
Maria De Santis and Nathan "Nat" Sladkin, the two people facing animal cruelty charges in connection with the Puppies Galore pet store, did not appear in Brick Municipal Court on Thursday.

Though an New Jersey SPCA officer was on hand and ready for the planned proceedings, court staff confirmed the case has been adjourned to March 15.

No specifics were provided to a reporter as to why the case was adjourned.

De Santis, 57, of Old Bridge, faces 38 counts of animal cruelty related to her ownership of Puppies Galore on Hooper Avenue. In January, the store was shut down and 39 puppies were removed after months of violations culminated in a tip from a citizen that prompted a multi-agency response.

Sladkin, 71, of Farmingdale, who was the manager of the store, is facing four counts of animal cruelty.

The store's license to operate was revoked by the township council in February.
Source: - Mar 2, 2012
Update posted on Mar 2, 2012 - 9:19PM 


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