Nassau pet store Shake A Paw can't resume purchasing puppies, judge rules
A Nassau County judge has continued a temporary restraining order forbidding a Long Island pet store, with sites in Hicksville and Lynbrook, from purchasing puppies for resale.
Nassau Supreme Court Justice Helen Voutsinas issued her ruling Wednesday, dismissing a request by Shake A Paw to resume acquiring new puppies. The judge in December initially granted state Attorney General Letitia James' request for the order when James filed a lawsuit in alleging that the store knowingly purchased and sold sick dogs.
The Lynbrook store closed its doors March 6 while the Hicksville location remains open, according to a store attorney.
"It’s unconscionable that Shake A Paw bought and sold sick puppies," James said in a statement. "I am glad that our court order has been upheld so that Shake A Paw cannot buy or adopt any more puppies for resale in New York. My office will continue to hold them accountable and protect innocent puppies."
Richard Hamburger, an attorney for Shake A Paw owners Gerard O'Sullivan and Marc Jacobs, accused the attorney general's office of "deliberately distorting the facts" in the case.
"The claim that Shake A Paw knowingly sells sick puppies is groundless," he said. "Shake A Paw only acquires puppies from lawful sources — federally licensed breeders and brokers who are in compliance with federal regulatory requirements. And Shake A Paw scrupulously complies with the New York Pet Lemon Law, as well as all state and federal regulations."
The attorney general’s office presented evidence that some of the breeders patronized by Shake A Paw were giving puppies ivermectin, used to treat parasitic worms in livestock and other animals, including dogs, according to new court filings.
While the American Kennel Club and ASPCA say ivermectin — with the proper dosage and under the care of a veterinarian — is safe for most breeds of dogs, it is not recommended for puppies younger than six weeks.
James' lawsuit argues Shake A Paw sold puppies with serious illnesses or congenital defects, despite receiving health certifications signed off by the company's contracted veterinarians, oftentimes days before sale. Many of the puppies died within weeks of purchase, the suit said.
The lawsuit, which seeks restitution and civil penalties, contends Shake A Paw sold dogs acquired at puppy mills, lied about their health and pedigree, fabricated health certificates and failed to provide refunds, in violation of the Pet Lemon Law.
In a March 8 filing, Hamburger wrote that the temporary restraining order had "decimated their business" and "already caused the closure of one of their stores and will shortly cause the closure of their remaining store."
Court filings by Shake a Paw said 214 of 220 puppies examined in January by an independent veterinarian appointed by the court were cleared as healthy and fit for sale.
But the attorney general’s office said its contracted veterinarians visited the stores a month earlier and found much sicker animals. The attorney general’s vets then provided medical advice to better treat the animals, officials said.
The court appointed veterinarian, the attorney general’s office said, also did not perform the more stringent diagnostic tests on the dogs that the independent vet did and the January inspection was pre-scheduled.
Diane Levitan, an associate professor in the Department of Veterinary Clinical Sciences at the Long Island University College of Veterinary Medicine, said many puppies sold by Shake a Paw had respiratory illnesses, influenza, canine herpes, pneumonia, eye infections or stool related ailments.
A "startling and very troubling percentage of puppies on the sales floors," Levitan wrote in court filings, were clinically ill or suffering from congenital malformations.
The order allowed the shops to continue selling the puppies they currently own, but only after being found fit for sale by the independent veterinarian hired by James.
The judge also froze Shake A Paw’s bank accounts, potentially to pay restitution to families who bought puppies at the store that later got sick or died.