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Judge keeps Precious Pups closed during deceptive practices probe

Linda Niska, of Jamesport, who got three dogs

Linda Niska, of Jamesport, who got three dogs from Precious Pups, came to court to support Laura Zambito on Friday, Sept. 12, 2014. Credit: Joseph D. Sullivan

A Suffolk judge Friday ordered a Calverton dog rescue accused of deceptive practices to remain closed as state prosecutors build their case.

Supreme Court Justice Andrew G. Tarantino Jr. in Riverhead issued a new temporary restraining order against Precious Pups Rescue, but stressed that a trial must take place soon.

"The next date I want on this matter is a trial date," he said, suggesting early October.

The state attorney general's office, which sought the order, is continuing to gather evidence in the investigation, which centers on whether Precious Pups put dogs with serious health and behavior problems up for adoption.

Tarantino previously issued an order shutting down the group, preventing the sale or transfer of animals, after owner Laura Zambito failed to comply with a subpoena.

Melissa Grace, a spokeswoman for Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman, said Friday that prosecutors are "gratified" Tarantino had continued the restraining order.

"We have no tolerance for anyone who sells dangerously sick animals to the unsuspecting public," Grace said in an email.

Zambito declined to comment after the proceeding. The group's attorney, Alan Sash, expressed disappointment.

"It's a sad day for Precious Pups and for the rescue world in general, where so much good could be wiped away based upon so few unfounded complaints," Sash said.

He said the 75 dogs the group was caring for before it was shut down will be placed in homes but not sold.

Prosecutors have submitted more than 30 affidavits from people, including customers who alleged they adopted dogs with serious problems.

"The dogs are represented as being healthy and as having good behavior," Assistant Attorney General Rachael C. Anello told the judge Friday. "We have found that that is the opposite."

Sash said the complaints represent a fraction of the more than 1,500 dogs Precious Pups has placed in homes during its three-year history.

He has submitted about 50 supporting affidavits to the court.

Linda Niksa, a Precious Pups volunteer from Jamesport, came to the hearing with pictures of two adopted Malteses and a poodle.

"They rescue these dogs from a kill shelter; they rehabilitate these dogs," she said outside court.

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