The Nassau County SPCA seized 11 puppies from a store in Baldwin on Monday after at least three complainants said dogs purchased from the storefront died within weeks of bringing them home, officials said.
SPCA board president Gary Rogers said the seized puppies, of assorted breeds, ranged in age from a few weeks to about six months. He said conditions inside the storefront were not safe for the dogs and said all 11 had been placed with a local veterinarian for care.
"It's a small storefront," Rogers said. "The conditions were that there was no water for the dogs when police got there. There was some food, a lot of feces. It was dark. It almost looked abandoned, with garbage strewn all about."
The store, located in a small strip mall on Merrick Road just west of Grand Avenue, had its windows masked off with taped-up construction paper and once housed a pet store that appears to no longer be operating out of the location, Rogers said.
Attempts to reach the owner Tuesday were unsuccessful.
One customer, Kalliope [Kally] Hirakis, 30, of Bellerose, said her fiance had bought a mini Goldendoodle puppy from the store for $2,000 as a gift for her birthday on Feb. 10. But within a day, the couple noticed the pup had a respiratory issue and scabbed skin and Hirakis said that "within two weeks" the dog started having seizures. Hirakis brought the pup to a veterinarian, who she said tried a variety of different treatments, but said the dog had to be euthanized on Feb. 28.
Hirakis and her fiance spent $9,000 on veterinarian bills in addition to the purchase price, she said.
"The store owner kept telling us to text someone else, then someone else, and then I was told someone was going to send me a refund contract," Hirakis said. "But once the dog died, that was it. We never heard from anyone again."
Rogers said so far his organization has been unable to locate the owner of the dogs or the business, or an authorized or licensed seller registered to sell dogs in New York.
Rogers said enforcement officials, including Nassau County police, got conflicting stories at the scene from people who claimed legal ownership of some of the seized puppies.
"One guy [at the scene] said he'd imported some of the dogs from Poland, another said he'd brought in one from Kentucky," Rogers said. "But none of the paperwork matched any of the dogs and we've been unable so far to reach an owner."
Rogers said the COVID-19 pandemic and ensuing business shutdowns across the country have caused the price of puppies to double within the past year.
The average cost of a new pup across many breeds is between $2,000 and $4,000, Rogers said, with some rare breeds costing well over $5,000.
"When people go to get a new pet they need to know the history, where it came from," Rogers said. "But I think COVID's made everything harder. People are home and they think, 'It's a great time to get a puppy.' And, they're right. But not only has the cost doubled, but with Internet sales and things like that, the source of many dogs has become uncertain sometimes. The concern we always have is that [people] who import dogs into New York State bring in animals that are healthy, that they don't have any diseases that they can transmit.
"One of the things we always try to emphasize to buyers is if you buy a pup, adopt a pup, get a pup as a gift, your first stop shouldn't be home," Rogers said. "It should be to a veterinarian . . . There's no bargain on puppies."