Sixty-seven puppies and small dogs, crying and locked in small metal crates in near-freezing temperatures were found inside a van by Paramus police early Monday, according to authorities.

Police Chief Kenneth R. Ehrenberg said in a statement that Officers Daniel Derienzo and Matthew Lombardo were on patrol at 2:59 a.m. on Route 17 south near the Just Pups store when they made the discovery. While checking the exterior of the business as part of their routine patrol duties, Ehrenberg said, the officers heard crying and whining noises coming from inside a white, 2002 Freightliner Sprinter van.

As the officers moved closer to the van they also detected an odor of urine and feces coming from inside the vehicle, the chief's statement said. According to Ehrenberg, police entered the van through an unlocked sliding door and discovered 50 puppies and small dogs in crates containing two to four animals each.

In addition to the conditions inside the van, the police chief said, the temperature inside the vehicle was 38 degrees, and a propane tank connected to a space heater inside the van wasn't giving off enough heat to keep the puppies warm. Ehrenberg also said there wasn't enough ventilation inside the vehicle.

"The officers also observed that the crates were too small for some of the dogs who could not stand up inside of them, some of the crates also did not contain food or water and that some of the dogs were covered in feces," the chief said in a statement.

Ehrenberg said after further investigation, authorities learned that the van was registered to the owner of Just Pups, Vincent LoSacco, who is already facing 267 animal cruelty charges filed by the NJ Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. LoSacco also operates Just Pups stores in Emerson, East Brunswick and East Hanover.

As a result of the conditions inside the van, authorities sent all of the puppies the Oradell Animal Hospital in Paramus, the chief said. In addition, he said, 15 of the dogs needed further medical treatment. The police chief said all of the puppies are currently still alive.

On Tuesday, Bergen County Prosecutor's Office Spokeswoman Maureen Parenta said the puppies "are being cared for under the direction of Tyco Animal Control. They will continue under Tyco’s care during the pendency of this investigation and are not eligible for adoption at this time."

The Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office Animal Cruelty Task Force is investigating the situation along with the Paramus police and health departments.

"The Just Pups store has been closed by the Paramus Health Department pending the current investigation," Ehrenberg said. "Complaints are also pending the conclusion of the investigation."

The animal cruelty charges against LoSacco mostly include allegations involving inadequate infection control procedures in the East Brunswick store. The NJSPCA also said animals were purchased from the store that were "sick and unfit for sale." In addition, the NJSPCA reported finding three dead dogs in a freezer.

LoSacco’s license at the East Brunswick store was revoked last week in a unanimous decision by the municipal council. He has denied the animal cruelty charges.

Toniann Antonelli is a social content producer for NJ 101.5. She can be reached at toniann.antonelli@townsquaremedia.com, or on Twitter @ToniRadio1015.

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